Clean Air Day: How clean is the air in our homes?

How to improve the quality of the air we breathe when we’re indoors and how MVHR can make your home healthier.

Today is Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest air pollution campaign. Recent stories from across the globe, including about the UK, demonstrate how serious a problem air pollution has become and the impacts it’s having on people’s health. It’s easy to assume that air pollution is something we only need to worry about when we’re outdoors, but this is not the case; air pollution in our homes poses just as big a risk to our health. Anne Marie Byrne from our MVHR team has written a blog about air pollution in our homes and how MVHR can make a difference to the health of your home and, most importantly, the people living in it.

What’s the air quality in your home?

When we start to think about the air we breathe and whether it is clean, we immediately consider the air quality outside. How often, for example, do you close your windows to prevent the pollution from entering your home? However, we spend about 90% of our time indoors, where the air pollution inside our homes can actually be 2-10 times higher than outdoors. So, before you light the next candle in your home to create an ambience or start burning those lovely little wax melts to remove that doggy smell, have you considered how your home’s air quality impacts your respiratory system?

What are the impacts of air quality on your health?

Poor air quality can have a significant effect on your health. Air pollution increases the risk and severity of many serious diseases and health issues, including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, allergies, and respiratory diseases, including asthma.

Pollutants in the air we breathe enter our lungs and, from there, the bloodstream and, then, potentially, all our body organs. Research is currently being called for on how air pollution contributes to dementia, and little is known about the impact of air pollution on many other aspects of our health.

What are common indoor air pollutants in our homes?

There are many types of indoor-generated air pollutants we can be exposed to in our homes. These include:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO): CO is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. It can be deadly in high concentrations and can be emitted by gas stoves, furnaces, and other appliances in our homes, especially if they aren’t functioning efficiently.
  • Particulate matter (PM): PM can come from sources such as tobacco smoke, cooking and burning candles or incense. PM can cause respiratory problems and aggravate asthma and allergies.
  • Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is a gas that can be emitted by building materials, furniture, and household cleaners. It can cause respiratory problems and other health effects.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be emitted by cleaning products, air fresheners, and other household products. They can cause respiratory problems and contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone.
  • Mould: Mould can grow in damp areas of the home and can release spores into the air that can cause respiratory problems.
  • Dust mites: Dust mites live off our dead skin particles in soft furnishings and carpets
  • Pet dander: Cats and dogs (or any warm-blooded animals in your home) shed tiny flakes from their skin called dander. It’s like dandruff for humans but much harder to see.) It’s this dander, along with the proteins from your pet’s saliva and other fluids that may be on an animal’s skin, that causes allergies in humans.
  • Pollen: During the spring and summer, many plants produce a fine powder called pollen produced when they reproduce, which is released into the air and picked up by the wind, gets stuck on our pets and enters our home.

How can you reduce air pollutants in your home?

There are two ways of minimising indoor air pollutants. Firstly, at source by not introducing them into the house and secondly by dilution, e.g. by effectively ventilating the whole house.

You can avoid introducing them by:

  • Using low VOC and formaldehyde paints, materials and furnishings and avoiding aerosols such as deodorants and spray air fresheners
  • Minimising the use of candles, incense or other things, you may burn in your home
  • Reducing moisture at source by drying clothes outside or in vented or heat pump clothes driers, putting pans on lids when cooking, taking shorter and cooler showers, squeegeeing wet shower surfaces after use
  • Getting your gas appliances regularly serviced and installing a Carbon Monoxide detector
  • Using hard flooring, regularly cleaning soft surfaces with a vacuum with a HEPA filter, or washing at 60C to kill dust mites.

As well as reducing pollutants entering into your house then two other things to reduce pollutants from entering indoor air from both the inside and outside are:

  1. Ensuring a good ventilation rate replacing indoor air with “fresh air” from outside
  2. Filtration of the pollutants out of the outdoor air before entering the house

How can Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) improve your home’s air quality?

Effective ventilation of the air in your home keeps any pollutants, both from indoors and outside, at safe levels. Good indoor air quality is guaranteed by using an MVHR system as it introduces air in measured quantities into the dry rooms in a house (like the bedrooms and living rooms) and extracts moist air from wet rooms (like the kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms).

A well-designed MVHR system ensures airflow through your home via door undercuts to ensure the right amount of air is continuously replaced.  This also has the added benefit of ensuring humidity levels are kept within healthy limits of 40-60%, which prevents condensation and mould buildup and, therefore, improves our health.

How 40-60% is the optimum humidity for your home

40-60% is the optimum humidity for your home. Image courtesy of SOMA MEDICAL

With an MVHR system, the air coming into your home from the outside is filtered, meaning fresh, clean air is constantly supplied to your habitable spaces.

What are the filtration options for air supply on a domestic MVHR system?

A domestic MVHR system has several options for filtering the air in your home. They typically include:

  • F7/ISOePM10 – this will remove fine particles such as pollen and fine dust.
  • Active Charcoal will remove smells such as smoke from log burners and agricultural smells from entering your home.
  • NOX will remove NO2, SO2, O3 and Hydrocarbon gases from entering your property and is the ultimate filtration. This is commonly used in built-up areas and Air Quality Management Zones

By continually supplying fresh air and extracting stale air from your building, an MVHR system will drastically improve your indoor air quality and your and your family’s health while also improving the long term comfort and health of your building.

 

15th June 2023

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