Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a year-round concern. But did you know that the quality of air in your Las Vegas, NV home takes a significant dive during the cold season? For most households, winter is a time for keeping windows and doors sealed shut. This is also when people are most likely to burn candles, discharge air freshening and cleaning sprays, and engage in lots of steamy, indoor cooking projects. The good news is that there are multiple ways to mitigate the IAQ challenges of the cold season. Read on to find out how.
Overly Tight Home Envelopes
Many of the materials used in your home emit gasses that lower your indoor air quality. These materials include:
- Interior paints
- Flooring materials and flooring adhesives
- Unsealed engineered wood or particle board
- New furnishings
Items like these release benzene, formaldehyde, and other harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These gaseous contaminants are far less of a problem in spring and summer when people are regularly opening their windows and doors, and fresh, outside air is flowing in. In winter, indoor concentrations of VOCs can rise so high that building residents develop unpleasant symptoms like recurring headaches, chronic fatigue, and general malaise.
Concentrations of VOCs tend to be highest in homes with excessively tight envelopes. Your home might have an overly tight envelope if you recently added new insulation, used caulk to seal up air leaks in building materials, or added weatherstripping to your windows and doors. Although having a tight home envelope prevents energy waste by keeping conditioned air from migrating outside, it can also keep indoor air and all the contaminants it contains sealed in your living space.
Insufficient Ventilation and Fuel-Combusting Appliances
Another major issue with having an overly tight home envelope is the potential for back-drafting. Back-drafting occurs when tightly sealed homes develop negative air pressure as indoor air escapes through exhaust vents, range hood fans, and other exits. When there are fuel-burning appliances in a building, negative air pressure can pull their exhaust gases back down into living areas through their venting systems. Thus, to limit your risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure this winter, it’s best to work with a professional when improving the efficiency of your home, especially if you have a gas-fired furnace or water heater in the building.
Residents play a hand in diminishing IAQ during the winter months too. Just as off-gassing building materials release VOCs into your indoor air, using chemical-laden surface cleaners, plug-in air fresheners, and other household products can do much the same. To minimize the impact that your indoor activities have on your air quality, stick to all-natural products with ingredients you recognize. If burning candles indoors, you should also opt for clean-burning options, such as those that are made with beeswax or soy.
Cold air is drier than warm air. In winter, both indoor and outdoor humidity levels decline. In the naturally arid climate of Las Vegas, this can leave people with dry, irritated sinuses and nasal passages, dry eyes and skin, and other humidity-related symptoms. This is even more common when residential heating systems are constantly running.
Excess humidity is a problem for some Las Vegas households during winter. If you have many people living in your home, you likely have lots of people engaging in moisture-generating activities. Each time someone takes a hot bath or shower or prepares food, your indoor humidity rises. Lacking adequate ventilation could leave your indoor air feeling muggy, heavy, and oppressive.
Mold, Mildew, and More
The ideal humidity for your Las Vegas home is between 45% and 60%. If indoor humidity levels rise much higher than this, you’ll have perpetually wet windows, baseboards, and drywall. You may even have patches of mold or mildew throughout the building and warped building materials. When mold becomes a problem, the quality of your indoor air will plummet.
Excessively dry indoor air can cause building damage and IAQ issues. Overly dry indoor air can cause wood features to crack and split. Given that moisture weighs down many airborne particulates and causes them to settle on floors, counters, and other surfaces, you’ll also experience a significant rise in allergens and contaminants.
Pets and Pest Infestations
Like people, pets spend more of their time indoors during the winter season. Many pets are also more prone to shedding when the weather grows colder. This could mean having more fur, hair, and dander floating around.
As the temperature drops, some homes are also infiltrated by large numbers of unwanted insects and animals. Whether behind your drywall and in your outlets or setting up camp in your HVAC ducting, pests bring harmful bacteria and other pathogens with them. They also leave lots of detritus behind. During winter, your IAQ could be impacted by decaying food, feces, shed exoskeletons, and other leavings.
Tips to Protect and Improve Your IAQ This Winter
You can minimize the toll that winter takes on your IAQ by properly caring for your HVAC system, addressing pest problems as soon as they’re suspected, and choosing products and activities that release minimal VOCs and other gaseous contaminants. It’s also a good idea to keep your bathroom exhaust fans, range hood vent, and other mechanical ventilation throughout the building clean and to use these features often.
Regularly Change Your HVAC Air Filter
Among the easiest ways to give your IAQ a boost this winter is by regularly replacing your HVAC air filter. Inspect this component monthly and change it as needed. Most HVAC equipment manufacturers recommend changing air filters every 30 to 90 days.
Schedule HVAC Maintenance Before Winter Starts
During HVAC tune-up services, our technicians thoroughly clean heating and cooling equipment both inside and out. By removing build-ups of dust, dander, and other allergens, we keep these contaminants from breaking free and entering your living space. We also check the integrity of HVAC air ducts and fine-tune heating and cooling equipment to enhance its performance and efficiency. This allows for better air filtration, humidity regulation, and temperature control.
Schedule Professional HVAC Air Duct Cleaning
Having your ductwork inspected during HVAC tune-up services will allow you to catch and correct leaks or other structural or performance-related problems. However, it’s also important to have these features professionally cleaned. According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), homeowners should have their air ducts cleaned once every two to three years.
Schedule an Air Quality Assessment
When your IAQ is noticeably low, schedule an air quality assessment. This assessment will measure your indoor humidity. It will also identify which allergens, contaminants, and pathogens are in your home and determine their concentrations. IAQ assessments give homeowners the information they need to identify and correct the underlying causes of their IAQ concerns and find the most need-specific IAQ equipment.
Install IAQ Accessories
When regularly changing your HVAC air filter isn’t sufficient for keeping your IAQ high, you might want to invest in integrated HVAC system accessories. You can choose from whole-house humidification and dehumidification equipment, air scrubbers, air purifiers, and more. Installed in HVAC air ducts or attached to them, these appliances will treat your indoor air after it’s passed through your air filter and before it’s routed back into your home.
We offer exceptional cooling, heating, plumbing, and indoor air quality services. Residents of Las Vegas, NV can also turn to us for new ductwork, smart thermostats, and preventative maintenance plans. If you have IAQ concerns, get in touch with Simply Air Conditioning Heating & Plumbing today to schedule an appointment!