Indoor air quality can be complicated, but we wanted to layout a simple three stage process to improve your indoor air quality during the wintertime. There are so many products on the market, and at times it can be overwhelming to choose what to do in your home to improve the air you breathe. Indoor air quality in a northern/cold climate can be even more tricky. We are here to help!
How to Get Fresh Air in Your Home
At Warren Systems, we consider this to be one of the most important things to address when it comes to indoor air quality. Homeowners make a couple big mistakes when it comes to introducing fresh air into the home. The biggest mistake is an exponential issue. According to code, we must bring fresh air into the home. The cheapest way to do this is to have a duct that goes from the outside to the return ductwork, so any time your furnace runs it draws fresh air from the outside. While this is effective in getting fresh air in the home, it causes a couple issues for the home and homeowner. First, this is so inefficient! In the wintertime, super cold air will be dumping into your heating and cooling system and this will kill the efficiency. Second, we lose control of humidity. We will dig into this more later in the article, but in general the humidity outside versus the humidity inside your home has a drastic swing in the wintertime. Dumping 100% untreated outside air into the home during the wintertime just makes it worse. Lastly, the reason this issue becomes exponential is because some homeowners plug the outdoor air intake to lower his or her utility bill. Plugging the fresh air to your home is unsafe for many reasons. So, how do we improve your indoor air quality? In a northern climate we like to use a product called HRV. HRV units bring in fresh air to your home in a controlled way. First, it tempers the air coming into the home with the air that it is exhausting. As seen in the picture, published by popular mechanics (1), there is an air to air heat exchanger that incoming outside air and out going exhaust air pass through. The air does not mix, but temperature and humidity are transferred. HRV units ensure that you are always introducing fresh air to the home in a controlled way. There are other great products available to emulate HRV, but HRV does it best in a northern climate if you ask us! See our future post on HRV vs. ERV.
Now the next step after we get fresh air into the home is air treatment.
Best Air Filtration
We will do a full post on just air filtration, but again we want to keep this simple.
Here is the deal- the 1” air filter you are buying in a four pack just isn’t cutting it. Air filters carry a MERV rating. The higher the number, the smaller size particle the filter will capture out of the air stream. I will give you a few examples of particle size vs. MERV rating and will let you be the judge of what MERV rating filter you should have in your home. Just for comparison, most of your 1” thick filters carry a rating of MERV 4. Carpet fibers have a MERV rating of 1. Sanding dust have a MERV rating of 3. Cement dust or pudding – MERV 5 (note: your MERV 4 filter won’t capture this). Mold spores and hair spray – MERV 7. Most tobacco smoke – MERV 14. Here’s the big one, Bacteria – MERV 15. (2) So, with a MERV 15 air filter you can start capturing airborne bacteria in you air stream. To put it simply, the MERV 4 air filter you are using is not getting the job done! We typically offer two options- a MERV 13 media air cleaner or one of Warren Systems favorite new products, The Daikin Premium Air Cleaner that carries a MERV 15 rating. The Daikin Premium Air Cleaner is nice and wide making room for the filter material to zigzag back and forth allowing for an increased surface area for the air to pass over. This ensures that the filter doesn’t get full or plugged quickly. This is important so that we don’t restrict airflow through the furnace, geothermal unit, or air handler. The Daikin Premium Air Cleaner leads the industry with a high MERV rating of 15, but very low air restriction (static). Because of these features, it is our opinion that this is the best choice for air filtration in your home!
How to Get Humidity in Your Home
If you are experiencing a dry nose or a significant amount of static in your home, then this step is for you. To expand on step one, bringing fresh air into the home is key. Once you get fresh air in the home and you filter it, you still may need to add some humidity. This is a very common need during the winter in northern climate homes. Air in the home generally becomes dry and we need to add humidity with some sort of humidifier. There are a lot of different humidifiers on the market, and it is important to have a professional look at your home and heating and cooling system to determine what type of humidifier suites your application. This is a case where more isn’t always better. A humidity set point between 35% and 45% works nice. It is important not to put too much humidity into the home as this can be harmful to the air quality and physical home. For example, if you start to get a lot of condensation on your windows, this can be a sign that your indoor humidity is set too high. Look for a future article on types of humidifiers and how they work.
Indoor Air Quality Products
There is more to air quality than our three-step process, however, these above-mentioned items are essential to get headed in the right direction to ensure healthy and efficient air in your home. Look out for an advanced indoor air quality post where we breakdown other great IAQ products like UV lights, carbon filters, and HEPA filters.