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Getting cozy: Indoor air quality in the winter months

The winters in Canada are long. We’re faced with months of snowy, blustery conditions that make us want to hibernate inside our homes to stay cozy. However, indoor air quality can suffer in the wintertime if we don’t take precautions to maintain a healthy home.

It’s always a good idea to book preventive HVAC maintenance with us ahead of the winter so that you’re less likely to face unexpected repairs. You’ll be assured that your system is operating efficiently and can ask for recommendations about the best filter to suit your family’s purposes.

Why indoor air quality matters

Taking steps to maintain a healthy indoor air quality (IAQ) is important for your family’s health. Poor IAQ can cause an array of symptoms ranging from headaches and fatigue to dizziness, eye redness, nose irritation, and throat soreness. It can even contribute to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases.

There are a lot of things that reduce our air quality and not all of them are easily controlled. Outdoor air quality varies across the seasons and can pose different challenges for maintaining good IAQ. As well, tobacco smoke, building materials, cleaning products, mold and fuel-burning appliances can all affect air quality.

As buildings become increasingly airtight thanks to improved insulation and high-efficiency windows and doors, air recirculation is higher. It’s essential to have a well-maintained ventilation system and to incorporate a high quality HEPA filter to improve IAQ.

Summer versus winter

In the summertime, humidity, pollen, dust, and mold enter our homes through open windows, meaning greater exposure to outdoor allergens. Some of this can be controlled by using our air conditioning units more frequently, but it can be difficult to maintain a balance between cost and IAQ. 

Thankfully, higher humidity in the summer reduces the presence of illnesses like respiratory infections and flu.

Cold weather considerations

Air quality challenges differ in winter. Dryer winter air can increase the spread of respiratory infections, although the freezing temperatures usually prevent the growth of mold spores. Frequent use of our heating systems tends to further dry out indoor air and can contribute to irritation of mucous membranes. 

If the humidity drops substantially, consider installing a humidifier to add moisture to your indoor air. Expert help from one of our highly trained HVAC technicians can also help balance outdoor air flow with indoor air quality.

Other considerations

In addition to maintaining a well-functioning HVAC system and using a HEPA filter, it’s important to vacuum regularly to reduce indoor airborne pollutants like dust mites, pollen, and mold. Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals. If you notice an unusual amount of dust, consider having your ducts inspected and cleaned, which is recommended every 5 years.

Some of the niceties that contribute to cozy home ambiance in the winter months can actually reduce our indoor air quality and contribute to health issues. Paraffin wax candles are derived from petroleum and release carcinogenic chemicals and soot. Better alternatives are natural soy or beeswax candles, preferably unscented. If you enjoy scenting your home, consider using an essential oil diffuser instead of candles. 

Fireplaces can also affect IAQ. Wood smoke from wood-burning fireplaces releases toxic pollutants into the air. Install a HEPA filter designed to capture smoke particles, or use an electric space heater to warm your space cleanly.

Breathe easy this winter

With a few preventive steps and regular HVAC maintenance to ensure efficient operation, you and your family will be able to breathe easy this winter. Cozying up with some better alternatives that promote good indoor air quality will ensure you stay both warm and healthy.