Air quality can be an issue when stuck indoors during the cold winter months
Winter is a beautiful time of year, but many people can’t fully enjoy it due to the dry air that irritates the eyes, nose, throat and skin. Improving air quality is essential in the chilly months since most people spend most of their time indoors.
Good indoor air quality is about more than comfort, too. Studies have shown that poor air quality can lead to headaches, dizziness and even respiratory disease. Luckily, there are several easy ways to breathe easier.
1. Turn on a Humidifier
One of the easiest ways to make indoor air a little more comfortable when it’s cold out is turning on a humidifier. Some homes have humidifiers built in, but standalone versions can get the job done, too. This is a great place to start for those who suffer from dry skin during winter since it gets more moisture circulating inside.
Humidifiers come with various health benefits, including alleviating snoring and even reducing the spread of germs. It is important to remember not to run the humidifier too much, though, or moisture buildup could worsen air quality.
2. Get Houseplants
One of the main things plants do is produce oxygen. This makes them excellent for helping purify the air, both inside and out. This function is the key reason why climate scientists advocate for planting more trees.
Even small houseplants can have the same effect inside. While houseplants may not be a good choice for those with plant-related allergies, they can help get more oxygen circulating around the house.
They also make a great decorating accessory. In fact, the color green has been proven to increase feelings of optimism and calm, which can help reduce stress while cooped up indoors. This is especially intriguing considering that forms of depression caused by winter can affect three out of four people every year.
3. Keep It Clean
A quick and easy way to boost winter indoor air quality is to clean living spaces regularly. Pet hair, dust and other allergens can cling to carpets, rugs, drapes, curtains, bedsheets and furniture. Vacuuming will also keep all these contaminants out of the air.
Additionally, it is essential to dust and wipe down surfaces, as well. If dust builds up, it can easily get into the air and affect respiratory health. It’s even been linked to increased cases of asthma and hay fever.
4. Clear Out Contaminants
Some substances contaminate air ambiently simply due to the smell or fumes they give off. Things like cleaning products and paint are great examples. While it may be more convenient to keep these items inside when it’s cold out, they can quickly reduce indoor air quality. Fumes, in particular, are likely to cause headaches, even if they don’t give off a noticeable odor.
An easy fix is to simply move paint and cleaners into the garage or closed-off storage space. It is a good idea to research indoor air pollutants further, though, because some types of buildings and geographic areas may be at higher risk of certain contaminants, such as asbestos and lead.
5. Maintain Air Quality Control Equipment
While cleaning living spaces and removing harmful substances help improve indoor air quality, it is vital to maintain the equipment that keeps the air clean. Changing air filters regularly is a key first step. It may even be a good idea to create a schedule to ensure the filter is being replaced consistently.
More effort may be required when working with larger spaces, though. For example, schools and offices will benefit from thorough indoor air quality assessments, where a professional can identify any air quality issues before they become a serious problem. While these steps can take a little more time, they are crucial for making sure buildings are free of any underlying hazards that could harm air quality.
6. Remember to Use the Fan
When cooking, using hot water, painting or even cleaning, turning on a fan can help keep the air clear. These activities create fumes that linger for long periods, causing headaches and other health concerns. A fan will keep the air circulating, stopping fumes from settling.
Fumes can still be harmful even if they don’t actively smell bad. This is why it’s important to turn on the fan when showering or using enough hot water to generate steam.
When steam is allowed to accumulate and build up, it can leave excess moisture in the air. This may sound beneficial in dry winter months, but, just like with a humidifier, too much will do more harm than good. The buildup of moisture indoors can lead to mold, mildew, water damage and mustiness, all of which can contribute to health issues like asthma and allergies.
7. Upgrade the Thermostat
Upgrading the thermostat is another way to improve indoor air quality. One that features specific air circulation settings is ideal. A specialized model like this will enable the HVAC system to autonomously circulate air, either on a regularly timed basis or continuously throughout the day. Air circulation is absolutely essential to maintaining high-quality air inside, no matter the season, so this investment will pay off throughout the year.
8. Clean Out the Air Ducts
While it may require a little more effort, cleaning out air ducts once in a while will make a big difference when it comes to indoor air quality. Dust and debris collect inside them over time. Since dust can cause a handful of serious health issues, it is important to do everything possible to minimize buildup. It may be a good idea to make a schedule for getting the ducts cleaned since buildup is typically not visible without intentionally opening the vents to look inside.
Better Air All Year
People can easily Improve air quality by following these steps. While the hazards of poor indoor air may sound intimidating, avoiding them is a matter of simply following healthy habits. Improving things during the winter will pay off with lasting benefits that stick around long after the snow melts.
Emily Newton is the editor-in-chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations change our world.