Serving Mid, Western and Northern Michigan,
Kalamazoo, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Traverse City
Friday, February 7th, 2020 by Amanda Waldmann
Have you reached the cabin fever point of winter yet? With the temperature and humidity fluctuations over the past month, your house might feel stale and just...gross. And there’s still at least a month, maybe even two before we can leave windows open for more than a few hours.
Until you get a chance to air out your entire house, there’s actually a lot you can do to improve the air quality in your home. Not only can you get rid of that stale feeling, but you can also alleviate everything from allergies to dry skin.
Here’s what you can do, from easiest to most complicated.
Check your filters
A dirty HVAC filter is a risk for multiple reasons. It’s a fire hazard, for one. It also reduces your system’s working capacity and can even reduce its lifespan. It’s also, well, dirty - it’s like using an old used coffee filter to make your coffee, except with the air you breathe. Yum, right? Changing your filter is quick and easy, and should be done at least annually - if your HVAC system doesn’t have a reminder feature, just do it in the new year.
Humidify and dehumidify appropriately
This one is going to sound counterproductive, especially since we talk about the importance of dehumidifiers so often, but not all humidity is bad! On the upper floors of your home, too little humidity can lead to excess dust, dry skin, and chronic coughing. The key is balance.
In the basement or crawl space, our goal is low humidity; high or even moderate humidity leads to mold growth and causes unpleasant smells that drift upstairs, along with mold spores. If your basement feels damp or you notice warping on beams or even cardboard boxes stored down there, you should run a dehumidifier.
But upstairs, we need a little humidity. The heat running in the winter will naturally dry everything out and, if you’re like me, lead to waking up feeling like you’re in the middle of the Sahara. Dry skin, a persistent dry cough, and static electricity everywhere are all side effects of too little humidity. You can combat this by running a small humidifier in affected rooms - just be sure not to run them constantly and to clean them weekly to prevent mold growth. Also, only put them on a flat, level surface.
Check your insulation
Remember that delicious old coffee filter analogy from earlier? If you have traditional fiberglass insulation (the pink stuff) in your basement or crawl space, it’s like living inside of that old coffee filter. Traditional insulation absorbs water, dirt, dust, basically anything that passes by, and it also harbors mold. It’s also prone to fall down completely as it gets heavier from absorbing water, leaving your home unprotected.
You should only use waterproof and inorganic insulation in your basement or crawl space, including a spray foam insulation to fill in hard to reach gaps. We offer multiple types of appropriate insulation as well as a state of the art vapor barrier, CleanSpace, for crawl spaces. Sealing off whatever is below your home is a major part of protecting the air that circulates upstairs.
It’s too cold to spend much time outside, and you’re probably feeling the effects of the dog days of winter. The least you can do is improve the air you’re breathing. And maybe think about finishing that basement so the kids can get out of your hair. Call us to schedule your free inspection and breathe easy all spring.