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Is Your Home Indoor Air More Polluted than the Air Outdoors?

Is Your Home Indoor Air More Polluted than the Air Outdoors?

In the past couple of decades, the U.S. and many other countries have done an admirable job of reducing outdoor air pollution from many mostly industrial and vehicle emissions. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of particulate matter in outdoor air that people shouldn’t be breathing if they’re concerned about their health.

The concentration of many harmful outdoor particulates is greatly reduced in the open outdoor air, so concentrations are often well below harmful levels. What many homeowners may not be aware of is the fact that those particulates are infiltrating their homes and often they are concentrated at higher levels than outdoors due to recirculation of indoor air via heating and cooling equipment. In other words, these particulates get into the home through in-and-out traffic, but they are somewhat trapped due to the tight nature of new construction.

What Particulates are Being Created Indoors?

What’s entering from outdoors is just part of the pollution indoors, as there are many indoor activities that also create less than desirable particulates:

  • Cooking

  • Building materials and furnishings

  • Tobacco products

  • Burning candles

  • Household maintenance and cleaning products

  • Hobby activities

  • Infiltration of pollutants from the attic

With people spending more time in their homes than in the past, the combination of infiltrated particulates and those created by activities in the home can make the indoor environment more of a problem than outdoors.

How Can Concentrations Indoors Be Reduced?

The simple answer to removing indoor particulate pollutants is to filter them out of the air. The complication of that answer comes from the many solutions available and their relative effectiveness versus their cost.

  • Portable electronic air cleaners – Some homeowners buy several small-space electronic air cleaners for placement around the home.

  • Higher efficiency pleated media filters – There are pleated media filters that are sized to take the place of the low efficiency fiberglass mesh filters in many systems. These pleated media filters can do a much better job.

  • Multi-stage filter systems – These combine two or more filters of different types in series. The lowest efficiency filter is first, catching the largest of particles, usually those that are visible to the naked eye. The second and subsequent filters each have increased efficiency.

  • Electrostatic air filters – These filters build a small electrical charge as the air passes through them just from the air movement. This negative charge attracts many tiny invisible particles, trapping them in the filter.

  • Electronic air filters – These are powered air filters that put a high charge on a series of plates, looking something like the fins in a radiator. This charge grabs many tiny particulates.

Which is best for a home can revolve around concerns about air quality and cost. Homeowners should carefully research the solutions for their home to come to the most effective filtration at an affordable cost. Consulting home air quality experts can give you specific solutions to your home air quality challenges.