Tips for Maintaining Healthy Air Quality During Winter
As the weather gets cooler, people tend to spend more time indoors and seal themselves in their homes to keep warm. However, this also means indoor air pollutants can accumulate and adversely affect our health.
Using heating systems and reducing natural ventilation can lead to the buildup of combustion byproducts, like carbon monoxide. Plus, dry indoor air can worsen the situation, leading to respiratory issues.
That’s why maintaining indoor air quality during colder months is essential for your health. Today, we are sharing some tips to help you improve your air quality.
Causes of Winter Air Pollution
Several factors affect indoor air quality, many of which are exacerbated by cold weather. Here are three of the key factors:
- Wood-burning stoves, commonly used for heating, release particulate matter and other pollutants into the air.
- Reduced ventilation can lead to the accumulation of indoor air pollutants.
- Stagnant cold air is denser, causing temperature inversions that prevent pollutants from dispersing.
Additionally, people drive more often during the cold months due to the extreme weather conditions. This releases more air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOC), particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides.
Moreover, people use more energy and fossil fuels to heat their homes and buildings than other months. All of which degrades outdoor air quality.
Snow and ice can also store pollutants, such as heavy metals and road salts. These are eventually carried into bodies of water and subsequently impact air quality when the ice and snow melt and evaporate into the atmosphere.
Learn more about how the weather impacts air quality.
How to Improve Winter Air Quality
While air quality can potentially worsen during the winter months, you can take evidence-based steps to mitigate air pollution near you. That way, you protect yourself and your family from winter air pollution.
Tip #1: Monitor Your Indoor Air Quality
The first step in maintaining healthy air during colder months is understanding indoor air quality and the factors that negatively impact winter air quality. So, air quality monitoring can significantly affect how we respond.
PurpleAir air quality monitors provide valuable information about air quality to help you make informed decisions on improving it. You can also use the Purple Air Map to know your outdoor air quality and ensure you’re not letting outdoor air pollution enter into your home.
Tip #2: Maintain Your HVAC Systems
Change or clean your furnace or boiler air filters regularly to ensure proper airflow and filtration. Also, schedule regular maintenance for your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to keep them running efficiently, which lowers energy consumption and air pollution emissions.
Tip #3: Improve Your Ventilation
A great way to improve indoor air quality is to circulate fresh air. You can tell you need to improve ventilation in your home if condensation builds on windows or walls, the air is stuffy, or there’s a notable bad odor.
If using gas or wood-burning appliances, properly ventilate your home to prevent the release of carbon monoxide and other gases inside. Also, turn on your range hood or exhaust fan when cooking, as it can negatively impact indoor air quality.
Additional Tip: You can install energy-recovery ventilators to exchange indoor air without needing more energy.
Tip #4: Use Air Purifiers and Humidifiers
Consider using an air purifier with a HEPA filter to capture airborne particles, allergens, and pollutants. You can also build your own box fan air purifier as a temporary solution to winter air pollution.
It can also be helpful to monitor and maintain humidity, as dry air can exacerbate respiratory problems. Humidity levels should be between 30 and 50% for optimal comfort and air quality.
Tip #5: Minimize Polluting Activities
Avoid engaging in activities inside your home that can negatively impact indoor air quality. Aside from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, burning candles and incense can also affect air quality.
Tip #6: Clean Your Home Regularly
Cleaning can reduce dust and allergens that impact air quality. Regularly vacuum and keep moisture-prone areas clean and dry to reduce the risk of mold. Use environmentally friendly cleaning products to minimize the chemicals that you release indoors. Additionally, grooming pets regularly can significantly reduce the amount of pet dander in the air.
Tip #7: Use Sustainable Alternatives for Heating
Traditional forced-air heating systems can warm spaces quickly but negatively impact indoor air quality because they dry out the air and circulate dust and other allergens.
As such, it’s vital to maintain and clean them regularly. However, the most effective way to minimize indoor air pollution is to use alternative heating methods, like electric and radiant heating.
Are Space Heaters a Good Alternative for Heating in the Winter?
While space heaters can be great for heating smaller areas to increase comfort during colder months, there are a few things to consider regarding air quality. Like a forced-air heating system, a space heater dries out the air and can circulate dust and allergens. Additionally, combustion space heaters, like kerosene or propane heaters, release harmful gases and particulate matter.
If you keep your space clean, properly ventilated, and monitor humidity and air quality, space heaters can be an asset for short-term use.
It’s crucial to be mindful of our indoor air quality, especially during the colder months when we spend more time indoors. By implementing these strategies and being mindful of reducing air pollution, you can ensure a healthier and more comfortable living environment for you and your family during winter.
Worried About Your Air Quality?
Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home.
Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.