Improve Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality


(Guest post by Jack Rubinger)


Did you know that women who work at home have a 54 percent higher death rate from cancer than those who work outside the house? Or that 50 percent of all illnesses in the U.S. are caused by poor indoor air quality (IAQ)?

When you consider the fact that we spend 60 to 90 percent of our time indoors, you can see why poor indoor air quality is a problem that can have a real impact on your family’s health–and the problem is a lot bigger than most people realize.

The EPA found that indoor air quality is often 5X worse than outside air–and may be as much as 100X more polluted. In a cross-sectional study of homes throughout the U.S., it found that 96 percent of homes tested had significant IAQ issues. 86 percent had high levels of dust, pollen and air-borne viruses. 71 percent were filled with potentially harmful chemicals and gases.

Thankfully, there are a number of simple steps you can take to improve the indoor air quality of your home. If anyone in your family suffers from allergies or you notice chronic health issues, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Use a welcome mat. Welcome mats not only look inviting, but they also provide a simple, effective way to decrease air-borne contaminants that enter the home via the bottom of your shoes. You may also want to consider creating a space near the entranceway for people to remove their shoes before entering your house. It may take a little while to get into the shoe-removal habit, but the positive effect on your health can make it worth the effort.
  1. Mop–don’t sweep. When you think about it, the difference is obvious. Sweeping is a great way to really kick up the dust and spread it around. A wet mop is much more likely to contain the dirt until it is washed down a sink or dispersed in a bucket. Be sure to replace your mop head often–or relegate the old mop to outdoor use only.
  1. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter–replace it often. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are able to trap a large amount of very small particles that other vacuum cleaners simply recirculate back into the air. Like the filter used on your furnace, HEPA vacuum cleaner filters come in a variety of grades that affect their efficiency. Choosing the right one can make a noticeable difference to the allergy sufferer in your home.
  1. Seal your ductwork. This is perhaps the single most effective thing you can do to improve the IAQ of your home. It’s estimated that 2 out of 3 indoor air quality problems involve the HVAC system –a great portion of these are directly linked to leaky ducts.

You can start by manually sealing all the leaks you can find and access on your own. Be sure to use professional duct sealing materials such as foil tape and mastic. As ironic as it may seem, the one thing you DO NOT want to use to seal duct leaks is duct tape! This “fix anything” tape can quickly dry out, leaving the leaks exposed and problematic.

Unfortunately, manual duct-sealing is limited in its effectiveness. While you may be able to seal some leaks by hand, the greater majority of home ductwork is typically hidden behind walls, under insulation, in cramped attic spaces or other hard-to-access locations. Short of tearing down walls to get to the leaks, the results of manual sealing are limited at best.

Understanding this limitation, the U.S. Department of Energy recently funded research to develop a more effective means of duct sealing. The result is an aerosol-based duct sealing technology called aeroseal, which works from inside the ducts to locate and seal the leaks–kind of like “Fix-a-flat” for your HVAC system.

Aeroseal sealant doesn’t coat the entire inside of your ductwork, but instead, is applied as an aerosol mist of microscopic sealant particles that stay suspended in air until they come across a leak. Here they cling to the side of the hole and then to other sealant particles until the entire leak is closed.


Aerosealing your ductwork must be done by a certified professional, but homeowners almost always find the investment well worth the effort. 95 percent effective at sealing all the leaks, aerosealing not only reduces the spread of air-borne contaminants, but it will, more likely than not, have a significant impact on reducing your monthly energy bill as well. Do you have rooms that never get enough heat in the winter or air-conditioned air in the summer? Chances are, you’ll find aerosealing an effective remedy for these problems as well.

Thanks to recent studies and technological innovations, we are gaining a better understanding of the role IAQ plays in our overall health and the solutions that allow us to take control of the problem.

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