Though indoor air quality is important any time of year, it’s crucial in winter, when we seal in allergens, dust mites, and cleaning chemicals to keep our homes warm and save energy. Unfortunately, winter makes your home or business’s air quality much worse. The good news? You can keep your indoor air clean in the winter, too, even if you have pets; it just takes a little planning and a bit of know-how.
What the Stack Effect Means for You
Ever wonder what makes a hot air balloon rise? It’s possible we gave that one away, but, if you missed it, the answer is heat. And guess what’s happening in your home during winter? Your home is heating up. The combination of heat from below and air rising is called the “stack effect,” and it’s the phenomenon whereby air is drawn up from the lowest levels of a structure – through the floors, windows, doors, and then up from the basement or crawlspace. So, basically, you and your family are breathing crawl space air all winter long. In fact, around 40% of the air you breathe in winter is from this “stack effect.”
The Effect of the Stack Effect on Your Health
The toll that poor indoor air quality can take on your life is nothing to sneeze at – though it may cause you to sneeze. At best, it exacerbates the difficulty of dust mite and mold allergies, as well as sensitivities to certain toxic chemicals. At worse, it can cause chronic respiratory problems, heart issues, and even cancer.
The stack effect is a natural consequence of the way HVAC's work to keep buildings warm. However, there are some steps you can take to keep your indoor air clean despite the stack effect.
Improve Air Quality in Your Home this Winter – And Every Day After
When your heat clicks on, consider how to balance the stack effect so that poor air quality isn’t stacked against you. Check out these types for cleaner indoor air.
● Change your furnace’s filter. Before winter starts, have a professional inspect your unit. Then, put a reminder in your calendar to change the furnace’s air filter regularly. Inspect it once a month for particulates. Check the filter’s rating, too, and don’t rely on poor quality for such an important element of your system.
● Invest in a Home Humidifier. Whole-home humidifiers work through the air ducts of an HVAC system, fighting the effects of winter dryness like itchy skin, dry nasal passages, and too much static.
● Keep Things Tidy. Change your sheets weekly, vacuum every two or three days (more if you have pets), and stay on top of dusting. These small things don’t seem like much, but when they get neglected, they can really affect the air.
● Buy an Air Purifier. Air purifiers are great for people who have severe sensitivities or allergies – because sometimes cleaning isn’t enough.
● Grow Plants. A few plants will organically help your home’s air stay clean. Peace lilies, English Ivy, spider plants, and rubber plants all help remove toxins from the air.
Of these, staying on top of HVAC maintenance and filter changes is crucial for clean indoor air because it’s where the heat starts.
Clean Air Makes for a Healthier Winter
Whether you live in Fargo, North Dakota or Jacksonville, Florida, when winter comes, windows close and our air quality changes. Business buildings and homes are made to keep winter out – but you can improve your air quality with some small steps.