We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, according to the Healthy House Institute. So take a fresh approach to how you spend that inside time with these hints for a cleaner interior environment.
by Leah Kerkman
- Did you know that your home’s finishing materials could be emitting toxins into the air you breathe? Some types of wood (including plywood subflooring and fiberboard cabinetry) may contain urea formaldehyde (UF), which releases volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, into the air — a big eco no-no. New materials release more compounds at first, then gradually reduce emissions over time. Be sure to ventilate your home properly if you’re using wood that contains UF, or stick with solid-wood or VOC-free products, to be on the safe side. Some paint and sealants also emit VOCs, so look for low-odor or low-toxic labels when selecting your color palette.
- Having an efficient, clean-burning fireplace greatly increases your home’s indoor-air quality. When shopping for a fireplace, consider a sealed-combustion gas hearth. With these models, a vent draws out the fumes and toxins from indoor air. Boost your air quality even more by installing a fan on top of your chimney (available for both gas and wood-burning fireplaces), which will improve air circulation. If your hearth burns wood, make sure it’s dry and seasoned to minimize creosote buildup.
- There are some design elements that can help create a healthier home. In each room, try to incorporate windows on more than one wall to encourage cross-ventilation. Make sure your gutters and downspouts drain away from your home’s foundation to prevent mold and water damage. Also, think about designing a mudroom or utility room, which will isolate any toxins (pesticides, mold, etc.) you may track in from outside.
- Incorporate one or more house-wide systems that can improve air and water quality in your home. A whole-house humidifier, installed by an HVAC professional, will add moisture in the winter months, which can reduce allergy and asthma symptoms as well as prevent dry skin and static shocks. For those with major allergies, look into a whole-house air purifier, which sucks in stale indoor air through vents, passes it through a HEPA filter and releases the clean air back into the home. And for crystal-clear drinking water, a water filtration system can be installed directly into your home’s plumbing.
- To be up to code, you likely already have bathroom fans and kitchen range hoods, but did you know they improve the air quality in those rooms and reduce the chance for mold? Make sure you use them frequently. Also, keep your HVAC unit in good health by getting it inspected annually and frequently changing the system’s filters. Dirty, clogged air filters hamper air quality and reduce efficiency, making the unit more costly to run.