Our favorite time of the year is here! Unfortunately, the coziness of holiday gatherings, candlelit dinners, and warm indoor spaces does have its risks for our health and wellness. We’ve already covered the basics of keeping the air healthy in the holiday season, so in this post, we’re going to explore the topic more deeply. Tune in for some specific tips and tricks we’ve gathered to inspire the best indoor air quality (IAQ) for you this winter!
Correctly Ventilate During the Holiday Season
Holiday gatherings, such as Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas celebrations bring more people together indoors, which means CO2 levels can quickly rise to unhealthy levels. However, even outside the holidays, as the weather gets colder outdoors, central heating is on, and we try to keep the warmth in, indoor air quality can deteriorate more often.
Our first tip is to stay informed about the IAQ and how well your current ventilation system works by using a good quality indoor air quality monitor like Aranet4 HOME. An indoor air quality monitor will detect CO2 levels, serving as a useful indicator of when additional ventilation is required. Aranet4 HOME will also indicate temperature, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity for you, the latter also helping you keep your respiratory health in check and even avoid mold growth at home.
The ventilation minimum – five to ten minutes of cross ventilation if possible (meaning the windows on the opposite side of the room or space are open preferably all the way) a day at least.
PRO tip: since you use each room differently, treat the ventilation accordingly. You will sleep much better if you’ll get in the habit of ventilating before going to sleep. Cracking the windows open for a few minutes after waking up will refresh both you and the space. The living room might benefit from more frequent ventilation, while spaces like bathrooms and cellars might require extra attention regarding humidity control.
If you use ceiling fans, we suggest turning on the “winter mode”. This will reverse the blade direction, pushing warm air downward and ensuring you benefit as much as possible from your heating system at home.
For ensuring the best indoor air quality, consider installing a heat recovery ventilator or an HRV. These smart appliances1 use the heat from the outgoing stale air to warm the fresh incoming air, helping you save on energy bills too.
Reduce Respiratory Illness
Low indoor air quality can involve pollutants, contaminants, allergens, and other harmful substances as well as excessive dryness in the air, all of which can increase the risk of respiratory diseases, allergies, and other illnesses.
Making sure your cleaning routine is on point can help you avoid worsening symptoms of respiratory diseases. Reducing dust-collecting clutter, washing your bedding in hot water on a weekly basis, and vacuuming with a double-bag or HEPA filter hoover will all help.
Pro tip: try using natural cleaning products as many commercial cleaning goods contain harmful chemicals that can compromise air quality. The cleaning powers of vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice might surprise you, at no cost to your health!
Using doormats is a good idea. An even better one is cleaning them regularly. Throw in washing blankets and throw rugs, and your airways will be grateful for the effort.
Winter Home Maintenance Tips
We can’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. To make sure poor indoor air quality doesn’t hinder the holiday cheer, here’s what we try to do every year for our indoor spaces and equipment.
Regular maintenance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. While these differ, all households have some form of them, which, if not well-maintained, can become breeding grounds for mold and bacteria. Dust or vacuum and wipe clean all the heating elements and ventilation ducts, the area around them, and consider scheduling a professional inspection if you haven’t done so in 3-5 years. Also, the best time to replace all the filters and furnaces is now.
Have a professional chimney sweep clean out the chimney. This will not only significantly improve your indoor air quality but provide higher fire safety in your house as well.
Clean and seal the windows and doors for winter. Identify which windows have the most significant air leaks when closed. Then, use caulk or foam tape to seal, ensuring that cold air and moisture cannot penetrate. Cleaning the windows before this step will allow you to maximize the benefits of sunny weather, especially in areas where sunlight is scarce during the winter.
Ensure smoke and carbon dioxide detectors work properly and change batteries if necessary. With open fires, heating, and candles prevalent during the holiday season, the risk of accidents rises. Prioritize safety for you and your guests.
Healthier Holiday Season Scents
Speaking about candles, they can be a big part of creating the magical feeling of the holiday season. However, candles burn oxygen and create excess CO2. They also emit2 ultrafine particles (UFP) in the air from the pigments, soot from flickering, and, if scented, volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Depending on how much you love candles, here’s a few ways to be mindful about it and take care of your indoor air quality whilst creating that holiday coziness.3
Avoid additives, especially if struggling with allergies. A good quality candle will have wax and paper-core, cotton or wood wick in the ingredients label, anything else can be potentially irritative. Make sure to burn them in a container that does not extend above the candle’s wick.
Pace yourself and follow the best practices: as romantic as a room full of candles can be, it’s a hazard for both your health and safety. Stick with one or two candles, don’t burn them for longer than four hours, make sure the vick stays between 0.5 and 1 cm or 1/4 inch long, and use a wick dipper to extinguish the flame.
Explore alternatives: try fragranced wax melts or opt for electric candles if scent doesn’t matter to you. For a unique fragrance without burning candles, consider stovetop potpourris or decorate with natural spices, fruits, or pine branches. Choose alternatives based on your health concerns, as natural scents may not be safer for allergy sufferers.
Staying safe and comfortable
As we immerse ourselves in the festive spirit, it’s crucial to recognize that achieving optimal indoor air quality doesn’t necessarily require checking off every item on the list. Instead, consider focusing on a select few practices that resonate most with your lifestyle. The goal isn’t perfection; it’s about making meaningful choices that contribute to a healthier living environment.
We wish you to find the balance that works best for you and prioritize what aligns with your lifestyle and preferences. May your holiday season be not only joyful but also safe!
- Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.
- Candles and Incense as Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution: Market Analysis and Literature Review.
- Scented candles may be cozy—but are they polluting your home’s air? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/scented-candles-smoke-air-pollution