Why Is Fresh Air Important in the Home?
There are many reasons to improve ventilation in the home that concern health, concentration, and exposure to chemical and allergens. Studies have shown that indoor air quality can in fact be much worse than outdoor air quality. Most Australians spend in excess of 90% of their time indoors, and so poor ventilation can indeed have a significant impact on your health and well-being.
Improve brain performance
Research has shown that improving ventilation rates and reducing CO2 concentration levels (together with increasing access to daylight) improves the performance of school children in classrooms. What resulted was heightened performance in terms of speed, higher levels of attention and concentration, and reduced absenteeism. The increase was 2.8% on average and up to 15% in some cases. In separate studies, poor indoor air quality as measured through higher CO2 and pollutant levels has also been shown to result in lower cognitive functioning.
When humid air is cooled quickly, the moisture settles into any available surface – such as walls and floors. Over time, if the surfaces of your home is consistently left damp, it can lead to peeling wallpaper, mould and mildew, or even structural damage to materials such as wood. With proper ventilation however, you can reduce the amount of moisture in the home and lower the risk of any resulting damage.
Reduce concentrations of chemicals
The Department of the Environment recognises the threat that poor indoor air quality can pose to our health, with the economic cost burden estimated to be as much as $12 billion per year in Australia. Sources of chemicals can include building materials, finishings, furniture, and household cleaning products, all of which can emit volatile organic compounds. Other items such as gas cookers, fireplaces, and unflued gas heaters can also contribute to poor indoor air quality.
Fungi, microbial contamination, and dust mites are some of the other pollutants found in homes. The more effectively your house is sealed off from the outside, the more likely that any chemicals inside will be found in higher concentrations in the air.
Reduce CO2 and radon gas concentrations
Radon gas, which is a naturally occurring gas from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water, can be found in homes that have basements. In the US, where basements are common, radon gas is the second largest cause of cancer. CO2 is considered an air pollutant and very high concentrations it can lead to headaches, dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness. Both CO2 and radon gas concentrations can be lowered with adequate ventilation.
Reduce risk of asthma and respiratory conditions
Ventilation helps you filter out allergens such as pollen, dust, and other allergens that can be trapped in your home. Without sufficient ventilation, these common allergens can exist in higher concentrations in tightly sealed indoor spaces, and they can lead to severe allergic symptoms in those with sensitivity.
Similarly, poor ventilation can worsen the symptoms of asthma sufferers and those with respiratory issues such as bronchitis. Dust mites favour damp conditions while good ventilation can reduce excess moisture and the accumulations of irritants such as dust mites. These irritants can affect those with respiratory conditions, making it more important than ever to keep your spaces well ventilated.
Tips to improve the ventilation in your home
Fortunately, improving ventilation in the home does not have to be an expensive and time-consuming process. You can start by keeping windows and doors open regularly to allow fresh air to circulate through indoor spaces. In addition, you can check your vents, install screens to keep out insects and pests, and be mindful of what you bring into your home.
- Check vents – If you have a ventilation system, have it cleaned out at least once a year to make sure it’s working properly and not clogged up with dust.
- Install screens – Having retractable or pleated screens fitted over your windows and doors makes ventilation easy in any season.
- Be mindful of what’s coming in – Dirty shoes, open fireplaces, personal and cleaning products, freshly painted walls – all of these can bring in pollutants and dirt that compromise your ventilation efforts. Where possible, leave shoes outside and go shoeless indoors. Use natural products instead of chemical ones for cleaning and personal applications. Fireplaces should be contained and sealed off. Always ventilate freshly painted spaces, and store any chemicals you have in the home effectively.
- Vacuum with a good HEPA filter – Vacuums fitted with high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters are highly effective at capturing dust, dirt, and other allergens.
- Invest in indoor plants – Indoor air plants can absorb contaminants and clean out your indoor air.