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Breathing Easier: Tips for Improving Indoor Air Quality

want to improve the air quality in your home

Achoo! For many of us in the Pacific Northwest, spring means allergies, allergies, and more allergies. Did you know that poor indoor air quality can actually worsen allergy symptoms? With so many of us staying indoors due to COVID-19 and the current Shelter-in-Place mandates, now is a good time to optimize your indoor living spaces for easier breathing. Your post-pandemic health will thank you, too, as improving indoor air quality can help immunity, decrease allergy systems, and improve respiratory health.

This spring, let’s breathe easier. In this edition of the Jacobs Heating and Air Conditioning blog, we’ll learn about the signs indicating your indoor air quality may need help—and how to eliminate these pollutants and irritants.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

First of all, what is good indoor air quality? Good indoor air quality is air that is free from the build-up of dust or other respiratory irritants, such as tobacco, pet dander, bacteria, pollen, or outdoor pollutants. That’s right: outdoor irritants can come into your home, too; in fact, the EPA states the indoor air pollutants are often greater indoors than outside. That’s why tending to our indoor air quality system is so essential!

Indoor air quality can also be impacted by poor ventilation, so if you’re cooking a lot or burning a lot of candles, the smoke could be negatively impacting your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Additionally, if you’re using a lot of chemical household cleaners, this could worsen indoor air quality—especially if you have poor ventilation.

When assessing Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), we also need to look at other more serious culprits, such as asbestos-containing insulation or gas leaks. Feel free to review more information about all indoor air pollutant causes; for the purposes of this blog, we will be focusing more on more common causes of poor IAQ, such as dust, irritants (such as household cleaners), or outdoor irritants and pollution.

Indoor Air Quality and Respiratory Health

Poor indoor air quality can have an impact on respiratory health, so it’s important to take steps to improve indoor air quality.

Signs of Poor Indoor Air Quality

What types of symptoms are associated with poor indoor air quality? Poor indoor air quality can cause a range of different symptoms, including:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory irritation or shortness of breath
  • Sinus congestion
  • Dizziness
  • Hypersensitivity and allergies
  • Sneezing

The above are also symptoms of other medical issues, so you’ll always want to consult a doctor before self-diagnosing. However, if you wake up congested or find that you are sneezing more when you come back inside to your home, your indoor air quality could be an issue.

A Few Questions to Ask Yourself

When clients come to us with questions about how to assess and improve their indoor air quality, we start by asking them a variety of different questions, including:

  • Do you notice extra dust in your living space?
  • Do you have pets who live with you?
  • Are you experiencing bloody noses?
  • Are you a smoker, and if so, do you smoke indoors?
  • Do you burn a lot of candles?
  • Do you experience frequent allergy symptoms, including sneezing, headaches, and sinus congestion?

If your answers to the above are yes, we recommend that clients take steps to improve their indoor air quality, and see if symptoms improve.

Invest in an Air Purifier

If you’re looking to truly clean and purify the quality of your home’s air, the best line of defense is to invest in an air purifier. Air purifiers are especially helpful for individuals who suffer from asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions. By keeping your sinuses clear, they can even help reduce snoring, too! Air purifiers work by quietly removing allergens and other pollutants in the air, such as odor, pollen, smoke, dust, and pet dander.

As far as air purifiers go, we highly recommend the Carrier Air Purifier, and all Carrier products. We also highly recommend the UV Air Purifier from Premier One and the RGF REME HALO and Guardian Air products; they’re extremely effective at purifying and cleaning the air!

If you live in a smaller space or are renting an apartment, we can also recommend some excellent economy products. These are great if you’re on a budget or living in a smaller space:

  • Aprilaire air purifiers are effective and affordable. Their products are available online, and they often have sales running. Their middle-tier model is affordable and effective.
  • Molekule is another popular brand, but is a bit more pricey than Aprilaire.
  • RGF Plug in Purifier, which is from the Guardian Air Maker. This simple plug-in air purifier is very effective, though RGF only sells to HVAC wholesalers or contractors; if you’re interested in this air purifier, we’d be more than happy to supply it for you.
  • Dyson air purifiers run between $400-600. This is a well-known, established, and reliable brand and product line.

Some Purifiers Help Guard Against the Flu, Too!

Some air purifiers are actually germicidal, too. Here at Jacobs, we offer a wide variety of products designed to improve your home’s indoor air quality, including air purifiers. One of our most popular and highly recommended purifiers is the Infinity® Air Purifier. It is essentially silent, and in addition to removing the common air pollutants, is germicidal, too. This means that it can help protect against the flu and common cold.

If you’re unsure which type of purifier to invest in, reach out to us and we can help.

Consider High-Quality Air Filters

Improve the efficiency of your furnace and enjoy cleaner air by investing in high-quality air filters. This is a good alternative for those who are not ready to invest in an air purifier and who are suffering from more mild or subtle symptoms.

A brand that we highly recommend is the 2-4” Columbia Gold air filter. These are much better than the 1” disposable filters you can purchase at Home Depot, and can be an economical way to improve your indoor air quality while improving the efficiency of your furnace.

Change and Clean Filters Regularly

Regardless of the type of filters you use, you’ll want to replace your air filters often and regularly. In addition to dusting and vacuuming, keeping your air filters fresh and clean will make a positive impact on the quality of your indoor air.

If you have 1” filters, you’ll need to check your filters even more regularly.

As always, we’re available to assist if you need help cleaning or replacing your filters; just reach out to us at any time.

Read next: How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?

Consider a Humidifier

In cities across the Pacific Northwest, like right here in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, humidifiers are not necessarily something we need. However, regardless of the climate you live in, humidifiers can be extremely helpful for those with bad allergies. Humid air helps filters or air purifiers trap pollen, and other particles which will help to minimize allergies. Humid air can also be healing for the lungs, helping those who suffer from respiratory conditions breathe a little easier. Our Carrier humidifiers help you control air moisture, improving your home’s health.

Another benefit of humidifiers? Higher indoor humidity levels might actually slow the spread of the flu; learn more from WebMD, where they discuss the protective impact of higher humidity levels.

Seal Ductwork

To help keep outside pollutants outside, consider sealing your ductwork. Air could be leaking through poorly sealed or old ductwork, allowing outside pollutants to seep into your indoor spaces.

How Can We Help?

Our consultants here at Jacobs Heating and Air Conditioning would be more than happy to meet with you and discuss how to best improve the air quality in your home. We offer in-home consultations in addition to products, installations, and repairs. Reach out to us with any questions. Breathe easy this spring! Please stay safe and healthy during this challenging time, and feel free to review our statement on COVID-19 and how we’re taking precautions to protect you, our team, and our communities.

About the Author

Amanda Jacobs portrait

Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.