Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Clean Air Quality at Home is essential because:
Approximately 90% of our time is spent indoors, a number that is expected to rise due to COVID-19 shutdown(s) and work-from-home policies
We consume 4x as much air than both water and food combined every single day
We consume at least 15,000 Liters of Air a day - imagine that in water bottles!
(Source: WELL v2, 2018)
If a space is designed inadequately, our health will be negatively affected, both in the short-term and long-term, and can result in us having increased headaches, sinus irritations, asthma attacks, to even more serious cardiorespiratory diseases and cancer (WELL v2, 2018).
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and knowing how the virus spreads, providing clean air at home should be a top priority for our health.
Here are therefore 8 DIY Hacks for Cleaner Air Quality at Home (from cheapest to expensive) within a reasonable price range:
1) Ban the use of Cigarettes, Tobacco and Weed at home
Cigarettes weaken our cardiorespiratory system and increase our risk of developing lung cancer.
Second hand smoking also negatively impacts the health of other occupants in a space. Although tobacco and weed are not as harmful, their fumes too disrupt the air quality of our spaces.
2) Make use of Operable Windows and/or Skylights
Cost: $0 to $20 (universally accessible casement handles)
Operable windows to the outside allows fresh air to circulate into our homes. Make sure that your windows do not open directly to a garage, exhaust, or any polluted areas; opening directly to nature is ideal.
Lastly, ensure your window handles are universally accessible to everyone. They should be “operable with one hand and with a closed fist and do not require tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist” (WELL v2, 2018).
3) Purchase one Indoor Plant for every 100 SF of space
Cost: $5 to $50
According to NASA’s plant experiment in space, one air purifying plant for every 100 SF should suffice in eradicating common indoor air pollutants, such as Benzene*, Trichloroethylene (TCE)** and Formaldehyde***.
Plants are able to purify the air because the microorganisms and roots of plants enable them to “destroy the pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and the organic chemicals, ...converting all of these air pollutants into new plant tissue” (NASA, 2013).
A list of NASA-proven air purifying plants are listed here, and can be found in any local plant shop, convenient store or big box retail stores.
If you live uptown in Toronto, a visit to Valleyview Gardens (Markham-Stouffville) is a must
4) Purchase a UVGI Sterilization Light Fixtures for high germ areas
Cost: $40 (UVGI light bulbs) to $100 (UVGI lamps)
UVGI (Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation) light bulbs and lamps are used as a disinfectant for spaces by relying on ultraviolet radiation to damage the DNA and RNA of germs, thereby killing them.
They can be placed anywhere in the house where there is high traffic or is more susceptible to germs as an extra measure of sanitization, such as kitchen countertops, washrooms, and/or above high contact surfaces in a home gym (i.e. above a dumbbell shelf).
5) Install MERV 8 air filters to your home’s HVAC system
Cost: $40 (a set of 6 MERV 8s) or more (for higher MERVs)
MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) is a certified rating system (from 1 to 20) on how effective an air filter can prevent pollutant particles from passing into an air system.
Having a high MERV rating for an air filter is not necessarily a good thing because your Furnace and AC must be adequately sized to work with it. Failure to do so will compromise your HVAC system and can hinder its overall performance.
For Residential spaces, MERV 7 to 12 is generally acceptable. MERV 13 is suggested to be ideal for preventing the spread of viruses like COVID-19 in Non-Healthcare facilities, but the cost to implement such HVAC systems for residential spaces increases significantly.
6) Purchase a HEPA-certified Air Purifier
Cost: $100 to $200
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is a certified rating system for air filters in appliances.
According to The Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, certified HEPA filters “must trap 99.97% of particulates 0.3 microns or larger”, (AllergyAndAir, 2014), which include bacteria, car emissions, mold, and spores.
As air passes through a fibrous membrane, these pollutant particles get trapped, intercepted, diffused, ionized, or even exposed to UV irradiation, depending on the filter's technology and the particle’s size.
7) Purchase an Indoor Air Quality Monitoring Sensor with Real-Time Display
Cost: $50 to $300
An IAQ monitoring sensor at home is useful for identifying air pollutants that exceed a certain threshold of harm that can become toxic to our health.
Place an IAQ monitoring sensor in the central location of each floor of the house where its display is visible, and that at least 4 of the following Air Pollutants are reportable; PM2.5, PM10, CO2, CO, Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide, Total VOCs, Formaldehyde (WELL v2, 2018).
8) Perform a System Balance on your HVAC system
Cost: $100 / $200 per hour for work done or more
Contact your local and reputable mechanical duct cleaning company to conduct a system balancing, a process which ensures that the air from your HVAC system is distributed properly for each room in the house.
Your HVAC system should meet the requirements outlined by the ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, which “specify minimum ventilation rates and other measures in order to minimize adverse health effects for occupants” (ASHRAE, 2020).
*Benzene - a volatile organic compound (VOC) attributed to exhaust and from gasoline; is carcinogenic
**Trichloroethylene (TCE) - a colourless liquid found in solvents; harmful to multiple systems in the body
***Formaldehyde - a colourless gas produced by burning or off-gassing of materials; a respiratory irritant