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Indoor air quality is even more important in winter

Up here in the Northeast, we’re in the midst of winter weather, which means spending more time inside. While you’re snuggled away, think about the air you’re breathing. Indoor air quality is even more important in the winter. Kettler Forlines Homes has advice for making sure you and your family are breathing the best air possible.

First, let’s look at indoor air quality in homes. Today’s construction methods focus on creating an airtight seal on new homes, avoiding costly drafts and leaks. As a result, you’re not having fresh air circulating with indoor air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the air you breathe inside is as much as 5 times more polluted than the air outside. 

Allergens, chemicals, and gases emitted from items in your home come from a variety of sources, like household cleaners, paints, second-hand smoke, manufactured wood products in furniture and cabinets, and fuel-burning combustion appliances. And how about  those seemingly harmless dust bunnies? They’re actually comprised of dead skin, hair, insects, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, lint, fibers, and things tracked in from the outside. 

What can you do to improve indoor air quality?

Vacuum thoroughly. Use a quality vacuum with a HEPA filter, ensuring that what you suck up isn’t blowing back into your home. Vacuum at least 2 or 3 times a week, and wash the HEPA filter regularly. Be sure to vacuum the furniture, around windows and doors, along baseboards, and any other areas where dust and dirt collect.

Mop, too. No matter how well you vacuum, you can expect some debris and residue is left behind. Follow up your vacuuming with a damp mop. You don’t need any cleaner, just water.

Manage the indoor humidity. Winter air can be dry, so many homeowners use a humidifier. However, the moisture is a breeding ground for mold and dust mites. Empty and rinse the reservoir daily to prevent the growth of mold and mites. Disinfect the humidifier weekly with white vinegar and then a bleach solution, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, use only distilled water in your humidifier, which doesn’t contain some of the minerals and contaminants that could be in your tap water.

Use natural air fresheners. Commercial air fresheners and scented candles add a nice fragrance to the air in your home, but they also emit chemicals. According to WebMD, one particular plug-in air freshener “was found to emit 20 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including seven regulated as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws. But these chemicals were not included on the label—only the word ‘fragrance’ is required to be listed.”

Replace those scented air fresheners with an essential oil diffuser. These oils have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties and will also help to purify your home. If you don’t have a diffuser, just boil a pot of water, remove it from the heat source, and then add a few drops of essential oil.

Test for radon. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the soil. It can seep into your home through cracks in the foundation, well water, and even some building materials. You can check the radon levels in your indoor air with a radon test kit from a variety of sources, including your local health department. The average indoor radon level is about 1.3. 

Use a doormat. Place a durable doormat at every entry in your home to prevent tracking in the chemicals and pollutants. Also, ask everyone to remove their shoes when they come in.

Choose low- or no-VOC materials. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals found in paints, carpet, and vinyl or laminate flooring. They’re emitted as gases into the air. Look for low-VOC or no-VOC products that won’t negatively impact your indoor air quality.

Open the windows. Yes, it’s cold outside but the fresh air intake will help improve indoor air quality. Just open them for 10 minutes a day.

Kettler Forlines Homes is committed to protecting our homebuyers. We build our new homes in the DC Metro air to Indoor airPLUS standards, an EPA program designed to improve the air we breathe indoors. In fact, we earned the Indoor airPLUS Leader Award in 2020, one of only 10 builders in the country to receive this prestigious honor. 

We don’t raise our standards to earn awards. We do it because it’s the right thing to do for our homebuyers.