Improve your home’s indoor air quality


Indoor air quality is usually worse than outdoor air quality – while air outside can circulate freely and access countless plants that filter out harmful compounds, indoor air is trapped in close proximity to all of the chemicals, compounds and dust that exist inside a home. Especially in the winter, when you've got all of your windows shut and cracks sealed, it's important to take steps to maintain a good quality of air in your home.

Get rid of dust
The first priority is getting rid of as much dust as possible. Contrary to popular belief, dust is not just dead skin – it's a combination of any particulate matter heavy enough to sink to the ground, including chemicals and allergens. A vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter – which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Absorption – can be a little expensive, but it's worth it for the piece of mind that it will bring you. For the best results, WebMD recommends that you vacuum twice a week, and mop up using just water when you're finished to catch any stray dust that could otherwise find its way into you or your family's lungs.

Once you're done getting rid of the dust, make a plan to keep it out. Buy a door mat – the bigger the better – to keep visitors from pulling in dirt from outside, which is a common way that lead finds its way into a home. Better yet, ask your friends and family to remove their shoes when they come inside – but remember to keep the floor clean, as you don't want your guests getting dirty socks.

Test for radon
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is created as the uranium found in almost every home's foundation decays. Newer homes are built with radon in mind, and are usually pretty good at keeping the stuff out of your living spaces. Older homes, however, are not so lucky. You won't be able to tell by yourself if a harmful amount of the radioactive gas is present in your home, so it's worth getting a professional to take a look – especially if you've recently bought a home.

If there is a significant amount of radon present, you'll want to get it reduced. Radon is radioactive, and as a result it is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarettes. Thankfully, there are cost-effective ways to reduce the amount of radon in your home. Usually this involves getting all of the cracks in your foundation sealed, and implementing a small system that will suck air up through your basement and out of your chimney without it ever passing through your home.

Send the smokers outside
Secondhand smoke is associated with all sorts of problems, including cancer, lung problems and heart disease. More than that, though, the smell is unpleasant and will linger in your clothes and furniture. If you are a smoker, the best thing you can do to improve your personal air quality is to quit. There are a number of smoking cessation aids available, and you'll be doing yourself a big favor. If you or your loved ones continue to smoke, better do it outside. At least the rest of the family doesn't need to suffer the ill health effects.

Keep humidity at the right level
Humidity can be a bit tricky to get right in a home. Low humidity will crack your skin and make you feel just as uncomfortable as high humidity. High humidity comes with additional problems, like mold and dust mites. According to WebMD, the right level of humidity in your home is between 30 percent and 50 percent, which you can control with a dehumidifier. If you can't afford a good dehumidifier right now, crack a window while you're taking a bath or a shower, avoid over-watering your plants and make sure that your dryer is venting to the outside.

Invest in some house plants
House plants do more than just look pretty when guests come over – they have been shown in a number of studies to reduce the levels of harmful chemicals in the air, including ozone and VOCs. A study done in the 1980s by NASA found the peace lily and florist's chrysanthemum are the top reducers of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia – which is quite a list.

Another thing you can do to reduce your overall risk as a homeowner is to invest in a home warranty if you haven't already. A home warranty may give you confidence and peace of mind, reducing much of your risk as a homeowner to a low monthly payment.

When you take care of your freezer, air conditioner and stove, you'll be able to host great get-togethers all throughout the season.

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.