During the winter months, we often find ourselves cooped up inside, huddled away from the cold and wintry weather, with few activities to lure us outdoors. This is a good time to think about the air we breathe indoors, and how it is affecting our health and our environment.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be 10 to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Asthma rates have doubled in the past 20 years.
Minimizing Indoor Air Pollution
The first step to breathing clean air is to reduce indoor air pollution. Unfortunately, some of the very things that create a homey ambiance are big contributors to making us sick. Plug-in air fresheners, candles, carpeting, and paint can all emit chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks or other breathing difficulties.
Avoid oil-based air fresheners to scent the air; instead, use green cleaning products that leave your home with a fresh (and safe) environment. Limit the burning of soot-producing candles, replacing them with more eco-friendly soy wax candles that burn cleanly. Ask for paint with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and select “Green Label” carpet to reduce dangerous chemical emissions.
Air Filtration and Purification
One of the single best things you can do to maintain good indoor air quality is to change the air filters in your furnace or heating system each month during the heating season. A higher quality HEPA filter, while a bit more expensive, will help minimize dust, pollen and other allergens.
If you suspect moisture, unhealthy air from outside, gas appliance back draft or excessive pet dander is taking the quality out of your air, your home may be a good candidate for an air quality analysis. This investment – usually just a few hundred dollars – can help you pinpoint the problem and give you tips on lowering your energy bills. You may find that an air filtration system is what you need, but there may an easier and less expensive solution.
New Rules for Refrigerant
Effective January 1, 2010, R-22 refrigerant will be banned for use in new cooling systems because it uses too much energy and hurts the environment as it develops leaks. What does this mean for consumers who have cooling systems requiring R-22? As long as your system is working property and doesn’t require refrigerant, you’re okay. But when your system needs major repairs or replacement, you’ll be required to upgrade to a new system that will use R-410 (Pureon). This new refrigerant cannot be used in existing R-22 systems because of contamination. Energy credits are available through the end of 2010 if you’re ready to upgrade your system now.