Lately, we’ve all been spending more time inside our homes, and as the outside temperature begins to cool down in some regions, the warmth of a cozy interior may sound even more appealing. Yet, how often do you think about indoor air quality?
While our dwellings provide refuge from exterior conditions, a wide variety of pollutants can linger inside—from airborne particles brought in through open doors and windows to chemical residue from household products or simply dust and pet dander. If that all sounds unnerving, fortunately there are steps you can take to make the air within your home healthier to breathe.
"Improving indoor air quality begins with effective circulation and ventilation—that is bringing fresh air in and getting stale air out," explains Darcy Lee, an indoor air quality specialist at Trane Residential.
The process is different depending on your home and the systems installed. If you have a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, the circulation process is mostly automatic. Outside, a ventilator brings fresh air into your home’s ductwork, while, inside, a fan pulls stale air out of your rooms and back into the ductwork for filtering.
"The two sources of air are both filtered and then combine to go through the unit, which either heats or cools the air before sending it into your home’s interior through the vents," Darcy adds.
Your HVAC system uses a filter to clean both the fresh air from outside and recycled air from inside your home. "Filtration is one of the easiest ways to improve your indoor air quality," says Darcy. "The most basic thing you can do is regularly change the filter, perhaps by timing the task with a major holiday so you don’t forget."
It’s also important to consider the type of filter you are using, as some trap more particles than others. "The Trane CleanEffects Whole-Home Air Cleaner, for example, removes up to 99.98% of airborne particles—including those as small as .10 micron," Darcy adds. Other options include a HEPA room filter, which removes particles around .80 microns in size, and a standard 1-inch filter, which is 100 times less effective at removing the tiniest of particles than the CleanEffects.
During the transition between warm and cool seasons, or vice versa, more stale air can accumulate inside your home, since your HVAC system typically runs less to take advantage of a milder outside temperature. "As the fall season approaches, your air conditioner may not run as much," explains Darcy. "However, it’s important to keep your unit running in intervals or at low speeds so air can continue to circulate. A programmable thermostat and energy efficient system can help to regulate this process. You’ll also want to make sure your system is regularly serviced to optimize performance."
Depending on your region and energy costs, the options for warming your home may be different—with a heat pump typically used in warmer climates and a gas furnace in colder ones. However, a third option uses both a heat pump and gas furnace to provide the highest level of comfort while efficiently managing energy costs.
"A furnace is pretty straightforward in that gas heats up the air, which then transfers over to blow throughout your home. A heat pump, on the other hand, is basically utilizing your air conditioner in reverse, which is a more energy efficient method of steadily warming your home and results in less temperature swings than a typical gas furnace."
"Ultimately, your specific concerns about indoor air quality—be it allergies or simply comfort—may be different than your neighbors," says Darcy. "It’s really about understanding what the best solutions and products are for you and your home."
To learn more about Trane’s residential products, please visit their website.
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