What Affects Indoor Air Quality (and What You Can Do About It)

You want the indoor air you breathe to be clean, healthy, and safe for you and your family. HVAC technology allows you to improve your home’s indoor air quality, but only when you know what’s causing the issue in the first place.

Learn what can affect indoor air quality and how to fix any problems.

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

Plenty of different things can cause poor air quality indoors. The most common HVAC problems include:

  • Poor ventilation. If your home doesn’t have the proper ventilation, it can trap anything from mold and moisture to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from household products. Call an expert to see about installing more ventilation.
  • Dirty air ducts. You can expect some dirt and dust in your vents. Excessive buildup, however, can lead to dust, mites, mold, bacteria, and more distributed around your home. A thorough duct cleaning keeps debris to a minimum.
  • Dirty air filters. On average, air filters in your furnace, air conditioner, or air handler need to be changed every three months. However, you might need to change your filters more often if you have multiple pets, allergies, or a large household.
  • Incorrect MERV-rating. If you live in a particularly damp area or near a source of airborne pollution, you may need a higher MERV-rated HVAC air filter than the one you use. High-rated MERV filters (8-13) are ideal for filtering tiny particles, like bacteria, allergens, or pollution. On the other hand, HVACs only accept a certain level of MERV filter. (Unless you have an HVAC system that can handle a high MERV rating, it will only cause your unit to struggle without adequately filtering the air.)

Does Outdoor Air Quality Affect Indoor Air Quality?

Yes. Your home HVAC system pulls air in from the outside and treats it before circulating it through your home. If the air it pulls in is polluted, heavy with pollen or smoke, or otherwise lower quality, it can also reduce indoor air quality. Your air filters should remove many contaminants, but only what the MERV rating can actually filter. Some smaller particles, including bacteria and pollution, can get through most standard residential filters. You can combat this by getting a filter with the highest MERV rating your system can handle.

Is Indoor Air Quality Better Than Outdoor Air Quality?

When it comes to indoor air quality vs. outdoors, indoor air is almost always inherently worse than outdoor air because of off-gassing from stoves, sprays, cleaning supplies, furniture, pets, glues, caulks, candles, cooking, and more. When pollutants enter or are released in your home, they’re trapped inside, even with adequate ventilation. On the other hand, outdoor air has a relatively vast volume with which to dilute pollutants.

Are Candles Bad for Indoor Air Quality?

Burning anything inside can negatively affect your air quality, including candles. Scented candles and candles made from paraffin wax release various VOCs, toxic chemicals, and soot that are harmful to breathe. If you burn a scented candle, do so in an area with good ventilation. To avoid burning candles, try electric wax melters with formaldehyde-free wax or stovetop spice potpourri for pleasant indoor scents.

Are Plants Good for Indoor Air Quality?

Plants, while pretty to look at, have a negligible effect on indoor air quality. Some can offer the slightest boost, but you’d need far more plants than is practical to make a difference in indoor air quality. In fact, if you overwater your plants, they may develop mold, lowering your air quality. Keep your plants around for their mental health benefits, and remember not to water them too often.

Can Dry Air Make You Sick?

While cold, dry air doesn’t make you sick, it does provide cold and flu viruses with an environment they find healthy, leaving you and your family more susceptible to illnesses. This is because your respiratory system uses moist membranes to defend against bacteria and viruses. These defenses become less effective when you dry out in Cincinnati’s low winter humidity. Add a whole-home humidifier to run in the winter, and don’t be surprised if you and your family become sick less often. In the summer, a whole-home dehumidifier keeps things more comfortable at home and protects your basement carpeting and furniture.

How to Check Air Quality Indoors

The best way to check your home’s air is with an indoor air quality test. A One Hour technician has equipment and knowledge that doesn’t come with a DIY kit, and we can recommend specific solutions for whatever air quality problems you face.

Improving Your Indoor Air Quality in Cincinnati

Ready to improve your indoor air quality? Call the HVAC and indoor air quality experts at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning of Cincinnati at (513) 815-3460 today or book online.