indoor air quality in winter

The Importance of Indoor Air Quality in Winter

We spend more time indoors when the weather gets chilly. We seal cracks that allow cold drafts, close windows, and turn off air conditioners and fans, reducing the amount of ventilation and inadvertently raising the concentration of pollutants and allergens in our home. Indoor air quality in cold weather can be up to 10 times worse than the outside air. In recent years, indoor air quality has diminished due to improved energy efficiency in buildings and greater use of synthetic materials in structures, personal care products, furnishings, household cleaners, and pesticides. Poor indoor air quality in winter poses comfort and health problems, including headaches, dizziness, itchy eyes/nose/throat, fatigue, asthma attacks, and aggravated chemical sensitivities. The cold season is the worst time for indoor air quality! 

What is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

Indoor air quality refers to air quality within and around a building. It’s a measure of the presence of harmful substances/pollutants. Healthy indoor air quality contributes to comfort, productivity, and well-being. Poor indoor air quality reduces productivity, impairs learning, and affects health. 

How does Poor Indoor Air Quality in Winter Impact Health?

Though everyone is affected, the very old and very young are most susceptible to poor indoor air quality and are the demographic that spends the most time indoors. Poor indoor air quality may cause:

  • Irritation of the eyes/nose/throat.
  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue.
  • Respiratory diseases 
  • Heart disease/stroke 
  • Sinus congestion
  • Sneezing and coughing   
  • Cancer
  • Nausea
  • Increased asthma attacks
  • Aggravated chemical sensitivity
  • Liver and/or kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Reduced productivity/difficulty concentrating 

What are the Sources of Poor Indoor Air Quality In Winter?

Many factors contribute to poor indoor air quality in winter including:

  • Combustion byproducts (particulate matter, tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide)
  • Poorly maintained heating and ventilation systems
  • Natural substances (radon, mold spores, pet dander/fur/feathers, etc.)
  • Pesticides
  • Construction by-products (lead, asbestos, etc.)
  • Ozone (often from some air cleaners)
  • Volatile organic compounds (from paint, varnish, wax, glue, cosmetics, perfume, cleaning products, degreasing products, furnishings, laundry products, air fresheners, cooking, carpets, hobby materials, pressed wood products, etc.)
  • Dust mites (on clothing, bedding, carpet, furniture, drapes, etc.)
  • Outdoor sources (dust and soil brought in on clothing and shoes)
  • Biological pollutants (viruses, bacteria, germs, fungi)

Tracking Indoor Air Quality in Winter

IAQ tracking devices are available for home usage. Proficient monitors indicate the level of moisture, report levels of dust/VOCs/CO2, determine which part of your home is causing the rise in pollutants, and offer recommendations for solving the issue(s). Using an air quality monitor in your space provides the information you need to make useful changes. 

How do I improve Indoor Air Quality in the Winter?

There are many simple and a few more complex ways to improve air quality in your home:

  • Install a quality HVAC system: A high-quality system ensures optimal humidity and healthy, clean air.  
  • Have your HVAC system serviced regularly as an optimally functioning system helps reduce pollutants.
  • Pay attention to your HVAC filter: Choose a high-quality filter (one with a 6 or greater MERV rating) that removes biological contaminants, mold spores, pet dander, dirt, bacteria, allergens, viruses, and other pollutants. Change your filters regularly (see manufacturer’s recommendations). 
  • Clean appliance filters (clothes dryer, vacuum, stove fan, etc.)
  • Use the kitchen fan when cooking. 
  • Regularly clean rugs/carpets as they trap dust and other particles. 
  • Control humidity levels: Humid conditions breed mildew and mold. Consider installing a dehumidifier. 
  • Purchase plants (ferns, lilies, snake plants, spider plants, ivy, mums, aloe vera, chrysanthemums, etc.) as they are natural air filters. 
  • Clean regularly: Vacuuming and dusting reduce airborne pollutants. 
  • Test for radon (a naturally occurring radioactive gas): Check the EPA site for information. 
  • Purchase a carbon monoxide detector: It will alert you to the presence of this odourless, colourless, lethal gas.
  • Choose non-toxic cleaning products: The EPA has a Search Safer Choice Products page to assist. 
  • Keep bedding clean: Frequent washings in hot water using natural laundry detergent reduces dust mite problems.
  • Reduce dry cleaning and/or hanging items on the patio/in the garage before bringing them indoors. 
  • Use low-VOC products when possible (hobby supplies, home-improvement provisions, paint, solvents, etc.). 
  • Purchase a HEPA air purifier as they filter contaminants from the air. 
  • Use an air ionization system to neutralize viruses, bacteria, odorous gasses, and more. 
  • Store unused chemicals in a shed/garage 
  • Reduce your use of fireplaces/wood stoves 
  • Refrain from smoking indoors

Don’t let poor indoor air quality affect your health and comfort. Find and address the source(s) of pollutants. Contact your HVAC provider for help.  

Need a quality HVAC and/or ionization system? Looking for HVAC repairs, service, and/or maintenance? Contact McMillian Air. Our technicians are trained in repair, maintenance, and service for all makes and models. We carry Mitsubishi and American Standard products and are committed to providing the highest quality systems and service. Request a quote today.


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