There are many ways to improve our Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in an existing home. Air quality is usually negatively affected by three things in our homes: allergens, chemicals and mold.
Source management, added ventilation, or air filtration are a few key strategies to reduce or eliminate air quality issues.
Source management is the simplest and least expensive means to improve air quality in your home. Source management simply means:
More frequent home cleaning to reduce allergens.
When cleaning, use less toxic cleaners.
Damp mop and wipe surfaces to reduce dust that can contain pesticides, lead, and other toxins.
Visually inspect where air enters the home, removing stored chemicals, fertilizers, and allergenic plants away from doors and window areas.
Identify high moisture locations, reducing the potential for mold growth.
Sometimes air issues will be part of your household in which case adding ventilation is the next lowest cost solution. Ventilation is bringing fresh air in and taking bad air out. Adding mechanical ventilation can be as easy and inexpensive as installing a continuous run bath fan.
Virtually every month I'll get opportunities at either a homeowner's or contractor's request to inspect a home intent on improving some aspect of IAQ.
Recently I was called to a home where the children were having allergy issues. Specifically, allergies related to cat dander. As the home owner is touring me through the home, a very nice, clean and comfortable home, I see in the mud room a cat box. When I ask whether they own a cat, the answer was yes, but they keep it "in the back of the house."
Now, I certainly didn't want to tell these fine people that their beloved kitty needs to go. But the most obvious and least expensive way for the kids to get relief from the cat dander would be to remove the cat from the home (source management). However I suggested that if the cat is to stay, they replace the loud poorly functioning fan in the mud room with a low speed, continuously running fan. The continuous run fan will depressurize the mud room drawing stagnant air from the rest of the house past the cat area rather than allowing the cat area air to be naturally distributed around the house.
This simple, continuous exhaust air solution will create an atmospheric pathway which will also reduce moisture levels, airborne chemicals, dust, and other contaminants through out the house. There are fans today that are super quiet and unbelievably energy efficient. The WhisperGreen fan from Panasonic draws only 2.5 watts of energy at a continuous run speed of 30 cfm with .10 inches water column of static pressure (duct resistance). This translates to less than $5.00 a year to run.
When all else fails you can try adding air filtration. Unfortunately this is generally the most expensive solution and not as simple as buying a filtered fan. Before spending money on any filter solution I recommend you consult an HVAC/IAQ professional so they can assess exactly what you need to have filtered and the best application given your budget and current air distribution system.
Please feel free to contact me using the email contact box next to my bio and I can share more information as to how simple ventilation can be calculated and employed in any home contact.
Ken Nelson is the Northwest Regional Sales Manager for the Panasonic Eco Products Division, specializing in ventilation solutions for residential and multi-family living environments. Over the past four years, Ken has spoken throughout the Northwest, teaching and training builders, building science advocates and professionals on the physics of moisture and air movement in homes of all sizes, types and age.