It’s all very well insulating and draft proofing your home to keep warm, but if you’re property isn’t properly ventilated you can end up with serious damp and mould problems. Modern, airtight properties tend to have poor air quality because of this, especially if they contain lots of manmade materials and electrical equipment. Follow these tips to improve the air quality in your home.
Ventilate Your Home
The most important factor in improving indoor air quality is ventilation – you need to let your home breathe. While some natural ventilation occurs in all buildings, this isn’t enough to keep your home healthy, we recommend using a mixture of these ventilation methods:
- Passive Ventilation– this includes opening windows and installing trickle vents, which are found in windows frames and air bricks; these provide a constant, minimal amount of ventilation.
- Extractor Fans – which are usually installed in kitchens and bathrooms to remove saturated air which can settle on surfaces causing damp and mould. More sophisticated fans will also have filters to reduce dust and pollen, which is particularly useful for those with asthma and allergies.
It’s a good idea to hire a ventilation professional who can advise how best to ventilate your particular property.
Use Natural Materials
Modern building materials are often made from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, which can be released into the atmosphere over time causing illness. VOCs are found in paints, adhesives, synthetic carpets, upholstery and cleaning products; exposure to these substances can cause headaches, asthma, respiratory illness and skin irritation. To avoid VOCs, try using natural materials in your home such as linoleum, eco-paints and wool insulation.
Get Rid of Moisture
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that those who live in damp or mouldy properties are at a 75% greater risk of developing respiratory problems and asthma. Moisture and mould will also damage your fittings and furniture. Household moisture comes in three forms:
- Penetrating Moisture – caused by leaks from the roof or exterior walls
- Rising Moisture – whereby moisture moves up from the ground through building materials
- Condensation Moisture – which is caused by moisture in the air, which turns to water droplets when it meets a cooler surface such as a window or wall.
Penetrating and rising moisture are easily remedied by carrying out repairs or inserting a moisture proof course, but condensation moisture is trickier to get rid of. You can prevent condensation moisture by opening windows, especially when drying clothes and by installing fans to remove steam in kitchens and bathrooms.
TheHealth and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend keeping a relative humidity level of between 40 and 70% in your home. If you have a particularly bad condensation problem it’s worth buying a dehumidifier, which will extract moisture from the air to help with this.
Control the Temperature
Keeping a comfortable indoor temperature of around 68 to 71 degrees will help improve the air quality in your home. Installing a new, energy efficient gas boiler with a thermostat or upgrading your central heating system will make it easier to control the temperature in your property. During summer make sure your air conditioning unit is well maintained and cleaned, as otherwise it can end up blowing bacteria and dust throughout your home.
Service your Gas Boiler and Appliances
Faulty, poorly ventilated or installed gas appliances can leak dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) fumes. CO poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms and prolonged exposure can result in paralysis and brain damage – around 20 people per year die from carbon monoxide, says the HSE. The easiest way to avoid CO poisoning is to have your gas boiler and appliances installed and regularly serviced by a certified and registered engineer. It’s also a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
Purify the Air
You can improve your indoor air quality easily by regularly cleaning, vacuuming, and steam cleaning upholstered furniture; this will get rid of dust mites which can irritate asthma and cause respiratory problems. You may also want to:
- Avoid smoking inside your home
- Vent appliances such as your tumble drier outdoors
- Buy an air purifier
- Use a humidifier if the air in your home is too dry – this will help combat dust
Test for Asbestos
According to the Environmental Working Group, ten thousand Americans die each year from asbestos at a rate of almost 30 people per day. This dangerous substance was commonly used in building materials in the 1930s until the health effects were discovered. So, that means that any property built before the year 2000 could contain asbestos. Fortunately, asbestos is only harmful if it’s disturbed or left to deteriorate, since that’s when particles become airborne, and then inhaled. It’s a good idea to hire an asbestos professional to check your home and recommend a course of action.
Check for Lead Paint
Lead paint is another substance which was regularly used in households before the health risks were known in the 1960s. Breathing in the lead dust from the decaying paint can cause serious illness, especially for children, so if you suspect that your home contains lead, hire a professional to remove it safely.