Should We Be Talking More About Indoor Air Quality Right Now?

Should We Be Talking More About Indoor Air Quality Right Now?

By Kathryn M.
Presented by Trane
As the seasons begin to change, here's what you should consider for healthier air inside your home.

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. 

While outdoor air quality is often top of mind, it is also important to consider the air inside of your home. Modern construction methods attain greater energy efficiency by creating a tighter seal between the indoors and out—which, while great for reducing electricity bills, also means stale air can remain trapped inside the structure.

"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. 

Indoor air quality can be affected by a variety of factors, including residue from household cleaning products, as well as organic particles such as dust and pollen. Adequate ventilation and circulation improve the air quality within your home by redistributing filtered air throughout different rooms.

Particles inside of your home, such as dust, smoke, and bacteria, often measure .30 microns or less—which is approximately 250 times smaller than the size of an average human hair. Running the range hood fan can help remove particles introduced into the air while cooking.

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. 

HVAC systems can also control indoor humidity levels to help prevent the buildup of mildew and mold. "Fall can be a high mold season. So, if your unit is running and you're capturing mold spores in your filter, you're going to want to change the filter more frequently," explains Darcy. Running the bathroom ventilator fan both during and after a shower is also important for removing excess humidity from the air.

A smart thermostat maintains not only a comfortable indoor temperature but also keeps up an efficient and healthy circulation of air. "Time-of-day scheduling can keep the air moving in spaces you only use during certain times of the day, for example an upstairs area," Darcy adds.

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." 

The Trane XV20i TruComfort Variable Speed unit also works to improve air circulation by adjusting the system’s speed in as little as 1/10 of 1% increments, which can keep comfort within 1/2 degree of the thermostat setting. The system operates as an air conditioner in the warmer seasons and a heat pump during the colder seasons.

"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." 

While some regions enjoy indoor-outdoor living year-round, for those of you who will be spending more time inside during the coming months, take a moment to consider how you can improve your indoor air quality.

To learn more about Trane’s residential products, please visit their website

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