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Originally published in July 2017, updated May 2019.

According to studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends approximately 90 percent of their life indoors. While this statistic probably wants to make you go outside and soak up some sun, it has far-reaching consequences in other areas of your life, especially your health. Because you spend so much time indoors, you want your indoor air quality to remain as clean as possible. Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you think. If you’re searching for ways to perfect the indoor air quality in your Lakewood Ranch, Florida, home, here’s a handy guide to get you started.

Go from Artificial to Natural

There are hundreds of air fresheners available on the market that claim to make your home smell great or clean better than any substitute. While these claims aren’t unsubstantiated, they fill your home with volatile organic compounds or VOCs. Humans and animals have many adverse side effects from inhaling VOCs such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

To avoid VOCs in your home, there are many proven methods. Instead of using air fresheners, you can heat lemon or cinnamon to emit a wonderful aroma in your home. You can also use essential oils, which not only have a pleasant smell, but also have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. The most common types of include eucalyptus, thyme, peppermint, and lavender.

If you use harsh cleaners in the bathroom or kitchen, try using baking soda, vinegar, or lemon juice mixed with water. These clean just as effectively as other chemicals while keeping your air quality normal. Additionally, you can use a water and vinegar solution to mop the floor effectively. In the laundry room, avoid using traditional detergents and dryer sheets, especially products with fragrances. When used, these laundry products spew a number of chemicals into the home, and few are expelled through the dryer vent. Instead, look for natural or fragrance-free products, or if you have the drive, make your own using borax, washing soda, grated bar soap, and essential oils to provide an aroma.

Keep Ducts and Filter Clean to Improve Indoor Air Quality

When you use the furnace or air conditioner, forced air goes through a filter and into the ductwork before it enters your home. However, dirty filters and ducts spew contaminants into your home, causing your air quality to falter. To make matters worse, this condition also causes your HVAC system to work even harder to produce the same results as a clean system.

To counteract this scenario, it’s important to change your air filter at least once every 90 days. In seasons where you use your HVAC system more frequently, you should increase this frequency to once every 30 to 60 days. Filters also come in a number of qualities, ranging from coarse to fine, and also known as a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). The higher the MERV rating of your air filter, the more effective it is at keeping debris out of your home.

It is important that you use the appropriate MERV-rated filter as recommended by your HVAC manufacturer. A filter that is rated too high will make it difficult for your system to pull in air, causing it to work harder and possibly damaging the system. Typically, HEPA filters are used in hospital and other medical facilities. HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners are very effective at catching and containing a multitude of minute particles that escape a typical HVAC filter. Although your system cannot use a HEPA filter, read below for information about air purifiers that can be added to your HVAC system.

While this does a ton to prevent dust from entering the system, it isn’t 100 percent effective. Over time, debris accumulates in your air ducts. You can use a brush to clean the excess dust from your air registers, but to do a thorough cleaning, you’ll need to enlist our help. When you schedule a duct cleaning, one of our certified HVAC technicians will come out and ensure they’re just as clean as the day they were installed. It’s just another way that we’re committed to improving your air quality.

Install Indoor Air Quality Products

Another way to clean your air is a more hands-off approach. By installing an indoor air quality device, you only need to install them and let them do the rest of the work. The first device is an air purifier, which differs slightly from an air cleaner. Both trap dust from entering your HVAC system, but an air purifier sanitizes the air as it passes through the system. Often, air purifiers utilize a UV lamp, which kills hazardous organic material such as bacteria, viruses, and mold. UV lamps themselves do nothing to prevent pet dander and dust from entering the house, but when used in conjunction with an air cleaner or air filter, they’re highly effective at promoting healthy air.

Most of the year, Florida has high humidity levels which permeate your home. This high humidity encourages the growth of harmful allergens including dust mites and biologic growth. In addition, your air conditioner has to remove the moisture from the air when operating, causing it to work harder and handing you a higher energy bill in the process. However, there is a solution. We specialize in the installation of whole-home dehumidifiers. With a dehumidifier, you don’t have to worry about your air conditioner carrying the workload. Plus, you can breathe easier, sleep more comfortably, and enjoy better indoor air quality thanks to a proper indoor relative humidity.

Get an HVAC Tuneup

Sometimes you don’t have the expertise to improve your air quality because there are technical aspects that you don’t have the training or knowledge to understand. One of those aspects is an HVAC tuneup. Even if you keep up with filter replacement, or you decide to install extra air quality products, it still isn’t always enough. That’s when an HVAC tuneup comes in handy. Our technicians conduct a thorough investigation of every aspect of your system to ensure it’s running in tip-top shape.

Not only does a tuneup ensure excellent mechanical operation, but it also helps filter out pet dander, dust, and other allergens from the air by ensuring the filter and other aspects are working properly. Systems that use gas or oil may also subject your family to carbon monoxide, which is highly toxic and even lethal if undetected. Ideally, you should schedule this maintenance biannually, but if you tend to forget such things, an HVAC maintenance plan is the best route to take. With an HVAC maintenance plan, you get exclusive benefits from us, as well as a discount on repairs. Not only will you enjoy better air quality, but you’ll also get it at a fraction of the price.

Houseplants Improve Indoor Air Quality

A few decades ago, NASA was finding ways to improve the air quality on space stations. After their research, they found how highly effective houseplants are at improving air quality. In your home, chemicals and other substances such as formaldehyde poison the indoor air. However, many species of plants help filter these substances out of the air, while also emitting fresh oxygen and giving your home a warm, inviting look. Some of the most efficient plants to filter the air include Boston ferns, peace lilies, English ivy, spider plants, aloe vera, and Chinese evergreens. The best part is that you can choose plants to match your style and decor while reaping the benefits at the same time.

Open the Windows

It sounds like a no-brainer, but many homeowners forget how important it is to open the windows and doors every so often. You don’t have to throw them wide open, but even opening them a crack and turning on a fan can help ventilate the home and expel allergens and other pollutants from the home. Unless it’s blistering hot or uncomfortably cold, it’s something you should do at least once a week.

Take the Smoking Outside

If you smoke or you have friends or family members that smoke, don’t let them smoke inside your home. Cigarette smoke has over 4,000 chemicals and an abundance of second-hand smoke which lingers in your home, causes health problems and terrible indoor air quality. Obviously, the best way to stop this from happening is by quitting, but if you still partake, take it outside.

Perfecting your indoor air quality isn’t an arduous process if you know where to start and make a commitment to the entire process. While you can do some of this on your own, you’re going to need the professionals at Aqua Plumbing and Air to deal with the technical end, such as installation and repair. Our expert technicians will provide quality work with a friendly manner that gets you back into your normal routine. Call us today for more information about a system tune-up or indoor air quality products.

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