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As summer heats up, ensuring good indoor air quality (IAQ) becomes crucial. The increased use of cooling systems and often poorer outdoor air quality during this season make it essential to focus on IAQ. Here’s why it's particularly important and how to manage it effectively.

Why Summer is Crucial for IAQ

  • Increased Use of Air Systems: During summer, we rely heavily on air conditioners. It’s essential to ensure these systems are not circulating pollutants throughout our homes.
  • Higher Outdoor Pollutants: Summer often brings higher levels of pollen, smog, and other pollutants, which can infiltrate living spaces.
  • Humidity and Mold: Elevated humidity levels in the summer can lead to mold growth, which negatively impacts air quality and health.

Four Key Steps to Better IAQ

Prevention / Source Control

  • Stop Pollutants from Entering: Seal air leaks in the attic, walls, windows, and foundation to reduce radon, outdoor pollutants, pests, and humidity. Ensure combustion appliances are properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide and other pollutants from entering your home​​.
  • Reduce Combustion Pollutants: Ensure that furnaces, boilers, and water heaters are properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide and other combustion pollutants from entering your home. Additionally, seal any leaks in ductwork to prevent contaminant-filled air from being drawn into living spaces​​.
  • Manage Indoor Humidity: High humidity can lead to mold and mildew, which are significant indoor air pollutants. Use dehumidifiers, especially in damp areas like basements and bathrooms, to maintain indoor humidity levels between 30-50%​​.
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Ventilation

  • Bring in Fresh Air: Use exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms, open windows and doors when weather permits, and ensure the home's air conditioning system has a vent control to reduce indoor pollutants. Whole-home ventilation systems are ideal for maintaining fresh air circulation​.
  • Spot Ventilation: Ensure that local exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms are properly vented to the outside to remove moisture and pollutants directly at their source. This is especially important when cooking, showering, or using appliances that produce moisture and pollutants​​.

Filtration

  • Filter Your Home’s Air: Regularly clean or replace HVAC filters every three months, or more frequently in the cases where the homeowner has pets or allergies. Use air purifiers with HEPA filters to capture small particles and allergens, improving overall air quality​.
  • Upgrade Filters: Consider upgrading to MERV-rated filters or electronic air cleaners that can capture smaller particles and even viruses. Ensure that the home's HVAC system can handle the upgraded filters without compromising airflow​.

Controls and Monitoring

  • Monitor and Take Action: Invest in air quality monitors to track pollutant levels and take timely action. Use dehumidifiers to maintain indoor humidity, keeping it between 30-50% to reduce mold and allergens​​.
  • Smart Home Technologies: Utilize smart home technologies to better understand and manage the air quality in a home. Indoor air quality monitors can alert homeowners to issues such as elevated humidity or pollutant levels, allowing you to take corrective action promptly​.

Additional Tips for Summer IAQ

  • Regular Maintenance: Regularly service your HVAC system to ensure it's functioning correctly and not circulating pollutants. This includes cleaning and replacing filters as well as checking for leaks or other issues that might compromise air quality​​.
  • Proper Storage: Store chemicals, paints, and cleaning products in tightly sealed containers and use them in well-ventilated areas to minimize VOC emissions​.

By following these expert recommendations, homeowners can ensure their home remains a healthy and comfortable environment throughout the summer. Regular maintenance and proactive measures can significantly improve IAQ, helping homeowners breathe easier and stay healthier during the hottest months of the year.

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