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10 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality This Spring

Did you know that millions of people each year suffer from health problems, preventable illnesses, and worse as a result of indoor air pollution? It’s a serious concern for homeowners, both here in Maryland and across the United States. And when spring rolls around, things get even trickier. Allergens like pollen, dust, mold spores, and other organic compounds proliferate when the weather warms up and may aggravate pre-existing health conditions.

Even for those without active allergies, it’s good to pay attention to air quality in your home and take steps to make sure you always breathe clean, fresh air throughout the year.

Common Air Quality Issues in Maryland

During spring, two of the biggest air quality concerns for homeowners are allergens and pollen, which rise dramatically as trees, grasses, and weeds bloom. Of course, pollen isn’t the only air quality concern that homeowners should worry about. Some air quality issues, while less common, are more dangerous and should be addressed promptly. Here, we review the top indoor air quality concerns.

Allergens

According to the EPA, indoor air pollutants and allergens may cause symptoms like irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue​. Maryland is home to a diverse array of flora that contributes to these concerns, particularly in the spring.

Common trees such as oaks, red maples, and birches are significant sources of tree pollen, which often trigger seasonal allergies and respiratory issues. Kentucky Bluegrass, a common lawn varietal in Maryland, ranks among the worst offenders for pollen discharge. Understanding the types of local flora and their pollen production in your area can help you deal with them and know what actions will help mitigate exposure.

Radon

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that poses a significant danger to building occupants. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and exists naturally in soil. It seeps into homes through cracks or foundation gaps. Regular radon testing for your home is more than a good practice; it can save lives!

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew thrive in damp, humid environments, which are common in Maryland basements and bathrooms. These fungi release spores into the air and trigger allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and other respiratory issues. The EPA recommends that people maintain proper humidity levels and adequate ventilation to mitigate mold growth. If mold has already grown, professional mold remediation is the safest way forward.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are gasses released from certain solids or liquids, including fuels, appliances, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, and furnishings. Both short- and long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to health issues, which is why good indoor air quality management is so important. Even when you feel healthy, you might be breathing in more contaminants than you think!

Top 10 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

1. Open Windows and Ventilate

Fresh air circulation is a quick way to clear out your house and improve indoor air quality. To maximize the benefits while you minimize exposure to troublesome outdoor elements like pollen, ventilate your home early in the morning or late in the evening when pollen counts are lower. You can use fans to enhance air circulation and install window screens to reduce pollen entry. Proper ventilation will ensure that any contaminants coming from inside the home—like radon, smoke, or mold—are cleared out.

2. Use Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are another frontline defense against indoor air contamination. They draw in dirty air, filter out contaminants, and then circulate clean air back into the room. These are essential for those who suffer from intense allergic reactions and other outdoor irritants. In these cases, opening windows to ventilate may do more harm than good. Rather, homeowners with air purifiers should close windows and place purifiers in areas that support circulation.

It’s good practice to choose purifiers with HEPA filters and, if necessary, additional filtration features like carbon filters or UV purifiers. You’ll also want to measure your room’s dimensions and make sure the unit you buy is the right size for your space.

3. Regularly Change HVAC Filters

Your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system plays a huge role in indoor air quality. HVAC systems manage air flow throughout your home with ongoing circulation and filtration. If you don’t get your HVAC system serviced regularly, debris and pollutant buildup may start to affect air quality. It’s good practice to commit to professional inspection at least once a year, although you can stay on top of things if you change your own HVAC filter every few months, or as needed, to maintain optimal air quality.

4. Maintain Proper Humidity Levels

Humidity management is one of the biggest factors that will control mold and mildew growth. Excess moisture and warmth are breeding grounds for fungi. Conversely, overly dry environments can be hard on our skin. The ideal solution is to manage humidity levels and keep them in the optimal range—recommended at between 30-50% by the EPA. While humidity can be hard to control, humidifiers and dehumidifiers can do much of the heavy lifting. For maximum accuracy, consider using a measurement tool like a hygrometer to keep tabs on moisture levels.

5. Test for Radon

Many homes these days are built with dedicated radon mitigation systems that prevent gas buildup in basements, but not all of them do. Homeowners can buy radon test kits to measure levels themselves or hire a professional to come out and perform the testing. If radon is known to be a concern in your area, regular testing is essential for safety. Should high levels of radon be detected, it might be worthwhile to invest in continuous radon management solutions for your home.

6. Introduce Houseplants

A fun and vibrant way to improve indoor air quality is to bring in houseplants and let them work their magic. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, filter out toxins, and release oxygen back into the air. They’re Nature’s air purifiers! Some of the best purifiers include bamboo palm, spider plants, snake plants, and chrysanthemums.

Of course, you’ll need to invest a little time to keep them alive, and not all houseplants are safe around pets, but with a little planning, you can beautify your home and boost air quality at the same time.

7. Use Natural Cleaning Products

Many traditional cleaning products contain nasty VOCs that degrade indoor air quality. The usual suspects here include aerosol sprays, air fresheners, oven cleaners, chlorine bleach, laundry detergent, and upholstery cleaners. As these products are applied, the VOCs vaporize into the air you breathe.

The American Lung Association recommends that we avoid most household cleaners altogether and opt for natural soap-and-water methods. Natural products like vinegar and baking soda can also be effective options for a deeper clean.

8. Keep Floors Clean

It may not be the first air quality solution on your mind, but floors are a hotbed of dust, allergens, mites, and other debris that can pollute your breathing air. As best practices, clean hard and soft floors regularly with natural cleaning products and minimize the buildup you’re exposed to. For example, vacuums can have HEPA filters included or be designed for HEPA compliance across its entire design. These options will do a far better job at improving air quality than older model vacuums, which tend to just recirculate dusty air back into your living space.

9. Avoid Synthetic Fragrances

A common source of VOCs is the very products we use to freshen our air: aerosol sprays, plug-ins, oil diffusers, scented candles, and so on. Synthetic fragrances are known to be hazardous, with researchers pointing out how fragrances can react with ozone to create dangerous secondary pollutants in the environment.

As you work to improve air quality by limiting VOCs and other pollutants, take care to review the products you use every day. Even innocuous products can contain these harmful pollutants. As alternatives, consider products like natural oils that don’t degrade or air purifiers that eliminate odors without additional fragrances.

10. Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance

Professional HVAC maintenance is one of the best ways to support a healthy, well-ventilated ecosystem in your home. Aside from the basics like making sure high-quality air filters are installed, professional HVAC technicians can clean components of debris, identify leaks or gaps, replace aging parts, and ensure tight operations across every aspect of your system.

An HVAC tune-up typically includes inspection, cleaning, and necessary adjustments to your system to support healthy airflow. When designed and maintained well, your HVAC system can do much of the heavy lifting detailed above—provide air filtration, circulation, humidity control, radon management, and more.

For the best results, look for contractors in Maryland who specialize in home services. Werrlein Services brings over 15 years of expertise to provide a full range of services to homeowners and businesses in greater Anne Arundel County.

Contact us to schedule an inspection and get the spring season started on the right foot!