Indoor Air Quality and Coronavirus
With coronavirus so much in the news, we want to remind you that one way you can help from acquiring and transmitting the disease is to ensure mechanisms are in place to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
Some background. Coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, is a corona virus strain. Corona virus strains have been around for a long time. Covid-19 is the seventh known strain. Four of the strains are related to the common cold and were first identified in the 1930s. These are easily treatable. Two other strains in addition to Covid-19 are more challenging – SARS and MERS.
So, what can you do?
- Since people with allergies, asthma and other respiratory problems are at higher risk for contracting Coronavirus along with other viruses, it is important to maintain healthy air quality in your home to prevent respiratory infections that can compromise your immune system. A few hints:
a. No smoking
b. Bathe your pets
c. Change your air filters
d. Use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to ventilate air
e. Clean your bedding, drapes and other items
f. Vacuum carpeting and rugs at least once a week using a vacuum with a HEPA filter
g. Keep your hardwood and other hard surface floors clean
h. Keep humidity between 30% and 50%
- Consider an ultraviolet (UV) air purifier. UV air purifiers use short-wave ultraviolet light to reduce, disinfect and eliminate airborne pathogens and microorganisms. These systems can be sold standalone, or as systems installed into pre-existing HVAC systems. While these purifiers have been shown to be effective with other viral agents such as SARS and MERS, it must be noted that they have not been specifically tested on Covid-19.
- Consider air cleaners with Capture & Contain technology. This technology adds another level of support in controlling the reduction and migration of airborne contaminants. Again, these have not been tested on Covid-19, but have been deemed effective with other airborne microbials.
Improving Indoor Air Quality This Winter
Winter weather means you’ll be spending more time indoors. That means you’ll want the air in your home to be of high quality to ensure your health as well as your family’s health. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to allergies, asthma and other respiratory issues. It can also lead to headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
Unfortunately, some of the things we do contribute to poor indoor air quality. We keep windows closed, which prevents fresh air from entering the home. Plus we seal cracks around doors, windows, etc. While this is good for keeping the heating bills down, it also prevents contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, mold spores and dust mites from escaping.
So here are 10 good suggestions for improving the air quality in your home.
- Invest in an energy recovery ventilator or heat recovery ventilator that will introduce fresh air into your home.
- Don’t allow smoking in your home.
- Bathe your pets regularly.
- If you have ½ inch air filters in your furnace, change them monthly. Better yet, upgrade your filter to a 4” thick pleated filter. Not only will this type of filter remove more airborne particles, it only needs to be changed twice a year.
- Use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to ventilate air.
- Regularly clean bedding, drapes and other items that attract allergens in water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Vacuum carpeting and rugs at least once a week using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to avoid blowing dust back into the air.
- More long-term, hard surface flooring will also cut down on allergens.
- Use non-toxic cleaning products.
- When the weather is mild, open the windows for a little bit.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
Last time we talked about contaminants that can impair indoor air quality. Here we will discuss ways you can improve indoor air quality, which will result in better health and can also preserve your home.
To review, contaminants include the following:
- Mold spores.
- Gasses that enter homes from the infiltration of polluted outdoor air.
- Particles such as dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.
Following are some strategies to improve indoor air quality.
- No smoking. Perhaps the single m most important thing for you to do is to prohibit smoking in your house. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and second hand smoke is especially unhealthy for children.
- Keep your floors clean. Many contaminants make a home on your floor, and can accumulate for decades. Start by putting floor mats at every door and have people wipe their shoes before entering your home. Better yet, have them take their shoes off. Vacuum the floor a few times a week with a vacuum cleaner that has strong suction, rotating brushes and a HEPA filter. After you vacuum, mop to pick up the dust the vacuum cleaner did not get.
- Keep humidity between 30% and 50%. The best way to do this is to buy a dehumidifier. Here are some other ways to keep humidity under control:
a. Crack a window when cooking, running the dishwasher or bathing
b. Vent the clothes dryer to the outside
c. Empty drip pans in your window air conditioner and dehumidifier
d. Do not overwater plants
e. Fix leaky plumbing to prevent mold
- Test for radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It generally enters the home through cracks and holes in the foundation. If your home has radon, contact a professional abatement company.
- Be careful with fragrances. Those lemon and pine scents in everything from laundry products to air fresheners may emit dozens of gasses. Here are some things you can do:
a. Avoid aerosol sprays
b. Buy fragrance-free or naturally scented products
c. Use mild cleaners that do not have artificial fragrances
d. Use sliced lemons and baking soda to create a fresh scent…safely
e. Open the windows to let in fresh air
- Clean and/or replace your furnace air filter. One-inch air filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly; thicker metal filters every six months.
- Install a recovery ventilator. This device constantly replaces a small percentage of the air in your home with fresh air from the outside.
Sources of Poor Indoor Air Quality
With winter approaching, you will be spending more time indoors. Therefore, you will want the air quality in your home to be of higher quality. Here is what homeowners and businesses in Chcago’s North Shore need to know about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Indoor air quality is compromised when contaminants are present. As all people are different, so too is their sensitivity to contaminants. But the very young or very old, those suffering from asthma or other respiratory ailments, or anyone with a specific sensitivity will be more susceptible to contaminants in the air.
Contaminants include the following:
- Mold. Mold spores can be a problem if they are allowed to grow and increase in concentration. Growth requires moisture and a food source (cellulose such as wood framing, paper backing on drywall, etc.). The food source must remain moist for 72 hours to start the growth and spread of mold.
- Bacteria. Bacteria, which can cause such infectious diseases as typhoid fever, pneumonia, and Legionnaires’ disease, can grow on non-living surfaces.
- Viruses. These can cause diseases such as the common cold, influenza, measles, and N1H1. Viruses often are spread by droplet infection. A human sneeze can add 100,000 droplets of virus-containing moisture into the air.
- Pollen. Trees, flowers, grasses, and weeds produce pollen. Pollen counts increase in the Midwest from March through September.
- Gasses. There are thousands of gaseous chemicals that can enter homes from the infiltration of polluted outdoor air. Gasses can come from ozone and radon, from the use of cleaning and personal care products, and from internal combustion sources such as a water heater, furnace, boiler, fireplace, cooktop, or oven.
- Particles. Particle pollution, also known as particulate matter, is a collection of fine solids suspended in the air. Particles consist of dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets, whose size is measured in microns (one millionth of a meter). For comparative purposes, the average human hair is about 50 microns in diameter. Particles ten microns and larger are visible to the naked eye, will fall out of the air within four minutes, and pose little health risk. Particles less than 10 microns can accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 microns, usually in some form of smoke, pose the greatest health risk because of their ability to clog the respiratory system. Finally, particles smaller than 0.1 microns are small enough to pass through lungs, directly into the blood stream. Medical research is just now studying the effects of particles of this size on human health.
Next month we will address strategies to improve indoor air quality
Improving Indoor Air Quality
With the miserable weather we are having this winter (cold…snow…snow…cold…), we’ve been spending plenty of time indoors, and breathing the air inside our homes. If the air quality is poor, it can have an impact on your comfort and health. The problem is, if there is an air quality problem, you can’t see it and frequently can’t smell it. But there are some things you can do to prevent air quality problems.
Sources of Air Quality Problems
There are three main sources of air quality problems:
Pollutants, including allergens such as dust and mold, as well as toxins such as chemicals and cleaning agents. Pet dander can also reduce air quality.
Poor ventilation. When it is cold outside, you naturally keep your windows closed. While this keeps your home warmer, the reduced ventilation can cause indoor air pollutants to build up.
Furnace filtration. As your furnace works harder during the cold winter months, dust, mold and other debris can get caught in the air filter.
What You Can Do
There are several things you can do to improve the air quality in your home. Here are a few thoughts that do not have anything to do with your heating system.
Keep your floors (and upholstery and walls) clean
Allergens and toxins accumulate all over the house. Vacuum a few times a week and use a HEPA filter so dust and dirt won’t be blown back into the exhaust. Then mop to get what the vacuum missed. Also, put a floor mat by every door to keep people from tracking in dirt, etc.
Experts believe the single largest source of indoor air pollution is secondhand cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. So if you smoke, try to do it outside.
Cut down on chemicals
Every day items such as laundry detergents, fabric softeners and air fresheners contain harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Even though they may smell nice, they aren’t good for you. So try to eliminate these aromas as much as possible. Only purchase fragrance-free or naturally scented products. Don’t use aerosol sprays. And keep the windows open to let in fresh air to minimize the impact of these harmful VOCs.
Here are a few suggestions related to your heating system.
Clean and or replace the furnace air filter
You should clean or replace one-inch air filters monthly (or every six months for thicker medial filters). This will not only keep the air cleaner, it will allow your furnace to run more efficiently, extending its life. Dirty air filters are the number one reason furnaces break down before they should.
Keeping humidity around 30% to 50% helps reduce the levels of dust and allergens. Installing a dehumidifier can help maintain the proper level of humidity. You can also reduce humidity by opening the window a crack, venting your clothes dryer to the outside, and fixing leaky plumbing to prevent mold.
Install a recovery ventilator
This piece of equipment will allow you to constantly replace a small percentage of the air in your home with fresh air from the outside. The unit contains an air filter and a heat exchanger to reduce energy loss. Get an indoor air inspection Home heating professionals can inspect your home, identify air quality problems, and make suggestions as to how to improve the air quality.
How To Reduce Indoor Air Pollutants
A fresh and clean home is not only welcoming to your guests but a pleasure in which to live. You know instantaneously when you walk in the door if there is a foul odor, but what about pollutants that are unknown to the senses?
Indoor environmental air quality is key to the comfort level of your home, and indoor air pollution is a risk you can do something about. Most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air pollution, but there are steps to take that both reduce the risk from existing sources and prevent new problems from occurring.
There are several culprits that cause indoor air pollution. Sources that release gases or particles into the air are the biggest culprits of poor indoor air quality. Some examples include oil, gas, tobacco products, wet or damp carpet, some household cleaning products, certain personal care products, and even fireplace emissions.
Inadequate ventilation can restrict adequate outside air from coming in to dilute the polluted air or carry pollutants out of the home. High temperatures or humidity, synonymous with Chicagoland summers, can also increase concentrations of indoor air pollutants and promote mold growth.
One of the simplest ways to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate the source, or at the least, reduce their emissions. Many household products today are marketed as “natural” or “environmentally friendly,” which can provide a lower level of pollutants. Dispose of any old or unneeded chemicals safely. If you have a gas stove, be sure to use or install an exhaust fan to help pull the air from inside. Have your HVAC system and fireplace and chimney inspected annually for repair of any cracks or damaged parts.
Allowing more outside air inside your home is another way to help reduce the indoor air pollutants. Open windows when the weather allows, and use ceiling or window fans. Certain rooms in your home, like a kitchen or bathroom may have their own exhaust fans to pull the air outside the room inside as quickly as possible.
High-efficiency cooling and heating systems, clean air filters and proper ductwork can all improve air quality as well. An HVAC professional can assess your home’s indoor air quality and can help find solutions to improve it.
How to Remove Indoor Allergens from Your Home
Indoor allergens come in many different forms. Plants, dust, mites, mold, mildew, and even pet dander can make breathing difficult and potentially cause serious illnesses. There are several things you can do to drastically reduce airborne allergens in the air at home. This can keep you healthier, allow you to breathe easier, and provide you with a more enjoyable atmosphere.
Use the Right Air Filter in Your HVAC System
First things first, one of the best things you can do to reduce allergens in your home is to check your HVAC air filter for quality. There are numerous types of filters, and while some can catch large particles and debris, they cannot filter out the tiniest of allergens, including things like mold spores and even dust mites. Take a look at the manufacturer’s recommendations for filters, write down the size, and then go shopping. Ideally, you will want to purchase a filter that can filter out up to 99% of the contaminants in the air. By installing this filter, you will notice the difference in days.
Install a Dehumidifier
Most of the allergens in your home that will cause symptoms are very, very tiny. They float through the air you breathe, and as you inhale them, they can cause itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, hives, and more. Fortunately, living allergens like mold spores and dust mites have a hard time thriving and moving in dry air. Dry air is also less dense than humid air, which means particles like dander will not float as freely, either. Installing a dehumidifier and keeping the relative humidity in your home under 64% will not necessarily remove the allergens, but it will keep them from moving around as easily.
Use a Vacuum with Quality Filtration
Indoor allergens tend to settle on carpets and floors, and one of the best ways to deal with this is with a vacuum. However, it’s important to think about the quality of your vacuum and its ability to pick up small particles and keep them from escaping. If you choose a bagless vacuum, make sure you pick one fitted with a few different filters, including a HEPA filter. If you choose a bagged vacuum, ensure that the bags are high-quality and prevent particles like dust from escaping.
Reduce Exposure to Moisture
Mold and mildew are some of the worst and most dangerous allergens of them all. They can have a serious effect on your breathing, especially if you have a medical condition, and certain types of mold can lead to serious or even life-threatening illness. The best way to prevent mold in the first place is to reduce your home’s overall exposure to moisture. When you cook, make sure you’re using the range hood to move steam outdoors, and when you shower, turn on the exhaust fan. It’s also a good idea to towel the inside of the shower dry and check the floor for any puddles that may have been created. Reducing this moisture right away will prevent the development of mold.
Indoor allergens can be annoying to say the least, but for some individuals who have medical conditions like asthma, they can be downright dangerous. These are some of the best overall tips and tricks for removing indoor allergens from your home, so get started today and find out just how much of a difference it can truly make.
Ways for Improving Your Home’s Air Quality
With the weather getting colder, you’ll be spending more time in your home so air quality will be important. Because of that, you’ll want the air that you breathe to be clean and pure…for your health and comfort. Here are some tips on how to improve indoor air quality naturally.
- Open the windows. Opening the windows for just five or 10 minutes every day can keep the air fresh.
- No smoking. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, and is just plain deadly, even if you do not smoke. The best course of action is to not smoke at all, but if you must do it outside. The same rule holds for guests…do not let them smoke inside your home.
- Use a doormat to prevent dirt from entering your home, and ask people to take their shoes off when they enter your home. This will prevent dust from entering your home.
- Vacuum and mop floors at least once a week. This will reduce dust but also limit the growth of mold, which can create numerous health issues.
- Keeping humidity at 30% to 50% will also reduce dust mites, mold and other allergens.
- Avoid chemicals in air fresheners and laundry products. This includes aerosol spray products such as hair sprays and air fresheners. Many gasses evaporating from these products are dangerous Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
- Instead, do any or all of the following:
a. Place lemon slices on a plate
b. Use baking soda to eliminate odors
c. Choose fragrance-free products, or laundry products using only natural scents
- Buy some house plants to eliminate toxins such as benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Suggestions include English ivy, a Peace lily or a Florist’s chrysanthemum.
Local Plumbing – Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) – Electrical Services
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Since 1928, Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric has been providing AC and furnace repair, and plumbing services to residents and businesses in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs. All Ravinia Plumbing technicians are factory trained experts and service all brands of heating and cooling units. Furthermore, our expert plumbers can help residents with sewer backups or other major plumbing issues.
Plumbing: Plumbing problems are not only a nuisance; they can cost you water and money. But hiring the wrong service company can cost you even more. Our expert plumbers in Buffalo Grove – and all other areas – can fix any issue connected to a water or waste pipe.
Businesses and residents in Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Lincolnshire, Northbrook, Riverwoods, Skokie, Vernon Hills, Wilmette, Winnetka and surrounding areas, know they can count on Ravinia Plumbing & Heating for timely and excellent service, whether for routine maintenance or emergency services.
Plumbing Services; AC Repair; Furnace Repair
Customers rely on Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric for the following plumbing services:
- Pipe leaks, replacements and frozen pipe thawing
- Gas piping
- Dripping faucets
- Running toilets
- Noisy fixtures
- Water heater installation and service
- Sewer and drain rodding and repairs
- Sewer jetting and video inspections
Electrical: In Deerfield, comprehensive electrical services, as well as radiant floor heat systems and driveway heating systems to accelerate snow and ice melt have been implemented.
Water Quality: Including sale and servicing of whole-house filter systems throughout Evanston.
HVAC Installations, Maintenance and Repairs
Many historic Glencoe homes are in need of upgrading to high efficiency heating and cooling systems. Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric provides discounts and round the clock emergency service for all brands of furnaces and air conditioners in addition to servicing plumbing, sewage backups, and electrical issues through the Home Care Club program.
HVAC Contractor; Plumbing Contractor
Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric is a family-owned and operated HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractor and plumbing contractor that has served Northbrook since 1928. Northbrook residents should note Ravinia Plumbing & Heating leads all HVAC contractors by providing cutting-edge, energy efficient products and services.
Residents of Northbrook – and all other locations – can also take advantage of the following Home Care Club benefits:
- 24/7 year round emergency service
- Special member discounts
- Available for all offered services including heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical
Heating & Cooling Repairs
Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric provides high-efficiency HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units, geothermal options, radiant heat flooring and many other forms of cutting-edge technology designed to reduce your high energy costs. As a winner of the Carrier President’s Award for factory-authorized dealers three years straight, Ravinia Plumbing & Heating is the preferred choice for AC and furnace repair throughout Glenview.
Furnace Repair; Air Conditioning Repair
Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric proudly provides numerous services to homes and businesses in Skokie. With years of local experience, we are licensed to work in Skokie, and comply with all building rules and ordinances.
Homeowners should consider the following attributes when evaluating a furnace repair or air conditioning repair company:
- Does the company service all major HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) furnace and AC units?
- Does the company offer the Home Care Club program that includes 24/7 emergency service and discounted maintenance offers on all HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services?
- Has the company been recognized two years in a row with the Angie’s List Super Service Award?
- Has the company earned the Carrier President’s Award for service and operational superiority each year since 2010?
- Does the company provide cutting-edge technology to all customers?
Air Conditioning Repair
Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric provides air conditioning repair and maintenance services and furnace repair and maintenance services. We proudly provide the best services to all residents of historic Winnetka and Wilmette. Ravinia Plumbing was the recipient of the Carrier President’s Award for the last three years. Our company and staff have been recognized for outstanding service operations with a proven track record of providing leading energy efficient technology to all residents of the Chicago North Shore.
Remodeling and Retrofitting: Remodeling and retrofitting that Highland Park residents can rely on. Including budgeting and permitting, and construction management. A free, on-staff bathroom designer will help your remodeling and retrofitting run smoothly from start to finish.
Indoor Air Quality: Our air quality service in Highwood – and all other locations – includes eliminating the source of contaminants, ventilating the occupied space, and filtering and purifying air in the space.
Sumps and Pumps: Including the installation and service of ground water sump pumps, emergency battery back-up pumps, sewage ejector pumps and pump accessories for Lake Bluff residents.
Sewers and Drains: Rodding and high-pressure jetting equipment to clear slow-draining lavatory, tub, or shower drains, stopped-up toilets and backed-up sinks. We also offer Lake Forest – and all other locations – sewer excavation for repair or replacement.
Commercial Services: Our degreed engineers and licensed plumbing and heating professionals provide the above services for all commercial settings throughout Libertyville and all North Shore locations.
Contact us today for more information or call 847-579-5565 to schedule an appointment. We offer quick dispatch to all North Shore Suburbs in our service area and emergency service is available around the clock!
HVAC New Year’s Resolutions
What are your New Year’s resolutions? If saving money is one of them, we can help. These resolutions related to your HVAC system can not only help you save money, but increase your comfort in your home and keep you healthy.
- Maintain your HVAC system. Have both your air conditioning unit and your furnace tuned up once a year. That will make sure your system is running at peak efficiency, can identify small problems before they become big ones, and even can tip you off that it is time to replace your unit.
- Change your filters. Changing filters also helps keep your HVAC system operating at peak efficiency, helping both comfort and utility bills. Two “subresolutions”:
a. Change ¼ inch filters monthly.
b. Better yet, upgrade your filter to a 4” thick pleated filters. Not only will this type of filter remove more airborne particles, it only needs to be changed twice a year.
- Get and use a programmable thermostat. You can preset temperatures based upon time of day to make sure you are comfortable and to keep your utility costs low. With a Wi-Fi thermostat you can adjust the temperature from your mobile phone or tablet.
- Be shady. Open the shades in the winter to let the sun shine in and provide some warmth. Keep them closed in the summer to prevent that hot sun from making your home warmer.
- Be a fan of fans. “Subresolutions”
a. Ceiling fans can help keep rooms cool in the summer. But by flipping the switch they can also keep rooms warmer in the winter.
b. Attic fans are also a necessity, helping to keep the house cooler in the summer.
- Keep the vents open. Make sure vents and returns are not blocked by furniture or other items.
- Keep your ducts in a row. More “subresolutions”
a. Check your ducts regularly for leaks. You can repair them with metallic foil tape or have a professional do it.
b. Have your ducts cleaned. Air will circulate more freely, plus the air will be cleaner, improving your health by enhancing the air quality of your home.
- Buy a humidifier to keep the air moist in the winter, and a dehumidifier to remove humidity in the summer.
- Here are some more “subresolutions” for improving indoor air quality:
a. Distribute plants throughout the house.
b. Clean carpets, rugs and upholstery frequently to remove pet dander, pollen and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
- Add zoning systems. If your home has multiple levels or if you have family members with different desires for temperature, consider zoning your HVAC system.
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