It’s easy to tell when your roof is leaking. We can usually see when there’s mold growing on the ceiling, and it’s readily apparent if you’ve developed a bug infestation. Problems like these are difficult to miss, making it easy to get them fixed before they develop into something truly serious.
Air quality is different, however. Because the air in our homes is invisible, it’s impossible for the naked eye to perceive slight changes in the air quality. If different pollutants begin to infiltrate our house’s air, the odds are very good that we won’t even notice until they’ve developed into a much larger problem.
This is why it’s important to know how to test the air quality at home. By running the proper tests regularly, as well as anytime you have reason to suspect anything might be wrong, you can often catch problems early on in their development and before any real damage has been done. If you aren’t quite sure how to test air quality in your house, don’t worry. Today, we’re here to walk you through the process and help you keep your home’s air clean, fresh and safe.
What Are the Benefits of Indoor Air Quality Testing?
Not convinced that it’s worth it to test the air quality in your home? Convinced that just because you’ve never had a problem with your air quality in the past, you’ll continue in the same way in the future? Don’t be so sure. Here are just a few of the primary benefits you’ll experience when you regularly test the air in your home.
- Keeping yourself and your family safe: The air might be full of pollutants that are harmful to your lungs, skin and immune system, and just because you can’t see these things doesn’t mean they’re not there. By performing regular tests, you ensure that if a problem does arise, you’ll catch it before this damage has the time to build up in your body. In this way, you’ll prevent the problem from becoming too serious.
- Keep your home safe: Let’s say mold and mildew are growing someplace obscure in your house — someplace you can’t see. Without testing the air quality in your home for mold, this problem would continue to grow unchecked, potentially becoming widespread enough to level significant damage against your house, lowering the value and even making it unsafe. An air quality test alerts you to the fact that there’s mold around, prompting you to search for it when you might otherwise be unaware it existed at all.
Signs and Symptoms of Bad Indoor Air Quality
It should be clear that testing your home’s air quality is important. The next question, however, is how exactly to do that. How do you know if your home’s air quality is poor? What should you be looking for?
Here are some of the top signs that your home’s air quality is lacking and could be unhealthy for you, your family and your house.
1. Noticeable Allergies
Most people have a few seasonal allergies here and there. When flowers open in the spring, we might spend a few days sneezing and rubbing our eyes, but this soon fades away. Consistent, year-round indoor allergies are something else altogether and not something to dismiss lightly. This is likely a sign that the air quality in your home is poor, and you are reacting to pollutants in the air.
A few of the allergy symptoms to watch for include:
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes and ears
- Nose bleeds
If you experience these symptoms in your home regularly, try to pay closer attention to them and take note of the circumstances. Do you notice an uptick in symptoms when you go into the basement, for instance? Do these allergies feel better when you’re in the kitchen? By taking notes like these, you can begin to pinpoint where in your house the problem might be located.
2. Unusual and Unexplained Illness Symptoms
While they’re unpleasant, allergies caused by the odd spot of mildew will rarely be serious. Other contaminants like asbestos or toxic mold spores, however, can be far more serious and lead to much more threatening symptoms. If you start to experience any of the following symptoms, seemingly out of nowhere, this could be a sign that there’s something wrong in your home:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
- Hearing loss
If you experience any of these symptoms, head to a doctor right away. If they can confirm that no underlying health problems are causing your symptoms, your next course of action should be to test the air in your home for dangerous pollutants as soon as you can.
3. Lung Problems
Things like bronchitis and pneumonia aren’t uncommon, and the odds are that many of us will have brushes with these types of lung conditions at some point. Most of the time they aren’t serious and pass quickly. If you find that you’re frequently coming down with these illnesses, however, or that your family members as a whole are often struck down with lung conditions, let this raise a red flag in your mind. This could be a sign that something in your home’s air is hurting your lungs.
While the rare, single case of bronchitis might not be proof that your home’s air quality is compromised, recurring cases are cause for concern. If this happens to you, get your home’s air quality checked right away. Be sure to change your air filters and consider installing an air purifier to prevent the continuation of these lung problems.
4. Air Inconsistencies
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the air feels different in different parts of your house? Perhaps it feels more humid in the bedrooms and drier in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s always cold in the bathroom, but the hallway is sweltering? These could be signs that factors are affecting the air quality in one or more of these areas. Testing the air in suspect areas is the best way to be sure.
5. Changes in the Surrounding Environment
If you start experiencing strange health symptoms, be careful to avoid immediately jumping to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with your house itself. While this could be true, it’s best to eliminate other possibilities first. You can do that by looking at the area surrounding your home for potential culprits of the drop in air quality.
For example, is there construction going on next door? Has your neighbor started smoking or using a new type of weed-killer? All these are potential sources of the suddenly lower air quality that have nothing to do with the integrity of your home.
Different Types of Indoor Air Pollutants and How to Test for Them
It’s one thing to be aware of some of the symptoms of poor air quality. But once you suspect that there may be a problem, how do you test the air quality in your home? The answer is that it depends on what you’re testing for. Here are some of the top pollutants of indoor air quality, as well as how to find out if they may be at play in your situation.
Have you noticed a musty smell in your home recently? Been experiencing a rise in allergy symptoms? It might be time to test for mold. Here’s how you can do so:
- Try a visual inspection first. The black-and-green patches of mold are often easy to spot if you know where to look. Check where it is most humid or damp in your house and see if you can locate it.
- If you can’t find the mold, head to your HVAC filter. Use a sterile sponge dampened with a rinse testing solution to wipe off a section of the filter.
- Set the sponge down in a rinse container and dump more of the rinse solution over it. Shake this mixture around before pouring the resulting liquid into a sample cup.
- Compare the color of your final solution with the chart that should come with the solution and test kit. The results should tell you whether or not mold is growing in your air filter.
If, after this test, you determine that mold is a problem in your home, the next step is figuring out how to eliminate it. To do this, we recommend scrubbing away all visible traces of mold you can find and repeating your tests until they reveal that there is no mold present. You’ll also need to remove the conditions that led to mold growth in the first place, or the mold will only continue to return. In most cases, this means lowering the humidity and reducing the moisture content in the air, usually through the use of a dehumidifier.
Radon is less of a commonly-known entity than mold, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. It’s an odorless and colorless gas that comes from the soil beneath your home’s foundation as a result of the uranium found there and is the most common cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Fortunately, radon easy enough to test for. Buy yourself a home testing kit, which you can use by yourself without needing to call in any professionals. Simply set the container out in a safe place and leave it open for a few days. This container is filled with a type of charcoal that sucks in radon, thus measuring how much of this substance is in the air. After a few days, you’ll seal the container and mail it back to the lab for testing. The results will tell you how much radon is in your home.
If the results indicate that there is too much radon in your home, take immediate steps to reduce these levels. One of the best ways to do this is to begin using a fan and vent pipe system. If you already have one installed, this will be easy. If not, consider getting one installed.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that stem from everyday cleaning and household products. These chemicals are typically released while you use the products, but they can also be released even while the product sits idly on the shelf. These compounds are toxic and can cause varying levels of damage depending on the exact compound and how much of it is present in your home. In mild cases, these compounds might cause a severe headache and nasal irritation, while serious cases can lead to liver damage and even certain types of cancer.
A few of the VOCs that could be threatening your home include:
To test for VOCs, you’ll want to purchase a home testing kit. Numerous tests are available, with one, in particular, testing your personal daily exposure to VOCs that may be present in your home. This test comes in the form of a badge that you wear around the house for a day. Choose an ordinary day where you’re at home for most of your time to wear this. Once the day is over, you’ll mail the badge to the testing center and wait for the results, which will show your exposure levels and compare them to the acceptable level of daily exposure.
If you’ve realized VOCs are the cause of poor air quality in your home, here are some steps you can take to reduce this problem:
- Open windows and doors to increase ventilation any time you use a product that releases VOCs.
- Always follow instructions on the label regarding how to safely use the product in question.
- Throw out any old or unused chemicals, and try to buy ones that you know you’ll use, in quantities that won’t sit for years under your sink.
- Limit exposure to benzene in particular. This harmful carcinogen comes from sources like paint fumes, tobacco smoke, auto emissions and stored fuels.
- Avoid exposing yourself to items that have just been dry-cleaned, as they’re likely to give off harmful emissions as well.
Learn More About Indoor Air Quality Testing Procedures Today
Concerned that your home might be harboring invisible pollutants? It’s always better to get the air tested and to find out for certain than to leave yourself wondering. If you’ve experienced any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above, we can’t stress enough how essential these tests are for your safety. Even if you haven’t experienced these symptoms, it’s worth performing these tests periodically to make sure your home remains safe and secure.
For your home air quality testing needs in Texas, we hope you’ll contact us here at A/C Contractors. We’re the largest HVAC company in the Longview and Tyler area, making it no surprise that we offer the best services and guarantees around. We pride ourselves on our 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. This means that we’re committed to doing repair and replacement jobs right the first time, or else we’ll do it for free.
Whether you’re looking to test the quality of your air or improve it in light of test results you’ve already received, A/C Contractors has you covered. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you improve the quality of your air for a home that’s a little safer and a little more comfortable.