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.

No smoking

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.