How Is Your Indoor Air Quality During the Winter?

furnace start up air filterWhen it’s winter in Aurora, Oswego, Plainfield, Naperville and Lisle (IL), pretty much all of us are thinking about how to stay warm during the season. In most cases that will mean making sure our furnace is operating correctly and the house is secured from the cold.

Although the number is gradually growing, fewer people might consider the quality of their indoor air in winter. The problem we run into is that while we’re doing what we need to keep warm, we are also reducing our home’s ventilation.

During spring, summer and early fall, we can allow fresh air to enter the house through windows and screen doors. Because we need to close off the home from cold air in winter, we keep pollutants and allergens trapped in the air, where they can continue to produce and recycle through the heating system. Just a few of the impurities can include smoke, pet dander, dust mites, mold spores and viruses such as the flu and COVID-19.

For someone with allergies or a condition such as asthma or bronchitis, this can become problematic. Winter air also is dry, so it can affect hydration of lips and skin as well as irritate the eyes, nose and throat. A dry nose and throat does not have sufficient mucus for trapping pathogens before they can travel deeper into the body and cause illnesses.

The air-quality problem in winter boils down to basic physics. Warm air rises and cool air sinks. The warmer air of spring and summer is thinner and lighter, which allows it to carry impurities up and away into the atmosphere to diffuse and dissipate.

Winter air is denser and heavier, so it clings to the ground and keeps impurities with it, especially without any fresh air helping to move it out. Pollutants can gather at much higher levels and transmit more easily.

Even with all of that said, improving indoor-air quality is entirely within your reach. Let’s review what you can do to counter the damaging effects of cold winter air.

Improve Air Quality in Winter: Keep Your House Clean

A well-kept home is one that favors greater health. When you clean more often, you help reduce dander, dust, mold, pollen and other pollutants. Rather than use typical chemical cleaners, some homeowners clean with non-toxic products such as white vinegar, which can help reduce air contaminants.

Continue a basic cleaning routine throughout winter, including cleaning drapes and blinds, changing and washing linens regularly, and dusting and cleaning household surfaces. Vacuum rugs and carpets often too. Aim for twice a week, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Hardwood or other hard-surface flooring helps reduce allergens as well.

Also do your best to keep household clutter at a minimum. Too much can trap dust and other pollutants that contribute to poor indoor-air quality.

Improve Air Quality in Winter: Maintain Proper Airflow

Your HVAC system is part of your defense against airborne impurities when you keep it maintained and properly running. That includes allowing it to have free and open airflow.

Check all air vents, grilles and registers to ensure they are clean, free of rust and able to easily open and close. This supports better movement of the air cycling through your home. If any vents, grilles or registers are old, rusted or stuck, replace them right away.

Also check the furnace’s air filter regularly and change it as needed. A clean filter makes a big difference for system airflow.

The ducts are another vital component. Unless they are periodically inspected and cleaned, they can become reservoirs for dirt, dust, debris and rodent infestation.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had your ducts cleaned, add it to your to-do list.

Improve Air Quality in Winter: Install an Air Purifier

Added directly to your home’s HVAC system, an air purifier filters impurities from the air passing through it. It achieves this by releasing “scrubbers” that neutralize the pollutants.

Air purifiers are categorized according to how they treat the air. Different air purifiers will:

capture pollutants within a filter

react chemically with airborne contaminants to sterilize them

absorb gasses into water-based solutions that are then evaporated out of the unit

pass the air over filters made of substances such as zeolite, carbon foam and activated charcoal made from coconut shells

Many of today’s powerful purifiers include a washable pre-filter, a True HEPA or H13 HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter. The True HEPA filter can filter up to 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles, and the H13 filter can capture 99.9% of 0.1-micron impurities.

Made of granular carbon, the activated carbon filter traps pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOC), chemicals, smoke and even odors.

You can choose to install air purifiers in different rooms. Each unit should be correctly sized for how you will use it. Some purifiers might only be able to treat the air in certain spaces. To determine the right size, know the measurements of the rooms in which you will use the purifier, especially in areas where you spend a lot of time (e.g. bedroom, living room).

Installing a whole-home air purifier is another great way to reduce pollution and improve air quality throughout your house in Aurora, Oswego, Plainfield, Naperville or Lisle. A whole-home purifier attaches to your furnace or air-handling unit and decontaminates the air you breathe before it is recirculated back into the home. Whole-home air purifiers are typically more effective at treating indoor air than standalone units are.

Improve Air Quality at Home: Other Tips

In addition to a clean house, proper airflow and an air purifier, the following can further contribute to indoor-air quality in winter:

CO detector. This is just as vital to personal safety as it is to indoor air quality. Because carbon monoxide gas is odorless, tasteless and colorless, it is particularly dangerous if it begins mixing with the air you breathe. Make sure you have a CO detector on each floor and that is operating correctly with fresh batteries.

air-quality monitor. A professionally installed air-quality monitor will provide real-time information for determining exactly what worsens and improves your air quality.

humidifier. The amount of water vapor in your air, humidity is an often overlooked but important factor of air quality. Cold, dry winter air can fall outside the optimal humidity range of 40% to 60%. A humidifier keeps water vapor balanced at healthy, comfortable levels.

Here for Answers and Service

Beery Heating and Cooling cares about your comfort, safety and health within the air you breathe during winter. We can support you as indoor air–quality advisors as well as discuss solutions for any air-quality interests or concerns you might have. To find out more about our service for NapervilleAurora, Plainfield, Oswego and Lisle (IL), including installation of air purifiers and CO detectors, give us a call at (630) 585-6444!

We also specialize in air purifiers and CO detectors for close-by communities such as Batavia, Sugar Grove, North Aurora, Montgomery and Plano (IL).