How to clear up home air quality issues
Although most Americans recognize hazards in outdoor air such as smog, allergens, and ground-level ozone, many aren’t aware that home air quality issues can be just as dangerous. In fact, indoor environments are two to five times more toxic than outdoor air, according to the EPA.
This means that a home can be unhealthy for residents, especially those with respiratory issues such as asthma and allergies. What’s more, Americans spend as much as 90% of their time indoors where pollutants like cleaning chemicals, furniture off gassing, pet dander and cooking odors are trapped.
Because of this, there is great untapped potential for remodelers to help clients improve their home air quality issues. Every home remodeling project is an opportunity to improve and enhance the air quality of a house. Even if you’re there for a kitchen or bath remodel, ask clients about moisture problems, chemical odors, and places in the house with musty smells.
Here are some of the most important tips to clean up home air quality issues:
Point out the issues and let clients know there are many strategies for remediating unhealthy indoor air.
–Eliminate moisture issues. Move water away from the home so that it doesn’t get trapped inside. In the bathroom, seal tightly around the bathtub, shower and sink.
–Remove pollutants. Use only low- or no-VOC products. There are plenty of choices of paints, adhesives, and other products that don’t have the toxic VOCs.
–Spec prefinished products. Don’t finish products on site. For example, choose hard- surfaced, prefinished floors over carpeting.
–Isolate and seal dangerous areas. An example of this is in the house-to-garage connection, where you want to make sure that there’s no air movement. The EPA’s Indoor Air Plus program recommends sealing any connections from the house to the garage and putting an exhaust fan in the garage to keep it under negative pressure, especially right after a car comes in.
–Identify “clean” areas. Tell clients with respiratory issues to make their bedrooms as clean and hygienic as possible. Get rid of carpeting, provide separate bag ventilation and seal the edges of the exposed parts of cabinet, flooring, or trim to create an oasis of fresh, filtered air.
—Provide proper ventilation. Ventilation is the exchange of air from the inside to outside and it’s important in every room, not just the bathroom. Install a quiet bathroom fan that can run more or less continuously.
Also consider fresh air intake in the main air in return. Some customers may complain that this is a waste because you’re losing air that you’ve paid to heat or cool, so recommend a heat or energy recovery ventilator that takes out stale air and brings in fresh clean healthy air while recovering conditioned air.
–Use the right filers. Look for 8-, 10-, or even 12-MERV filters to help the HVAC system clean tiny particulates out of the air.
–Vent gas ranges to the outdoors to prevent carbon monoxide and other noxious gasses from building up inside the home.
–Educate homeowners. Once you have implemented the ideas above it’s important to leave the customers with a plan for keeping their house healthy and clean. In addition to not smoking indoors, there are four things that homeowners can do to clear up home air quality issues: Carefully vacuum carpets and clean floors once a week, limit the use of chemical cleaners, keep pets out of sleeping areas, and keep the house at 60% humidity year round to inhibit mold growth.
This article is based on a Pro Construction Guide podcast about this topic. To listen to a podcast, click here.
— Gorde Cooke, an engineer and partner in Construction Instruction