We’ve heard a lot about indoor air quality over the past couple of years, so how do you know if your home’s air is healthy or not?
There are multiple ways of testing, from buying individual air quality monitors to hiring an HVAC professional like One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.
Here are a few things you can do to test the air quality in your home …
Do-it-Yourself Indoor Air Quality Testing
To keep tabs on your home’s indoor air quality, there are a handful of devices and tests you can purchase. On the high-tech end, there are monitors, which can give you a wide range of precise data points. On the low-tech end, there are testing kits, which can give you a very basic reading about whether a particular substance is present.
Use an Indoor Air Quality Monitor
An indoor air quality monitor measures air pollution in your home and displays a number that rates your home’s current air quality.
More high-tech monitors will include multiple sensors to track air quality room-by-room, while simpler devices monitor a single room and don’t require an internet connection.
Remember, these monitors, which cost anywhere from $90 to $200, don’t do anything to improve your air quality. They only tell you the current quality of your home’s air.
What Pollutants Can an Indoor Air Quality Monitor Detect?
Every IAQ monitor will have its own unique set of pollutants that it can detect. It’s important to study different types of monitors to determine which model will best suit your needs. Most air quality monitors are designed to detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and PM (particulate matter). Some models will also detect carbon monoxide (CO) or radon.
None can directly detect the presence of mold, but if a model detects VOCs, this can serve as indirect proof that there may be a problem. Some IAQ monitors also come with a detection for “mold risk” by evaluating humidity and temperature over time.
Other pollutants detected by IAQ monitors include: ozone, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), formaldehyde, and outdoor pollen (usually pulled from external weather reports).
An Air Quality Monitor Can Detect High Levels of Particulate Matter like PM2.5
Pollutants in the form of particles are usually measured in the ranges of course, fine, and ultrafine. The technical terms for these ranges are PM10, PM2.5, and PM1.
Some common PM10 found in the home would be dust allergens and pollen. Particles at this size can cause irritation, but are not as dangerous as particles in the PM2.5 range, which can get deeper into the lungs and respiratory system.
Detecting high levels of PM2.5 or smaller with an IAQ monitor is a good way to stay aware of the presence of particles from emissions, chemicals, and smoke in the home.
Should I Test for Radon?
According to the CDC, every home should be tested. But some states naturally have higher radon due to their geology. The top three are Alaska, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Find out where your state ranks if you are concerned about radon seeping into your home from the crawlspace or basement.
Use a Mold Test Kit
An indoor air quality monitor is great for detecting contaminants in the air, but it won’t detect mold. If you think any rooms in your house may have mold contamination, you should test specifically for it.
Mold tests are relatively inexpensive and give you some peace of mind. Common places to test for mold include:
- Under sinks
- In ventilation ducts
- Behind refrigerators
- Under carpeting that was once wet
Most mold tests are only for mold that’s visible. After collecting the sample, you typically need to send it in to the lab associated with the test. Results are available within a few days.
In terms of accuracy, at-home kits are not as reliable as bringing in a team of professionals to perform an inspection. It can be hard to collect an accurate sample if you've never attempted it before. If you suspect mold due to respiratory irritation or a strong musty smell, you may just want to bring in professionals right away.
If you need to remediate mold, contact our sister brand, STOP Restoration for mold removal services.
Use a Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that can leak from multiple locations, including your stove. Having a carbon monoxide alarm goes beyond detecting air quality—it can save your life! Most states require having a CO alarm installed in the home.
Carbon monoxide alarms detect the poisonous gas early enough to give you time to get outside for fresh air. Don’t ignore the beeps. When you hear it, get your entire family outside immediately.
Many IAQ monitors include CO monitoring features, but be sure to do research on whether there are “alarm” features if you want to be alerted when unhealthy levels are present. Otherwise, you will need to get a traditional CO alarm alongside your IAQ monitor.
Monitor Your Health
Your home’s indoor air quality could be worsening if you or other members of your household are feeling more lethargic or notice more irritability of the eyes, throat, sinuses, and lungs. Keep an eye on those symptoms and others, including headaches, to help gauge if you need professional indoor air quality services.
Basic Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
There are plenty of small steps that can be taken to protect yourself from poor (or unhealthy) air quality. Being proactive about IAQ is a smart investment for any homeowner who wants to improve their long-term health and comfort.
- Get Your Home Assessed: Consider having a professional indoor air quality assessment conducted. This evaluation can help identify potential sources of indoor air pollution, such as mold, radon, or other contaminants, allowing you to take targeted actions to improve the air quality in your home.
- Improve Ventilation: Proper ventilation is essential for reducing indoor air pollutants. Open windows and use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms to expel odors, humidity, and pollutants. Additionally, consider installing energy-efficient ventilation systems to ensure a continuous flow of fresh air.
- Duct Cleaning: Over time, dust, debris, and allergens can accumulate in your HVAC system's ductwork. Regular duct cleaning can help remove these contaminants, preventing them from circulating throughout your home and compromising your indoor air quality.
- Cleaning Air Handlers: Regularly clean and maintain air handlers, fans, and coils in your HVAC system. Dust and dirt buildup in these components can hinder air circulation and contribute to the spread of pollutants.
- Air Filters: Use high-quality air filters in your HVAC system and change them regularly. Filters trap dust, pollen, pet dander, and other particles, preventing them from circulating in your home. Look for filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating appropriate for your system.
- Air Purifiers: Consider investing in air purifiers with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. These devices can effectively capture and remove a wide range of airborne pollutants, including pollen, smoke, and pet allergens.
- Dehumidifiers: High humidity levels can encourage mold growth and create an uncomfortable indoor environment. Dehumidifiers can help maintain optimal humidity levels, typically between 30% to 50%, reducing the risk of mold and other moisture-related issues.
- Keeping a Clean Home: Regularly clean and vacuum your home to minimize dust and allergens. Pay attention to areas that often collect dust, such as carpets, curtains, and upholstery. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to prevent dust particles from being re-circulated.
- Regular HVAC Maintenance: Schedule routine maintenance for your HVAC system, including inspections and servicing. A well-maintained system operates more efficiently, reducing the risk of indoor air quality issues and extending the life of the equipment.
When You’re Ready to Hire a Professional
One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning technicians can convert your heating and cooling system into a whole-house air treatment center. Contact the pros today to learn more.