Protect the air your family breathes

The insider information on how to improve your indoor air quality

By Allan Britnell

No comments

Fuel surcharge

Even if you don’t have a wood stove or fireplace, there are several sources of combustion that can lurk in a house, including gas stoves, gas-, propane- or oil-fired furnaces, and water heaters.

The wisest–and potentially life-saving–approach is to install a carbon-monoxide detector on each floor, in relatively close proximity to heating and cooking appliances. As with your smoke detectors, ensure that the backup batteries are replaced frequently.

There are several products on the market to improve the quality of air coming out of your furnace. The simplest is your air filter. Forgo the cheapest brand on the shelf and opt for one that will trap dust and other particulate matter in the air. When comparison shopping, look for the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating: the higher the MERV, the more the product will filter out.

A humidifier–either built into your furnace or a standalone room-sized model–can help alleviate dry, chafing air in winter. But you need to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on filter changes so the machine doesn’t become clogged or a breeding ground for bacteria.

Working in the garage

Most woodworkers know about the risks of airborne dust particles. But if your workshop is in the basement or an attached garage, you’d be wise to be extra cautious. Install an airtight door to separate your shop from the rest of the house, seal off the ductwork before sanding or painting–or paint and stain outside the home when possible–and, if you haven’t already, install a proper dust-collection system.

An attached garage also adds the potential for carbon-monoxide exhaust from the car to enter your home. Make sure you open the garage door before you start the car. Break the habit of idling to get the heater warmed up; it’s bad for the environment and your engine. Installing a carbon-monoxide detector in the adjacent room is a worthwhile safety precaution.

Between your paints and solvents, and all the gardening fertilizers and pesticides, not to mention that half-full can of mower gas, your garage or workshop can unwittingly become a hazardous materials depot. If space in your yard permits, you can store many of these volatile items in a detached storage shed, although some products (such as paint) shouldn’t be allowed to freeze.

The hazards of housecleaning

The cleaning products aisle is piled high with containers that claim to sanitize your home and the air. And most of us have likely sprayed something in the air or on the furniture for that fresh scent. Yet, as the author of The Virtuous Consumer, Leslie Garrett, likes to say, “clean doesn’t have a smell.”

When shopping for cleaning and toiletry items, look for unscented varieties. You can also opt for certified organic products or those with the Health Canada Ecologo on them to ensure that the ingredients will minimize the negative impacts on your indoor air quality.

Your home should be a haven, not a hazard to your health. By carefully considering the products you bring into it, you and your family will be able to breathe easier.

Jump to a section

No comments

To leave a comment, please log in

Don't have an user account? Register for free


How do you heat your home?

Loading ... Loading ...