5 Tips for Better Indoor Air Quality

by James Florence

If you experience seasonal allergies, a home with clean air can be a sanctuary from the outdoors. Photo: Kerri Landscape Services (2017)

Spring has arrived once again to the Bay Area—the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and, as a result, many local inhabitants are sniffling and sneezing. If you’re one of them, going outdoors during this time of year can be an unpleasant experience. Fortunately, even though you can’t control the outside air, there’s plenty you can do to improve air quality inside of your home. Here are five tips for creating an allergy-free haven:

1. Get a good air filter (and replace it regularly). This is the cornerstone of indoor air quality. For most homes, a mid-grade MERV 9 filter will do nicely, but if you have extreme sensitivities, consider upgrading to a MERV 13 filter: a four-inch pleated model that removes airborne particles down to the level of viruses and bacterium. Of course, air filters don’t last forever, so be sure to replace yours regularly. Most HVAC professionals recommend replacing air filters every three months, but depending on how quickly yours get dirty, you may need to do it more often.

2. Clean your air ducts. Even with a good air filter, indoor air quality can be compromised by dirty ductwork. Unscrew one of your air registers (floor or ceiling) and look inside; if you see a lot of dirt in the duct, use a vacuum cleaner attachment to clean it out. Repeat this step with the other air registers throughout your home—just be careful not to accidently damage any ducts while you work.

3. Utilize the “fan only” setting on your thermostat. When your HVAC system is running, it’s not only heating or cooling your home, it’s also circulating the air. That’s why in mild seasons like spring (when your system is seldom in use), your indoor air can become stagnant due to a lack of circulation. To address this, run your system on the “fan only” setting at regular intervals—ideally 10 to 15 minutes every hour. If you don’t want to do this manually, consider investing in a thermostat with the capability to program “fan only” operation.

4. Bust dust. Dust is an unavoidable presence in the home, but with proactive measures, you can minimize its impact on indoor air quality. The big ones are frequent vacuuming and dusting. For maximum effectiveness, use dusting tools that capture dust (wet rags, Swiffer-type products) rather than move it around (feather dusters), and consider purchasing a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Also, don’t forget about common dust collectors like area rugs, curtains and unused bedding or linens. The latter can attract dust mites, so it’s a good idea to periodically wash them in hot water.

5. Get professional service. While independent measures can go a long way toward improving indoor air quality, don’t discount the value of professional service. An HVAC technician will make sure your heating and cooling systems are running as cleanly and efficiently as possible. It’s also a good idea to have your air ducts professionally cleaned every few years—just be sure to hire a reputable company that uses industry-approved methods.

To find a Diamond Certified HVAC contractor in your area, visit www.diamondcertified.org.