Keeping Your Home Healthy In Winter

We spend most of our time indoors during the winter months.  At the same time, many of us are suffering from colds, viruses, sinus infections and the flu. All of that stress on your upper respiratory system makes it that much more important to maintain a healthy home. Thankfully there’s a lot you can do on your own to improve indoor air quality.

Remove Shoes and Boots at the Door.  The dirt and moisture we track in on our shoes and boots brings a lot of debris into the indoor air mix.  This simple habit can reduce airborne contaminants dramatically.

Vacuum More Frequently.  Frequent vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum cleaner will help remove the dirt and dust as well as finer particulates.

Run HEPA Air Cleaners.  This is especially important at night in the bedroom.  If you don’t already have one, consult Consumer Reports for the best rated air cleaners.  Bussey Environmental recommends Austin Healthmate air cleaners.

Minimize Carbon Monoxide with Good Maintenance.  Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and install and use an exhaust fan that vents to the outside.

Use Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Products.  The chemicals in many conventional cleaning products can create noxious fumes that pollute our indoor air significantly.

Bring in More Plants.  Plants are natural air cleaners that produce oxygen for us.  Please see our earlier blog entry for more details.

Halt Home Improvement Activities.  Postpone home improvement until you’re able to keep your windows open again.  So many home improvement projects introduce not only loads of dust and dirt but also an extra dose of VOCs into the indoor mix — remodeling, painting, refinishing, installing new carpet, purchasing new furniture – so it’s best to wait until you can bring in a regular exchange of outdoor air to flush out the contaminants.

Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned.  Dust, mold spores, pet dander, and other particulates tend to build up in air ducts over time and can contribute to the toxic load in the circulating indoor air.  If you haven’t had your air ducts cleaned in two years or more, you would probably benefit from a thoroughly cleaning of your air ducts.  The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends air duct cleaners that follow stringent industry standards.

Make Sure Your Chimney Works Properly.  Cracks in the chimney, problems with the flue opening, and a buildup of creosote can all contribute to more smoke coming into the house.  If you suspect a problem, you may want to stop using your fireplace until you’ve had a chimney cleaner come in to take care of any problems.[ii]

Get Professional Help for Serious Contaminants.  If you think you have a mold, asbestos or radon problem, contact an industrial hygienist or inspector to give you the best information about your individual situation.  It may be a simple do-it-yourself problem or may require an inspection, testing, and remediation.  Consumer Tip:  It’s important to understand that inspectors and remediation firms need to be separate entities to avoid conflict of interest.  Beware of firms that offer to do both testing and remediation.  Some firms will tell you the problem is worse than it really is so they can charge you more for the cleanup and/or renovation work.

Bussey Environmental Inc. is an environmental consulting firm located in Evanston, Illinois.  Bussey Environmental has been serving the North Shore and Chicago Metro areas since 1998. Bussey Environmental Inc., 1604 Chicago Avenue, Suite 11, Evanston, IL 60201.  Ph:  847.492.1465   Fax:  847.492.1466