November 15, 2023
Combatting Indoor Air Pollution in St. Louis
Most people are aware of contaminants that cause outdoor air pollution, but you might not be aware that air pollution can exist inside a home as well. Pollution inside your home can cause difficulty with breathing or even severe respiratory problems down the road.
Indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution due to the fact that air doesn’t circulate as effectively indoors as it can outdoors. St. Louis is hard hit by both indoor and outdoor pollution, especially during certain times of the year.
Let’s explore the causes of indoor air pollution, the seasons during which you should take particular care, and the things you can do to improve the air quality in your home.
What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?
The main cause of indoor air pollution is contaminated air outside the home coming in through open windows, doors, or poorly maintained HVAC systems. St. Louis is prone to ground-level ozone pollution, otherwise known as smog. Smog is a mixture of pollutants emitted from factories or other industrial sites, car exhaust fumes, construction debris, or particles from burning waste.
St. Louis specifically has a high number of industrial plants that release harmful chemicals into the air. The EPA signed an order earlier this year telling St. Louis factories to cut down on emissions.
Even if you keep your windows and doors closed most of the time, outdoor contaminants can get inside via your heating or cooling systems. Outdoor AC units and heating units come equipped with filters, but those filters can degrade over time. Filters can also become clogged and stop working properly.
Other causes of indoor pollution include man-made contaminants like tobacco smoke, certain beauty products, or cleaning product fumes. Gas-powered appliances such as stoves and fireplaces also release harmful chemicals into a home. Insulation materials previously contained dangerous levels of asbestos, which can disperse into the air in your home as it gets older.
Biological pollution can happen indoors as well, including pollen, dust, pet dander, and moisture-induced mold.
What Time of Year Are You Most Likely to Experience Indoor Air Pollution in St. Louis?
Most sources agree that the warmer seasons are the worst for air quality in the region. Because industrial pollutants can react with each other in sunlight, spring and summer can be the most troublesome seasons for smog development. Pollen levels also rise in the spring and summer, creating a perfect storm of dangerous air.
The Air Quality Index (AQI), however, states that the winter months are the worst in terms of indoor and outdoor air pollution. More people are burning various types of fuel in the winter, which can increase the level of chemical contaminants in homes.
While some seasons of the year are worse for air quality than others in St. Louis, bad pollution days can happen throughout the year. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check the air quality daily, especially in the warmer months. You can check these levels on the Air Quality Index or through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Some weather apps will also report local air quality levels.
Air quality is rated on a scale of one to five hundred. The higher the number, the worse the air quality. These scales are also color coded, moving from green at the lowest threat level to maroon at the very highest, making it easy to spot how bad or good the air is on any given day. Levels from green to yellow mean the outside air is mostly safe to breathe. An orange level indicates that those with existing respiratory conditions should stay inside or wear an N95 mask when outdoors. Anything above 151, or the beginning of the red zone, is dangerous for everyone.
What Can I Do to Keep Air Pollutants Out of My Home?
If you have any kind of outdoor heating or cooling unit, try to find the manufacturer’s brand label on the unit, and look up how often the filter should be changed. Follow any manufacturer guidelines for maintaining the unit and keeping the filter clean.
Have a contractor inspect your insulation to ensure that it is up to date and asbestos-free. If possible, get rid of any gas-powered appliances, and replace them with newer, safer models. Be mindful of the beauty or cleaning products you use. Make sure to only use these products in well-ventilated areas.
During days with high air pollution levels, try to keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible. Try not to go out unless it’s absolutely necessary.
These precautions are good first steps, but sometimes you might need to step up your indoor air protection, especially if you or a loved one is more sensitive to air pollution. That’s where an HVAC contractor can come in handy.
How Can HVAC Services Improve the Air Quality in My Home?
HVAC professionals are trained to clean or replace filters in ducting or on outdoor heating or cooling units. An HVAC contractor can also install air cleaning systems into your home’s HVAC system for even better air quality. Some examples include:
- Air filtration systems
- UVA lights
- Air purification systems
- Air scrubbers
An air filtration system is one of the most basic ways to protect your home. It’s installed into your ducts and can trap harmful particles in the air before they come into your home. A UVA light targets most types of bacteria and germs, eliminating them before they can come inside through the vents.
An air purifier combines the functions of the filtration system and the UVA light to both kill germs and filter out small particles. Air scrubber systems take purifying to the next level by cleaning the air of even more airborne pathogens and particles. These types of systems are often used in industrial settings where the air must be sterile. The system filters, purifies, and eliminates almost all harmful pollutants.
Dehumidifiers target moisture in the air, which can lead to dangerous mold growth. A dehumidifier can cut back on humidity, leaving your home cleaner and more comfortable during the warmer months.
An HVAC professional can also install an Energy Recovery Ventilator, a system that can take energy back from outgoing air and use it to cycle in fresh clean air. This system is most often used in buildings with very little natural ventilation. It’s also one of the most effective air cleaners and purifiers on the market.
Take Steps Now to Protect Your Home
Studies have shown that indoor air quality can be up to five times worse than outdoor air quality. We spend a lot of time in our homes, and indoor air can’t circulate as well as it does outdoors. While there are steps you can take to reduce pollutants in your home, reaching out to an HVAC company can bring a higher level of air quality to your home.
At Scott-Lee Heating Company in St. Louis, we’re eager to help you find an indoor air solution that works best for you and your budget. We can evaluate your heating and cooling units and ducting systems. We’re happy to give free estimates for any installation you’re considering. Our company carries only the highest quality products, including indoor air filters, scrubbers, purifiers, dehumidifiers, and Energy Recovery Ventilators.
Feel free to contact us today with questions or for more information!