The average person takes around 22,000 breaths per day, but how often do we stop and think about the quality of indoor air we are inhaling and how it is affecting us? Bill Hayward, founder of the Hayward Score, says that around 60 percent of illness is due to environmental exposure, but it’s not the outdoor air quality that you should be the most concerned about.
“In reality, where environmental exposure happens is in our houses, and this makes it an infinitely actionable thing because we can take charge of our house. We can make changes and by so doing, find a much healthier existence,” says Hayward.
having fresh air shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should be your first thought when building your home
Dmitry Zimin / Shutterstock
“As soon as a people get their score—it takes about ten minutes—it’s a journey of guided discovery,” Hayward says. “We encourage people to take all the chemicals in the house, gather them up into a laundry basket and take them outside the house and see how it feels. Almost everyone says that the house feels so much better.”
Taking steps to improve the air you breathe in your home can help with a variety of health issues, like asthma, allergies, lethargy and even depression.
Mark LaLiberte, co-founder of Construction Instruction and the homeowner of our Net Zero ICONIC Home, says that often people don’t realize the impact that candles, air fresheners, poor ventilation, even cooking can have on the indoor air quality of air of your home and on your health.
“Some of the candles that people buy that are fairly inexpensive are full of hydrocarbons,” LaLiberte says. “We also have the air fresheners that we plug into the outlet, and it aerosolizes a bunch of stuff that we think makes our house smell like a wonderful forest, but it’s very unhealthy for you.”
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Candles and air fresheners can pose the biggest threat for those with allergies or chemical sensitivities, and LaLiberte recommends cleaning frequently and stopping the smell at the source. The type of flooring inside your home can also play a role in the indoor air quality.
“When you remove old carpet, it tends to weigh something like 160 percent of its original weight, and you really don’t want me to go into what’s in that,” says Hayward. “Just make sure you have a good HEPA vacuum.”
HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air, and a vacuum with a HEPA filter removes 99.97 particles at least .3 microns, which keeps the dust pollutants from being pushed back into the air. Air-purifying house plants in your home can remove toxins from the air while adding oxygen.
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For next-level improvement in indoor air quality, we talked with Dave Jones, senior marketing communications manager for Broan-NuTone, a global leader in residential indoor air quality, a partner with our Net Zero ICONIC Home.
“Net-zero homes are great, because they get people to recognize energy efficiency, which includes tighter windows and better weatherstripping on doors. We’re basically living in zip lock bags when you think about it,” says Jones.
“We pay attention to our water filtration and reverse osmosis, but the air we breathe is even more vital. You can go a couple days without water; you can’t really go more than a couple minutes without air—so having fresh air shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should be your first thought when building your home,” Jones says.
ICONIC LIFE: Why is indoor air quality important for everyone?
Dave Jones: Cooking and showering are two big culprits for poor indoor air quality. It’s our job at Broan-NuTone to get rid of the bad air and replace it with fresh, filtered air from the outside.
The kitchen is another key place where a range hood is often the most-overlooked ventilation in the home. People hesitate to use it because of the sound, but it’s important to use—think of all the things that are coming off of your range like smoke and grease. The average family of four eliminates about a gallon of grease each year into the air, and a tight home is not allowing fresh air in.
Our goal at Broan-NuTone is to create a better quality of life, and you can't have a better quality of life if you're breathing bad air.
ICONIC LIFE: What is balanced ventilation?
DJ: Most old-school-style air handlers or even mini splits don’t bring in fresh air; they recirculate the old air. In Net Zero ICONIC Home, we have one of our energy recovery ventilators (ERV) for people to experience. It’s a balanced ventilation system that brings in fresh, filtered air from outside and then exhausts out the stale, dirty air, for optimal indoor air quality.
The garage is definitely one of those places where people store cleaning chemicals and gasoline—not only are you bringing in dirty, chemical-filled air, but you’re also bringing in carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from that combustion, which is super scary.
If you look at a shaft of light in your home, if you see anything floating in the air, you’ve probably got poor indoor air quality.
ICONIC LIFE: How do you check your home?
DJ: Check to make sure that all of the ventilation fans operate properly. We call it the tissue test, where you hold a tissue up against your bathroom fan. If it sticks there, you probably have pretty good power in that fan, and you are moving enough air that you’re good so long as you’re running it for 20 minutes after a shower. Yes, it sounds like a long time, but steam, wet floors and wet towels contribute to poor air quality.
ICONIC LIFE: How is Broan making an impact in our homes during these times of COVID-19 and the flu?
DJ: The key is to ventilate out the airborne germs and then replace the air with fresh air. Our Surface Shield fan comes with bacteria-killing light, cool features like Bluetooth speakers, multi-colored lids and decorative models to meet your indoor air quality needs and wants. It’s not a UV product, so you can leave it on 24/7 to continuously fight against bacteria and viruses. Our goal at Broan-NuTone is to create a better quality of life, and you can’t have a better quality of life if you’re breathing bad air.
ICONIC LIFE: How do you set up your house right to create good indoor air quality?
DJ: Most of our products can be retrofitted, but it’s a lot easier when doing a new build, working with your builder or your HVAC contractor directly. I would start by making sure you’ve got proper, right-sized ventilation for every room. We also offer hidden ventilation, like a recessed fan light with a humidity sensor.
In the kitchen, we sell built-in range hood inserts that can provide a lot of flexibility in design as you can build any kind of custom cabinets around them. They are ultra-quiet, with automatic shut-off and heat sensors that measure the heat to ramp up as needed. Then put what we all call bath fans—spot ventilation—into the home gym and laundry room where there can be dust, steam, moisture and smells. The key to everything is installing a fresh-air system, ideally an energy recovery ventilator, to make the best indoor air quality.
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ICONIC LIFE: What is the most integrated and fully automated system?
DJ: Our new system, Overture, has a series of room sensors, wall sensors and wall switches to run your bath fan, but it’s got built-in sensors that will measure for CO2, moisture and VOCs, the stuff that we can’t see in the air. It’ll automatically trigger your bath fan, and at the same time, it will automatically trigger the fresh air system—it just automatically works. In the kitchen, it automatically notices moisture coming off that boiling pot of pasta and turns on the range hood.
This indoor air quality content is produced in partnership with our friends at Broan-NuTone. For more information, click here.
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Thank you to our sponsors: Arizona Hardwood, Arizona Fireplaces/Heat&Glo Fireplaces, Avocado Mattress, Circa Lighting, Crestron, Neighbor, Solstice Stone and Sub-Zero/Expressions Home Gallery.
Sustainability Sponsors: Broan-Nutone, Elkay/Southwest Mechanical, Interior Essentials, Pella and Renovation Angel.