Air quality has a significant impact on your health. Outdoor air presents its own unique challenges to those of us traveling about; have you considered what impact your indoor air quality has on your life and your health?
We spend a great deal of time indoors in the winter, bundling up to get away from the cold and stay comfortable. With little access to fresh, well-circulated air, the quality of our indoor air becomes even more important due to increased exposure. What kind of impact does winter have on indoor air quality? Let’s take a look at some of the potential problems that come with being cooped up in cold weather, as well as ways that we can improve the quality of our indoor air to protect and safeguard our health.
Winter Impact on Indoor Air Quality
As winter approaches, temperatures drop. Cold air affects air quality in that pollutants trapped within air particles move much slower; these gases and chemicals that are released in your home, in traffic, and as a byproduct of industry hang in the air much longer than they do during warmer seasons, decreasing the quality of the air around you.
This air becomes trapped in your home as a result of opening and closing doors and windows. If your HVAC system cannot do an adequate job of cleaning up indoor air particulates, your indoor air will become saturated with debris that you end up breathing in day after day. Taking steps to manage indoor air quality will reduce the level of harmful particulates in your home and allow you to breathe easier.
Moisture and Winter Air
Warm and wet seasons make it easier to wash pollutants from the air, reducing toxic levels naturally. In contrast to spring and summer, winter is a much drier season. With little cleansing going on outside and inside, fine pollutants and particulates can float freely and wreak havoc on your HVAC system, your air filter, and your health. Running a humidifier in extremely dry places will help clear out dust, pet dander, and other irritating pollutants, giving you a fresher indoor environment.
Other Issues With Winter Air Indoors
Poor indoor air quality catches up with us in many ways, and if we don’t take proactive measures to improve circulation and ventilation in the home, it can result in a number of undesirable symptoms.
If you are someone prone to developing itchy eyes, a nagging cough, and a runny nose during allergy season, get ready to combat these same symptoms in the winter as well, particularly if you don’t stay on top of cleaning and maintaining your HVAC system.
Potential long-term complications from being exposed to poor indoor air quality are no joke. If you live in a home with persistent indoor air pollution, it will eventually impact your immune system. Symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and chronic fatigue can plague your days and make even the easiest tasks difficult to complete.
Those with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD, and other illnesses experience increased discomfort and exacerbated symptoms in the wintertime. The toxic combination of drier air, freely-flowing pollutants, and stagnant air will almost surely irritate sensitive lung tissues and mucus membranes, leading to more severe symptoms.
An increase in the level of indoor air particulates is bound to show up in your ductwork over time. Add to this the issue of rodents and other pests looking for winter shelter in your ductwork, and you have a recipe for respiratory disaster. Having your ductwork cleaned and inspected prior to the winter season will help to remove layers of sludge and pests that have already accumulated in your system and give you a clean slate as you approach winter.
Saturated Air Filters
As your HVAC system works to regulate temperatures in your home, it circulates air through the heat exchanger and air filter to remove dust, dirt, and allergens from the air. A filter can quickly become overloaded with debris from this process; you’ll know that your air filter is clogged when you begin to see a fine layer of dust settling on nearly every surface in your home. This fine dust is also circulating in the air around you; you are breathing it in, and it could be causing potential health issues for you if you don’t clean and replace your air filter regularly to keep excess debris from circulating throughout your home.
Exhaust and Cooking Fumes
Anyone who cooks likely uses some type of heat source to prepare food. These heat sources produce pollutants that can negatively impact your air quality. Propane and gas-powered stoves release harmful carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other chemicals into the air. If levels become high enough, they can cause health problems for you and your pets.
Stagnant Air Issues
Stagnant indoor air re-circulates pollutants and chemical residue from household cleaners through your HVAC system, causing you to breathe these particles in repeatedly. This is especially problematic for those with respiratory conditions such as allergies and asthma. Adding proper ventilation, circulating air with ceiling fans, and the use of air purifiers can improve air quality and remove some of the denser, more problematic particulates from your air.
Buildup Of Noxious Fumes and Toxic Gases
While you want to seal and winterize your home to improve energy efficiency, there is a risk of toxic gas and noxious substance buildup, particularly in the wintertime. As your HVAC system runs, it throws off gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide that can build up and negatively impact your health. At extremely high levels of concentration, some of these gases can even be toxic and potentially dangerous for you and your pets. It’s important to note that these gases are present only when your HVAC system is not working properly or if it has not been properly maintained. A well-maintained system should not produce harmful levels of any of these gases.
Mold and Mildew Growth
Airtight homes can become a toxic breeding ground for mold and mildew growth. These fungi thrive in dark, moist places such as your bathroom, ductwork, and basement, throwing off harmful spores that can cause a range of health problems, including:
- Eye and throat irritation
- Respiratory distress
- Skin irritation
To prevent the toxic buildup of mold and mildew in your home, you’ll need to keep humidity levels low, maintain your HVAC system, and ventilate your house properly. Regular cleaning and ventilation of high-humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms can also prevent mold and mildew growth that can compromise indoor air quality.
Need Indoor Air Quality Improvement? We Can Help!
At Southland Heating and Air Conditioning, we do what we can to improve your home and HVAC system from the inside out. Providing exceptional services such as heat pump repair, installation, maintenance, furnace repair and maintenance, air conditioning services, and indoor air quality assessment and services. Maintaining the quality of your indoor air is of utmost importance when considering your health; contact Southland today to see how we can help you improve all aspects of your HVAC system function and your home!