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6 Signs That You Need to Improve The Air Quality in Your Home

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By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Jan 23, 2020

Indoor air quality can not only affect your home but your health too. It is incredibly important to maintain a level of good indoor air quality throughout your property. The effect of not having good quality air in the home is dramatic. The average person spends 90% of their time indoors and 70% of this time is spent in their own home. The indoor living environment is therefore crucial to the health of the occupants. There are a few tell-tale signs to look out for when it comes to poor indoor air quality. 

1) Condensation is your new room-mate – Of course condensation is a natural outcome of too much humidity in the air, we often see this in a kitchen after cooking or in a bathroom after showering. However, if the condensation is lingering on after these activities, is there to greet you every morning on your windows and your heating struggles to make a dent then you definitely have a condensation issue in your home. 

Condensation is the initial indication of damp in your home, unfortunately you may also find a damp issue lurking just out of sight behind brickwork, so be vigilant and check. Condensation and damp are very bad for your home’s indoor air quality because the atmosphere in your home is affected and can mean your health is affected too. Typical health side-effects include; irritated nose and throat, coughing, wheezing, eye irritation, shortness of breath and if you have asthma your symptoms will probably be much worse. 

2) You’ve adopted dust bunnies - Excessive dust can attract dust mites, a common cause of allergies. Once settled, these critters can be tough to eradicate since they’re attracted to dust anywhere from flat surfaces to mattresses to carpeting. Excessive dust is a sign you have poor ventilation, as there is no airflow. The vacuum cleaner is a great weapon as vacuuming thoroughly and washing bedding regularly can help alleviate dust mites, but what do you do when the dust just keeps coming? 

Excessive dust is another negative contributor to your homes indoor air quality, if your property has a lot of dust you are most likely to have a colony of dust mites also inhabiting your home. Dust mite allergy symptoms can include; sneezing, runny nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, nasal congestion, itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat and coughing. Again, asthma sufferers are likely to suffer with; difficulty breathing, chest tightness or pain, an audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling. 

3) Cleaning is doing more harm than good – In contrary to the above, whilst regular vacuuming helps banish dust mites some cleaning products release Volatile Organic Compounds which can actually play havoc with your health. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are airborne pollutants found lurking in the air inside our homes. As the word ‘Volatile’ indicates, these airborne pollutants can have a very negative effect on your health. VOCs are irritants which affect some people more than others, they can cause allergic reactions, headaches, tiredness, respiratory problems and other illnesses.

Many of the products that we use to clean our homes along with, and ironically, some of the aerosol sprays that we use to make them smell fresh contain VOCs; air fresheners, furniture polish and even candles! And, to make things worse, new furniture releases a VOC called formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can irritate your mucus membrane and make you feel uncomfortable and irritated.

4) Invisible dangers – We are all aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and very likely own a carbon monoxide detector but an equally dangerous invisible gas is Radon, yet it is pretty unlikely you own a detector for it. Radon effects your indoor air quality because it infiltrates your property from the ground. You cannot see, smell or taste Radon making it a very dangerous house guest. Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking, early signs and symptoms of lung cancer include;  persistent cough, coughing up blood, wheezing, shortness of breath, hoarseness and chest pain.

In order to test your property for this radioactive gas, you can either purchase a detector or if you are concerned you live in an area with high levels of indoor radon, and need to be sure about the results a short term test would be best. UKradon from Public Health England have information on purchasing detectors and tests.  

5) Your smoking area is indoors rather than out - Although fewer people are taking up smoking, it remains a primary cause of dangerous pollutants being breathed in the home. If you smoke, try to ensure that you do so outside, even if you don't have children. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing compounds which build up inside your home when you smoke. 

You may think the occasional smoke inside won’t amount to anything but your indoor air quality would disagree. Not only does smoke smell it can discolour paint work and wallpaper, not to mention how damaging it is for anyone that breathes it. If you choose to smoke you should smoke outside to limit potentially harmful second-hand smoke, this means stepping outside and about a metre away from the property whilst having doors and windows closed. 

6) Lingering odours or ‘stale air’ – Another unwanted house guest is a smell that just won’t budge. If you can still smell last night’s dinner, that’s a clear sign that you don’t have the proper air exchange. It maybe tempting to light a dozen candles and/or spray the house full of scented aerosols, but as previously mentioned these are also bad for your indoor air quality so please approach with caution. Also, gassing the property with scents doesn’t solve the issue. Ideally having open windows would create a good airflow, but in the middle of winter and when you’re at work all day this isn’t often a realistic possibility. 

Additionally, opening windows can invite outdoor pollutants in and you’re not actually providing the property with ‘fresh air’. You know your home’s smell or at least what it should vaguely smell like and it’s unlikely to be food odours, rubbish or chemical smells like nail varnish remover. Likewise having a stale ambient air in your property also means there’s an airflow, ventilation issue. When indoor air starts to smell stale or feel stuffy, it is usually due to a build-up of certain chemicals as well as humidity in the air. The ratio of airborne contaminants to oxygen starts to increase because of a lack of fresh air. These contaminants are mostly biological by products, such as exhaled carbon dioxide, and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs).

How can you improve your indoor air quality?

There are numerous ways you can improve the air quality of your home, such as; taking your shoes off when you come in so you don’t bring any pollen, dirt or dust into the house or regularly vacuuming and mopping your floors to ensure that you are not breathing in harmful bacteria that builds up. Many people also look to purchasing an air purifier with a hepa filter however these units can only purify the air of the room they are in, not the whole property. 

Ultimately, however the best weapon is proper ventilation. Ventilation is the intentional introduction of outdoor air into a space and is mainly used to control indoor air quality by diluting and displacing indoor pollutants. Ventilation differs from a hvac system or an air conditioner unit as ventilation introduces fresh, filtered air whereas hvac and air conditioning units recycle air already present and don’t clean the air.

Proper ventilation helps improve indoor air quality. Ventilation can control indoor humidity levels and airborne contaminants, both of which either contribute to or act as health hazards. Our ventilation systems draw in and circulate fresh air throughout your property, improving the indoor environment. There are different methods of ventilation; 

Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) is a whole house air ventilation system that works by drawing in fresh, filtered air into a property from outside. These can be either installed in a loft space or on a wall in a flat or apartment. They ensure that a continuous supply of air is supplied into the home to eliminate or significantly reduce condensation.  

MEV or Mechanical Extract Ventilation are systems that provide continuous ventilation using multi point extracts. The centralised systems draw moisture-laden air from multiple wet rooms of a property. All our Mechanical Extract Ventilation (MEV) systems are reliable, long-lasting and operate at low noise levels.

Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) is a whole house ventilation system that both supplies and extracts air throughout a property. Heat recovery is a domestic heat recovery system, which is increasingly used to reduce the heating and cooling demands of buildings. 

If you want to know just what state the quality of your home’s indoor air is then take a look at our Home Health Check. The Home Health Check is a detailed Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) survey that is especially helpful if you suspect you may have a problem.

On the day of your Home Health Check, your analyst will carry out a series of tests using specialist equipment to test for:

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC)

Photos will be taken, temperatures will be recorded and weather conditions will be monitored. All this data is gathered along with your responses to our simple questionnaire, in order to create your personal home report. Click here to learn more about the The Home Health Check.