Keeping Your Indoor Air Healthy at Home
As a mechanical engineer who specializes in the built environment, here is some key information that, I'm hoping, will help you feel a little safer in your home. Also, because I'm an engineer, and I love facts and science, please click through the embedded hyperlinks to read through my sources and verifications.
Open your windows.
Circulating the air outdoor air will help with ventilation in your home. Ventilation is extremely important to our health. By increasing the fresh air from the outside, you can reduce your risk of exposure to pollutants from inside your home. According to the EPA, the immediate effects of repeated exposure to indoor air pollutants can lead to physical issues including irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. So, open those windows and circulate the air in your home a few times a day.
Use a humidifier.
Especially during winter, viruses travel further when the air is dry. You can try to imagine a sponge being dropped from a balcony in a breeze. If you drop a wet sponge from the top of a balcony, it flops right to the ground. If you drop a dry sponge at the same time, the dry sponge will be taken by the breeze, and travel much farther through the air. Germ particles are very similar. The drier the air is, the farther the particles travel. Optimal relative humidity in your home is between 40-to-60% RH.
For a great reference, check out Dr. Stephanie Taylor’s Tech Hour.
If you have central AC, use a MERV 13 filter.
A MERV filter has been tested and evaluated through a 16-level system designed by the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers. The higher MERV rating on the filter, the more particles the filter will pick up. MERV-rated filters will pick up dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles bigger than a certain size, depending on the MERV rating.
Consider buying a HEPA filter.
This is especially effective if you live in a condominium, apartment building, retirement community, or other shared housing structure. Multi-family housing generally has shared mechanical equipment which recirculates the air within the building. With so many people living in the same space, you don’t know who is carrying what kind of illness. So, it’s important to filter out as many harmful particles as possible.