Six Common Indoor Air Quality Myths to be Aware Of

Having clean indoor air always sounds great in theory, but actually achieving this goal can be tricky. The main thing keeping people from getting better indoor air quality is misinformation. There are all sorts of indoor air quality myths that mislead people who just want fresh air. Learning about these myths can help you disprove them and find effective ways of keeping your indoor air clean.

1. Outdoor Air Will Pollute Your Indoor Air Quality

Many people think they need to make their home as airtight as possible if they want to improve indoor air quality. This misconception is based on the idea that outside air is filled with stinky roadside fumes, smoke, and other pollution that needs to be kept out of the house. The reality is that outdoor air is so vast that it dilutes any pollutants down to much lower levels. Meanwhile, the average modern home is filled with pollutants that can damage your health.

According to the EPA, indoor air quality is usually more polluted than outdoor air quality, even in busy cities. There are several factors that contribute to pollutants inside the home, including:

  • Chemical cleaning fumes
  • Furniture off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  • Fumes from cooking
  • Fumes from gas, oil, and wood powered appliances
  • Mold spores and mildew
  • Dust and pet dander

Therefore, an important part of improving indoor air quality is usually increasing ventilation. By allowing more fresh outside air into the home, you can increase overall indoor air quality.

2. If Your Air Smells Fine, It Is Fine

When deciding whether or not they need to step up their indoor air quality, most people start by taking a deep sniff of their air. If you notice any weird, musty smells, your indoor air quality definitely needs help. However, air that smells perfectly fine can still be just as polluted. There are all sorts of pollutants that can cause major problems without ever resulting in an odor.

A big issue is radon. This completely tasteless, colorless, odorless gas can seep up from the ground and build up in homes. It is a carcinogenic gas that can cause lung cancer, so you definitely want to remove it from your home. Volatile organic compounds are another large problem. These are a group of chemicals that can be released from furniture, drywall, cleaners, and other common home goods. Some have a smell, but many cannot be detected by the human nose.

3. Having Houseplants Will Keep Your Air Clean

In 1989, a study from NASA found that plants could help keep the air clean in space stations. Since then, people have taken this basic concept and turned it into a major myth. Houseplants can technically add some clean oxygen to the air and trap some volatile organic compounds. However, new studies have found that the effects of the original NASA study were greatly overstated because the plants were grown in such tiny chambers. In the real world, with normal-sized rooms, houseplants do not do much.

People often think they can just throw a few ferns or snake plants and peace lilies in a corner and quit worrying about their indoor air. The reality is that a typical level of houseplants is not enough to have a noticeable effect on indoor air quality. Newer research finds that you would need at least one plant per square foot to actually get your indoor air as clean as outdoor air. You will get a far better effect with actual air purifiers and ventilators.

4. Installing the Highest Rated HVAC Filters Possible

Many homeowners looking to improve their indoor air quality start by going out and getting a bunch of HEPA or MERV 20 filters. These filters are tight enough to catch some problematic air pollutants, but they might actually be too efficient. The standard HVAC system is not designed to work with filters this airtight. It struggles to pull air through the filter, and the lowered airflow rate actually makes it easier for mold to build up in your system.

To make actual improvements to your indoor air quality, you need to look at the system as a whole. There is no single quick thing you can do to fix your indoor air quality. Investing in an actual air purifier will address pollutants too small to be caught in a standard filter. You can also modify your system with an external HEPA filter. By placing it outside of the main blower system, you get the benefits of HEPA filters without damaging your HVAC system.

5. Indoor Air Quality Is Overrated

Some people tend to roll their eyes a little when they hear indoor air quality mentioned. There is a common misconception that polluted indoor air isn’t really as bad as it seems. This myth makes people skip out on helpful HVAC systems because they think indoor air quality components are just for neat freaks or the seriously ill. The reality is that indoor air quality has a huge impact on your help.

At minor levels, polluted indoor air is a slight irritant. It can make your nose feel a little stuffy and congested. If you have asthma or allergies, it can worsen symptoms. Over time, repeated exposure to even moderate pollution levels can cause health problems. You may wake up with headaches, have itchy eyes, experience nausea, or feel constantly fatigued. In the long run, the effects of poor indoor air quality are even worse. People who spend decades living in a home with pollutants can develop chronic respiratory illnesses, cancer, or other issues.

6. You Only Need to Worry About Indoor Air Quality in Old Buildings

A particularly problematic myth is the idea that only old homes have poor air quality. It is true that older homes are more likely to have lead dust, mold, and other similar air quality issues. However, that does not automatically mean new buildings are fine. The reality is that there are several problems unique to new buildings that damage air quality.

First of all, homes built in the last decade or two are far more airtight than their predecessors. Without ventilation, you end up with massive amounts of pollution building up. The other issue is that building materials release the most toxic VOCs in the first few years. Fresh paint on walls, wood treated with formaldehyde, and carpet soaked in dye all give off fumes and harm indoor air quality. You can slightly lower these issues by selecting low-VOC paints and organic building materials, but new homes still continue to have concerning levels of pollution.

All Hours Plumbing, Heating & Air, Drain Cleaning, Heating & Air can help you improve your overall indoor air quality. Our team of highly qualified technicians can test levels of pollutants in your home, install purifiers, and recommend other ways of getting cleaner air. We also provide HVAC installations, repairs, and maintenance throughout the Salt Lake City region. You can count on us for handling plumbing and fireplace needs as well. Call or click now to schedule an appointment with us.