It's estimated that the average North American spends 87 percent of their time indoors; 93 percent if you include time spent in cars. And unsurprisingly, indoor time is at its peak during cold winter months.
With the relatively high price of energy these days, people are actively working to keep the cold air out and energy costs down. Buildings are becoming more airtight, with better insulation and higher efficiency windows and doors. Unfortunately, these highly insulated homes decrease the overall flow of fresh air in a building, and they may be causing us to breath dirty, recirculated air.
One of the best ways to get a sense of your indoor air quality is by paying attention to whether you notice a distinctive scent upon entry. Do you smell cooking odors, garbage, or must? If your home doesn't smell fresh and natural, it may be a sign that you have inadequate ventilation.
Dust, pet dander, cleaning chemicals, mold, kitchen appliances, and even TVs and computers all influence the air we breathe. The symptoms of poor indoor air quality, or sick building syndrome, include irritated eyes, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath and allergies. A poor night's sleep could also be a telltale sign of toxins in the air since we take in the majority of these irritating particles as we snooze. After all, this is when we're taking really deep breaths, often with the windows and doors closed.
The solution to this syndrome is simpler than you think. Just reduce the number of toxins and increase the clean air supply rate in your home. Here's how to get started:
Regular dusting and vacuuming will reduce the number of airborne particles in your home. Clean surfaces with a damp cloth, starting from the top and working downward. When vacuuming, don't forget to move furniture to ensure that you pick up the dust bunnies that gravitate toward corners and other hard-to-reach places, like under a bed.
You'll want to use natural, nontoxic products for these deep cleans. Vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda are all effective products that will clean your home without emitting harmful chemicals into the air.
Indoor plants not only add beauty to your home, but they can help absorb chemicals in your air. For example, spider plants help remove formaldehyde and xylene while peace lilies will help rid the air of benzene and ammonia.
Once you tackle the toxins in your home, it's time to turn your attention to your ventilation.
Your grandmother was right when she went around the house opening all the windows to let the fresh air in. It's a good idea to open windows whenever you can to filter out some of the toxins in your home. Remember that windows alone, particularly bedroom windows, may not provide enough ventilation to clear your entire home, especially if you live in an energy-efficient building.
In order to distribute air throughout your entire home, consider a mechanical ventilation system. These come in a variety of sizes and price points. Pairing mechanical ventilation with a Smart Floor kit will allow you to store fresh air for later use, and you won't have to pay a premium to preheat cold fresh air in the winter and precool warm air in the summer.
If you happen to be looking for a new home, make ventilation a priority. Net zero and net positive homes are helping pave the way for a new era of energy efficiency. Heat recovery ventilation and energy recovery ventilation systems can help to remove stale air from a home while keeping heat in. Innovative products use night precooling to clean the home of toxins while supercharging the floor with a consistent flow of fresh air.
A healthy lifestyle begins with the air that you breathe. Ensuring proper ventilation, introducing indoor plants, and considering a new generation of "smart" low-energy homes can all contribute to an improved night's sleep and a healthy immune system.