Breathe Easy

Simple Steps To Drastically Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

by Allen Mitchell // January - February - March 2024

In every home, indoor air pollution is an unseen concern, impacting our health more than we realize. In fact, according to the American College of Allergists, 50% of illnesses are either caused or worsened by polluted indoor air. As colder weather confines us indoors, the threats intensify – from pet dander to oxygen-consuming candles and fire-places that produce increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) to air fresheners that put off elevated VOCs and PM2.5 particles. Not to mention cold and flu season this time of year, as well as the evolving seasons heightening the risk of allergies. Combatting the seasonal challenges requires proactive measures to ensure our homes are healthy and ready for this annual battle.

During the winter months, a significant challenge arises from heightened CO2 levels, due to our homes being tightly sealed and closed up to ward off the cold. As we exhale, CO2 is released – and when our living spaces are overly sealed, we slowly deplete the oxygen in our homes that our bodies so desperately need. Higher CO2 levels make us feel tired, sleepy, and confused (now you know why we sleep so much this time of year).

While it’s impossible to completely stop this annual process, we can reduce the contaminant levels in our homes and minimize the impact on our overall health. A crucial step is for every homeowner to have an indoor air quality monitor. This tool provides insights into the contaminants or issues within your home, enabling you to make informed decisions about necessary corrections and improvements. These monitoring devices are available from a number of sources or can be expertly installed by your trusted HVAC provider.

In addition to employing an indoor air quality monitor, safeguarding the air you breathe at home involves implementing a range of proactive measures, including the following.

Have your HVAC system serviced annually. The North Carolina Alternative Energy Corporation revealed that a staggering 90% of HVAC systems tested exhibited some sort of “energy-wasting, comfort-robbing problem.” Considering your air conditioner runs for approximately 1,239 hours during the cooling season, which is equivalent to driving from Raleigh to San Francisco 26 times at 60 mph, it’s crucial to prioritize maintenance. While we diligently check our cars for oil, tires, and gas before embarking on long journeys, we often neglect similar attention to our air conditioners. Schedule a service where a technician can assess the efficiency of your unit and implement necessary improvements.

Have the ductwork inspected for damage and deficiencies. Our technicians routinely encounter ductwork in crawlspaces and attics that is broken, disassembled, damaged by animals, and leaking. The Department of Energy estimates that typical HVAC systems lose 25-40% of conditioned air that is flowing through them due to such issues. When leaks occur on the supply side, we unintentionally cool off spaces like the attic or crawlspace. Even more concerning, if the leaks are on the return side, we end up pulling pollutants such as dust, pollen, mold, and mildew from these areas into our homes.

Change your air filters regularly. Air filters only collect debris from the air inside our homes when the air conditioner is operating. Therefore, as the heat rises outside, these filters tend to accumulate dirt more frequently. Dirty air filters not only compromise air quality, they also hamper the efficiency of the air conditioner. To ensure optimal performance, I recommend a monthly inspection of your air filters, and replacing them every 45 to 60 days (or more frequently if you have indoor pets or families with allergies). Additionally, for homes with pets or allergy-prone children, consider whole-house electronic air cleaners like the Trane CleanEffects.

Have your home evaluated for infiltration (leaks) in the windows, doors, walls, floors, etc. Conducting an energy audit will give you a much better understanding of how much unconditioned and unfiltered air is coming into and leaking out of your home. Identifying and addressing these leaks is critical to improving your home’s health and reducing heating and cooling expenses. Consumer Reports recommends using an energy auditor certified by the Building Performance Institute.

Consider an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to bring fresh clean air into your home. An ERV recovers the energy from the exhaust air to condition the fresh air coming into your home. It also acts as an air filter, effectively removing airborne pollutants. As you turn on your bath and stove fans to eliminate moisture and odors, the makeup air coming into the home to balance this exhaust is coming through the previously mentioned cracks and leaks. An ERV will condition and filter this makeup air, contributing to a healthier environment for your home.

Consider a REME HALO or HALO-LED air purifier. RGF Environmental Group’s REME HALO-LED stands out as the first LED in-duct, whole-home and building air purification system that is both mercury-free and zero ozone compliant. This system proactively treats every cubic inch of air-conditioned space, effectively reducing airborne and surface contaminants. Key features include a durable, replaceable LED cell module with a lifespan that is two and a half times longer than conventional mercury vapor UV lamp technologies. It also introduces an industry-first washable catalyst for high-load environments. This system excels in reducing a spectrum of pollutants, from microbials and mold to smoke, odors, VOCs, allergens, dust, and particulate matter. Backed by a seven-year limited warranty, the REME HALO-LED is a robust and reliable addition to your home’s duct system.

Allen Mitchell

Mitchell Heating & Cooling’s mechanical, electrical, and general contractor license holder. He is NATE Certified, BPI Certified, and IGSHPA Certified and is a qualified member of IEEE, ASHRAE, and ACCA. Mitchell Heating & Cooling is an award-winning Trane Comfort Specialist, receiving awards from Trane, Angie’s List, and the Wake Weekly.