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January 2017

2 Keys to Winter Indoor Air Quality: Ventilation and Filtration

winter indoor air quality

Canadian winters have a pretty daunting reputation. From heavy snowfall to ice, sleet, and rain, it isn't surprising most Canadians spend so much of the winter season indoors.

But too much time spent indoors can be hazardous to your health in a way you may not realize. Today, the air we breathe indoors is often more toxic than the outside air. Wintertime indoor air can become especially toxic because we don't want to open windows and doors to ventilate.

In this post, learn what to do to freshen and purify your indoor air in winter.

What Makes Your Indoor Air Toxic in Winter?

As any Canadian knows, there isn't anything you can do about winter weather conditions. Storms come and go, snow falls and thaws, and you wait for warmer days to return.

In the meantime, you are running your furnace or stoking your fireplace or woodstove and perhaps using space heaters as well.

You are also likely burning candles, spraying air fresheners, using common cleaning products, and perhaps enjoying a cigarette or two indoors to avoid the cold.

Unfortunately, each of these activities releases toxins into your indoor air supply.

And if you are living or working in a new build, your home or office is built to be airtight. No air gets in or out, which is good for energy efficiency but bad for air quality.

According to the Canadian Lung Association, some of the most common winter toxins found in Canadian homes and offices are these:

  • Toxic gases Ozone, radon, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, particulates, tobacco fumes.

  • Allergens Dust mites, dust-borne lead particles, pet dander, mould spores, pesticides, soot and ash, fungi, bacteria, viruses, pollen.

  • Chemicals Candle scents, air fresheners,  cleaning products, craft glues and adhesives, personal care products.

Here, it is important to understand that this list of chemicals won't change measurably during the other seasons, except when you are no longer using a wood-fired stove or fireplace.

However, it is the decreased amount of two key air purifiers that contributes to the increasing toxicity of winter-time indoor air. These two air purification tools are ventilation and filtration.

Ventilation and Filtration

"Ventilation" is a term that refers to keeping air fresh by continually moving stale indoor air out of the space and replacing it with fresh incoming air.

"Filtration" refers to keeping indoor air fresh by filtering out, or removing, airborne toxins.

Together, ventilation and filtration can work wonders to purify and detoxify indoor air at any time of year and especially during the winter season.

Ventilation Options

Unless you happen to work in the HVAC or air quality industry, you may not realize that just opening a window or turning on a fan isn't the best way to ventilate indoor air. Both of these techniques are good, of course, but neither is particularly likely to happen in winter, when it is freezing outside!

The very best way to ventilate your indoor air during winter (and when it gets very hot outside in summer) is by installing an appliance called a heat recovery (or energy recovery) ventilator.

This appliance is a little miracle device that ensures a steady supply of fresh, oxygenated outdoor air to purify your indoor air at home or work. It can actually precisely calibrate how much new fresh air to pull in based on how frequently you run your heater or furnace.

Best of all, a heat/energy recovery ventilator will use the heat from the outgoing stale air to warm the fresh incoming air, which makes it a model of energy efficiency that can help you save valuable cash on energy bills.

Other options to ventilate your indoor air in winter:

  • Try micro-ventilation. Here, you don't open up a window all the way, but just crack open one window in each room to permit a bit of fresh air to enter.

  • Switch ceiling fans to "winter" mode. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the side of the fan mechanism that reverses the blade direction. This reversal pulls the cold air up and pushes the warm air downwards.

  • Run bathroom and kitchen fans. When showering, run the bathroom fan to avoid excess humidity accumulating and turning into mould and mildew. When cooking, run the kitchen exhaust fan to exhume potentially toxic stove and oven fumes.

Air Filtration Options

The primary goal of any air filter is to clean and purify the air by removing airborne toxins, allergens, and irritants.

This can be accomplished in a number of different ways:

  • Installing MERV- or HEPA-rated central HVAC filters. With ratings between 1 and 20, higher-rated filters will filter more of the smaller particulate matter out of the air.

  • Cleaning or replacing filters regularly. This should be done at least every 30 days.

  • Using non-ozone-producing electric air filters. These filters use an electric charge to filter and clean the air. Be sure the filter you select does NOT produce ozone.

  • Using CADR-rated portable room-size air filters. CADR (clean air delivery rate) filters can filter and clean the air in smaller spaces. These can be good choices if someone in your family is particularly allergic or suffers from asthma.

  • Humidification. Adding a room-sized humidifier in winter can help further.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing for Help

If you notice you are struggling to stay healthy and allergy-free in cold weather, your indoor air could be the culprit.
We can help you design a custom air ventilation and filtration plan to clean and purify your indoor air at home and work. Call us at 877.885.3403 or contact us online.

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