There's nothing quite like opening all the windows on a mild, sunny day and allowing fresh air to blow through your home. The reason it makes such a refreshing difference is because many homes have stale air and a buildup of airborne irritants, resulting in indoor air pollution that can be significantly less healthy to breathe than outdoor air. It's a major problem, but fortunately, there's a lot you can do to fight it.
We often think of pollution as an outdoor air problem, like smog, that can cause respiratory health problems when it's especially severe. But because indoor air is more difficult to ventilate and is shielded from the cleansing effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays, it can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Considering that Canadians spend nearly 90% of their time indoors, this poses a serious health risk.
Poor indoor air quality can lead to symptoms like headaches, dizziness, fatigue and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Allergy sufferers and those with respiratory health conditions like asthma are likely to experience increased symptom frequency and severity. In the most serious cases, long-term exposure to certain indoor air contaminants can even lead to fatal illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
The indoor air pollution problem has worsened in recent years as home builders have adopted more energy-efficient home designs. These newer designs typically feature more effective seals to help keep HVAC-treated air inside, but the flipside is that they take more effort to ventilate. The challenge for the home construction and HVAC industries has been to develop systems that make indoor air cleaner and fresher without significantly diminishing energy efficiency in the process.
These systems, often called indoor air quality or IAQ systems, take several forms. Your HVAC filters are the most rudimentary component of any IAQ system, and while they collect their fair share of dust and dirt, they can't stop the smallest particles. To remove as many airborne particles as possible, HVAC technicians can install advanced air cleaning systems that use electronically charged filters to attract contaminants smaller than a single micron. They can also install UV light systems that replicate the sun's ability to kill germs and neutralize odors. These IAQ solutions are also energy efficient, so they'll fit right in with the latest green home designs.
Adding these advanced IAQ systems to your home can minimize indoor air pollution, but they can't undo all the damage caused by years of insufficient ventilation and filtration. In homes like these, mould, bacteria and other contaminants can build up inside the ductwork, where they can continue to spread. Professional duct cleaning is the only way to rid your HVAC system's arteries of this unhealthy buildup.
A HVAC professional can thoroughly inspect your ductwork to determine if duct cleaning is warranted. As part of a whole-home air cleaning strategy, duct cleaning can be especially important to household members who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions.