Times have changed, and nothing around us is pure anymore. Sad indeed, even the air we breathe is not 100% pure. What else could we expect? And here we aren’t just talking about air pollution outside but inside too. In fact, you may be shocked to know that it’s the air we breathe inside our very homes, that’s the most harmful! Constant coughing, sneezing, dust allergies, and tens of other such perpetual yet don’t-know-why problems are all gifts of indoor air pollutants to us.
You may be disinfecting your home with mop cleaners and other chemicals daily, dusting and vacuuming the house regularly too, but these air pollutants still seem to linger on. Is there any way to get rid of them so we can get back to breathing fresh and pure air again? Thankfully there is. You can begin by performing air quality testing in your home, and the good news is that you can do it yourself too.
Why is Home Air Quality Test Important?
Our home may seem clean, yet it isn’t. Do you know that your home is infested with tons of “invisible” pollutants which can’t be identified by the naked human eye? Yes, and these are the real culprits indeed. This is why regular indoor air quality testing can help determine the root cause of the problem before you start looking out for possible solutions.
Some of the potential threats to the air you breathe inside your house include the following:
- The smell of off-gassing from chemicals used on fabrics such as new carpets, shower curtains, fresh paint, and furniture
- Dangerous gases like carbon monoxide emitted from combustion appliances such as gas stove, furnace, and fireplace
- Mould and other such bacteria resulting in several respiratory disorders, including eye and skin irritation
- Droppings of insects and other pests that can also cause respiratory problems in kids and the aged
- Improper use of pesticides that results in higher than usual level of chemicals present in the air we breathe
A regular air quality test would help identify any of the above problems and how they can be done away with.
Common Indoor Air Pollutants
Although there may be several of them, most of them even invisible (as mentioned earlier), there are some which are commonly found in every household. We’ve divided them into three broad categories for better understanding:
- Biological pollutants – These include the bacteria that tend to grow over time such as mould, mildew, dander, pollen, dust mites, bacteria and viruses. They may be commonly present in the walls, roof, ceiling, floors, windows, doors, and furniture.
- Chemical pollutants – These may include the ones used on carpets, curtains, paint, and other furnishings. Common ones such as formaldehyde are classified under Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs); others include lead and radon.
- Combustion pollutants – They are emitted from kitchen appliances and include harmful gases like carbon monoxide and smoke from tobacco.
How to Test Air Quality in Home?
Now that you’ve discovered the possible culprits of the problem, time to take action. You may seek professional assistance too, but you can do it yourself as it is not that difficult to perform. There are several ways to go about it, and we’ve tried to detail them all here below:
Keep an eye out for visible signs – Mould growth is the easiest to find because you can easily spot it by seeing or smelling it. It’s visibly apparent over walls in the form of black spots that tend to keep growing over time, water spots or cracks, and is also present in excessively damp areas in the house such as in the cabinets under the kitchen/bathroom sink.
If you get a musty smell from some specific parts of the house, which doesn’t seem to go even with cleaning, chances, are the area is infested by mould and needs immediate attention.
1. Use an air quality monitor
This is one of the best tools; it is available in the market to effectively identify as well as record the quality of air inside your home over a specific period. It works great to check for tiny dust particles and other potentially harmful allergens in the air, VOCs, chemical pollutants, and humidity levels to identify mould growth.
2. Install a carbon monoxide detector
Mostly all electrical appliances in your household, such as the ones like the gas stove, fireplace, furnace, water heater, grills, and ovens, emit a gas called Carbon Monoxide (CO). Since this gas has no smell, colour, or taste, it’s difficult to identify it in the house, especially when it can be extremely harmful to inhale it.
This is where carbon monoxide detectors can help. You can get one installed on every floor of the house. It will sound an alert each time the CO level at home increases or is over the normal limit. Also, make sure to install these detectors at the floor close to the bedroom so you can easily hear the alarm even at night.
3. Test Radon at home
Radioactive gas is usually present in the soil and well water, but can also seep into homes and contaminate indoor air. You can quickly test radon levels at home by purchasing an at-home radon test kit from a home improvement store nearby. A majority of these tests would carry out charcoal reading. You can do it by leaving the sensor material in the house. Collect it after a specified period and mail the test material to a lab for detailed analysis and results. You can also buy these test kits online at discounted prices.
Besides radon tests, there are other at-home tests for allergen, mould, formaldehyde, VOCs, and lead too. They’re easily available and would help you identify if there are any serious issues at your home which require immediate attention.
4. Use an air purifier
There are certain air purifiers that indicate the quality of air around the machine. It indicates air quality by colour, red indicates bad or hazardous air quality while green or blue indicates good air quality. Though this is only its secondary function, It’s primary function would be to purify the air around it. There are other benefits of buying an air purifier as well.
The air purifier is considered one of the best and most convenient devices to help improve the air quality of your home. It’s particularly helpful for those suffering from allergies. When buying one, do consider electronic air purifiers as they work the best in removing dust particles and other allergens in the air compared to conventional filtered purifiers. Also, make sure to read reviews on air purifiers before you buy one. A salesman might try selling air purifiers on their CADR rating if you don’t know what the metric is? we’ve got a comprehensive article discussing what CADR ratings actually means and how these can be misleading.
The bedroom is the best place to keep the purifier. You get to experience the maximum results of the machine while sleeping. Also, remember to change the air filters regularly once every three months for best results.
However, if you have pets at home, it’s a good idea to buy true HEPA filters against HEPA type filters.
Tips to Improve Quality of Your Home Air
Other than performing regular testing to determine the presence of indoor air pollutants in your house, you can take some preventive steps to make sure that they always stay at bay:
- To keep dust mites away, use a dehumidifier, or A/C can help keep humidity levels at 50% or lower because they love damp and humid areas.
- Keep your mattress and pillows covered in allergen-impermeable cases when not in use.
- Wash the bedding in hot water at least once a year to help kill dust mites.
- Vacuum regularly to get rid of allergens. Remove dust from furniture and furnishings using a damp cloth.
- If you’re allergic to pollen, keep the windows of your home closed.
- Don’t hang your clothes outside for drying; use a dryer instead.
- Avoid growing grass or trees in your backyard that produce high levels of pollen.
- When using chemical cleaners in the house, increase cross-ventilation in the house and let in more fresh air to counter their harmful effects.
- Keep children play areas dust-free as far as possible; wash their toys and stuffed toys frequently.
- Always wipe your feet over a doormat before entering the house.
To Sum Up
We often tend to overlook the importance of the air we breathe inside the comfort of our homes. Even if we come to know that we’re allergic to dust or pollen, we try hard to keep ourselves protected against them when outside but hardly do we think of taking any precautions when indoors.
The fact is that sometimes we’re at a high risk of allergies indoors more than outdoors. The pollutants described in this article tend to be omnipresent in our homes every day of our life – on our walls or floors, in the appliances we use, and the cleaning solutions we apply to disinfect our homes ostensibly.
This only goes on to prove that more often than not, the solution itself can pose a severe problem. It’s essential to curtail it then and there to avoid serious consequences later. Take care of the air you breathe and stay healthy longer.