Indoor Air Quality In Your Home
Plan your home based on what the climate is like where you will build. Some plans work better in hot, humid weather than in cold, dry weather, for example. Not all materials or techniques work well everywhere. Go to this map from the U.S. Department of Energy to see the climate zones.
- Keep water out. Make sure the building design, materials and methods keep water out of the building. Plan for rain, indoor moisture and groundwater. Wet paper products, such as drywall, should be removed and replaced.
- Keep radon out. Radon is a natural, but invisible, gas that causes lung cancer. Follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guide to building radon out of your new home. It is cheaper to keep radon out when you are building or remodeling than to fix it later.
- Be sure fresh air can get in. But make sure your home gets air from places that don’t add humidity or pollution (like your garage).
- Be sure dirty air and moisture from indoors can get out. Exhaust from kitchens, bathrooms, gas stoves and gas water heaters must go directly outside. Remember, you give off moisture when you exhale, shower or cook, so be sure the water can get outside. Install and use fans to help pull the wet air out.
- Use paints that emit fewer gases, also known as “low-VOC” paints.
- Use building materials and pressed-wood products that emit little or no formaldehyde. Avoid using materials made with urea formaldehyde resins.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpets. Carpets collect and hold dirt, pollen and other particles. Vacuum cleaners without HEPA filters can blow particles back into the air. Flat flooring, like wood or tile, can be damp mopped. If you do choose carpet, make sure it has little or no formaldehyde. Open new carpet outdoors so it can air out before installing it indoors. Also run an exhaust fan indoors after installing new carpet to limit the odor.
- Remodeling a home built before 1978? There may be lead on any painted surfaces. Lead was used in paints even as late as 1978. If the lead paint is in good condition, leave it alone. Don’t sand it or burn it off. If it is flaking or peeling, get help from a trained specialist to remove the paint. Don’t try to do it yourself. For more information about protecting yourself from lead indoors, see the U.S. EPA website.
- Does your home have asbestos? It may be found in the insulation and old ceiling tiles, for example. Leave it in place, intact if possible. Don’t disturb it. If you must remove it because it is damaged, get help from a qualified professional. For more information, go to this U.S. EPA website.
Looking To Save Energy?
Make sure what you do to save energy in your home also is best for healthy air:
- Plan energy repairs carefully so that indoor moisture does not get trapped inside the walls.
- Never use an unvented gas stove. Make sure all gas-burning equipment is vented directly to the outdoors.
- Avoid wood-burning stoves because they add indoor and outdoor air pollution. If you choose to purchase a new wood-burning stove, get one that meets the State of Washington’s requirements or the 2015 U.S. EPA’s guidelines. Cleaner devices will be phased in over the next few years to meet the stronger requirements coming in 2020.
- Don’t use outdoor hydronic heaters or wood boilers. Many states have found they produce very high levels of air pollution. For more information on why these heaters are a problem, see NESCAUM, an association of clean air agencies in northeastern states. New EPA guidelines will reduce emissions from devices manufactured after 2020.