How to improve home air quality for cheap (Easy Tips!)

How would you like to improve your home air quality without spending a ton of money on professional contractors?

What if there were simple strategies you could use to pin point the cause of bad air quality? Air that is so poor, it causes you to wake up coughing and feeling tired every single day.

No one wants to have sick building syndrome.

Luckily for you, I’m going to show you exactly what you need to do to improve your home air quality. These tips are easy to implement, so you can breath better, faster.

Improve home air quality to help reduce alergies and increase your overall comfort. The best air quality improvement tips for your house or office.

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How to improve home air quality for cheap!

Causes of poor indoor air quality

Indoor air quality is determined by a few factors. Ultimately, air quality affects your comfort level in a certain space. Poor air quality can result from pollen in your office space which makes you sneeze or a cold environment.

The main contributors to the quality of your air include:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Fresh air supply
  • Pollutants 

Temperature is the easiest factor to control through your homes HVAC unit. Humidity can be reduced through a dehumidifier, but air supply and pollutants are the hardest to control.

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So what causes poor indoor air quality?

The main culprits affecting your air quality include:

  • Poor building ventilation. Check the air supply to your home and verify a healthy supply of air circulates your home. Older buildings may have incorrectly sized air ducts which can be costly to correct.
  • Poor HVAC maintenance. Home air handling units tend to get neglected. It’s best to have an HVAC technician check your air handler every one to three years.
  • Excessive moisture. Over watering plants, leaking plumbing, flooding, high humidity climates are all causes. Aim to reduce the amount of water introduced into your home. Excessive water can cause mold or dust mites.
  • Construction activities. Remodeling your home can introduce other hazards to your air. Exposed insulation and construction debris can introduce adverse air quality.
  • Poor outdoor air quality. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to control the outside air quality. You can find the status of the outdoor air quality by checking with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Large cities tend to be significantly impacted by smog and CO2 levels. Smaller cities tend to be effected by surrounding forest fires and stagnant air.

What problems do you notice around your house? Are you lacking ventilation or do you have excessive moisture? While these are important to consider, other contributors to poor air quality exist within your home.

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Sources of poor air quality from within your home

Home construction is becoming more energy efficient. As a result, home ventilation to the outside world has decreased. Any pollutants inside the home become trapped, which leads to poor air quality.

Furniture and building materials are coated with chemicals such as flame retardant. Pet dander and dust can become airborne. Combustion products, such as tobacco, fire places, and appliances can lead to inadequate air quality.

Do you love the fresh laundry smell? Unfortunately, laundry sheets and other household cleaners off-gas volatile chemicals which contribute to poor indoor air quality.

Most home owners have a pest control company spray for insects. Humans should avoid exposure to these poisons, but often are home during treatment. As a result, you might find yourself with a headache because the insect spray causes poor air quality.

If you want to improve home air quality, reduce the pollutants you create within your home! You should also consider changing your home’s furnace filter more often.

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Poor air quality symptoms and health effects

So how do you know if you need to improve home air quality? Check to see if you have any of the following symptoms at home. Do your symptoms go away when you leave the house?

You may have bad air quality if you experience:

  • Unpleasant or musty odor
  • Feel the building is hot or stuffy
  • Exhaustion, feeling tired, or fatigue
  • Asthma, shortness of breath, cough, or fever
  • Legionnaires disease, pneumonia caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria

Bad air quality symptoms aren’t only for your household. You may experience bad air quality at work, school, or any indoor location you frequent.

My wife and I recently discovered poor air quality in our home from an unlikely suspect. We purchased a mint plant and my wife soon began getting headaches. As a result, we removed the plant from our house and the headaches disappeared.

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Home air quality testing

So you think you might have poor air quality in your home, but how do you know for sure? Here are a few different steps you can take to test the quality of your home’s air.

Step #1 – Purchase a home air quality test kit

See it on Amazon

One of the best ways to determine if you have poor air quality is to purchase a home air quality tester. The test kit shown is a sensor that helps monitor formaldehyde, temperature and humidity, micron dust (PM 2.5/10/1.0) and TVOC’s (Volitile Organic Compounds).

This air quality test kit is lightweight and easily portable. As a result, you can take it on vacation and test your hotel room!

The EG Air Quality monitor is one of the best commercially available test kits for home use. It’s easy to read and built for the typical home owner or renter.

EG Air Test Kit Reviews

The above air quality test kit (EG Air) is one of the Best Sellers on Amazon. The test kit is designed to provide real time measurements in the palm of your hand.

At the time of writing this article, the test kit has a 3.9/5 star review with 102 reviews. Overall, the kit receives high ratings, is easy to set up and use. Jason, a verified purchaser, used the test kit to pin point the source of his poor air quality.

Positive air quality test kit review

The EG Air meter allowed Jason to find ceiling tiles which were causing health problems. As a result, he can remove the tiles and improve home air quality.

Like any product, some reviews will be negative. A common theme among negative reviewers is the disbelief the air monitor works or provides accurate measurements.

Some reported receiving a product that didn’t work well, such as a battery that didn’t work. However, most people were satisfied after getting a replacement from the company.

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Step #2 – Check for mold

If you smell a musty odor, there may be a good chance of having mold issues. You can often spot mold as well in humid areas such as your bathroom.

Unfortunately, mold can be a hidden hazard and may require testing. You can do testing yourself or hire a mold inspector to test for you. The cheapest option is to buy a mold test kit, such as the 5 minute mold test.

How to test for mold

See 5 Minute Mold Test on Amazon

The 5 Minute Mold test is an easy to use kit which will help you determine if mold is present in your home. Here is a short video from ACE Hardware that shows the exact steps for mold testing.

See it on YouTube

Step #3 – Install a Carbon Monoxide detector

Carbon monoxide detectors are often standard in homes and for good reason. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that is a byproduct of common household items. Portable generators and charcoal grills are some examples of carbon monoxide producers.

You are often extremely sick by the time you realize that you have carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide does not have any smell, taste, or sound. Your body begins to starve of oxygen without you even being aware. Pets are unable to smell CO and are just as susceptible.

Someone who is exposed to CO will begin to experience flu like symptoms and can be fatal. Symptoms are consistent with oxygen deprivation, such as loss of memory, vision problems, loss of balance, and confusion.

It’s common belief that carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near the floor. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake and CO detectors should be installed near the ceiling. This is because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air.

Step #4 – Hire a professional

Do you feel like you are unable to make a determination about your air quality? Call a professional if you ever have concern. Adverse air quality can significantly impact your health.

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How to improve home air quality

Improve home air quality with plants

Plants are a great way to filter harsh chemicals and promote clean air inside of your home. Avoid over watering in order to avoid mold. According to the NASA Clean Air Study, you should have a house plant for every 100 square feet.

English Ivy

See it on Amazon

The English Ivy (Hedera Helix) works as a ground cover or house plant. Chemicals removed include benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethelyne, xylene and toluene. This plant makes the perfect house plant because it can grow in full shade. Unfortunately, the English Ivy is toxic to pets and should be avoided if you own cats or dogs.

Bamboo Palm

See it on Amazon

The Bamboo Palm filters the same chemicals as the English Ivy, but is more effective. This plant is perfect for entry ways and is often referred to as a parlor plant. Unlike the English Ivy, this plant is safe for pets.

Other great plants include Spider Plant, Snake Plant, and Lilies. For a full list of plants that can improve indoor air quality, please see the NASA Clean Air Study.

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Adjust your homes ventilation system

One of the biggest causes of poor air quality is stagnant air.  When you breath, you convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. Plants do a good job of converting carbon dioxide back into oxygen, but I’m guessing most of us don’t have a ton of plants in our homes.

Related: How to find the best home air filter for your budget

Adjust your dampers

Your homes ventilation system helps move the air, heating and cooling to your desired temperature. However, this ventilation doesn’t do anyone much good if the dampers are shut.

Dampers are often shut because no one wants cold air blown on them. That’s understandable, but you still need proper airflow through your house!

Rather than shutting off airflow to major parts of your house, consider purchasing an air diverter.

An air diverter redirects the air from a damper so it doesn’t blow directly on you. Often times, homes aren’t designed with the homeowner in mind. Sometimes contractors place dampers right above your ideal couch spot. Diverters will help with this problem, allowing you to keep circulation flowing.

You should also consider running your HVAC fan 24/7. The fan in your HVAC unit is designed to circulate air throughout your house. The more air that circulates, the more air runs through your home’s HVAC filter.

More dust, dander, and filth particles are filtered out with constant fan circulation. This brings me to my next point, you should buy and install quality furnace filters.

Buy quality furnace filters

A good quality HVAC filter makes all the difference when it comes to filtering out particulate. It may be tempting to buy a cheap filter, but you’ll breath the difference.

I typically buy Nordic Pure AC and Furnace Air Filters. The first thing you need to do is get the dimensions of your furnace filters (Just check the old filter).

Nordic Pure filter dimensions

One thing you should note is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value or MERV. The higher the MERV value the better your filter will be at filtering smaller particles. Nordic Pure offers a variety of filters, including a Carbon HVAC filter for eliminating home odors.

Related: How do I change my home’s furnace filter?

Supplement with Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are one of my favorite ways to improve the air quality in my home. I can leave the purifiers on 24/7, allowing them to continuously cycle the air in my home, capturing dust and dander.

See it on Amazon.

The above air purifier is an example of one I keep in my own home. I keep one in my main living space and one in my bedroom, the two rooms I spend the most amount of time in. It’s amazing how much dirt is captured in a matter of weeks!

Just like your furnace filter, an air purifier will require filter changings or cleaning. Change your filter if you experience any symptoms of a dirty air filter.

Eliminate dust and dander by cleaning floors

One of the biggest problems with your air supply is dust and dander, which floats through the air. These particles can get trapped in your lungs, causing health problems.

One of the best things you can do is take preventative maintenance by ensuring you have clean floors. Dust settles on the ground, only to be kicked up when we walk through a room.

Personally, I don’t have the time, energy, or patience to vacuum and mop every day. Because of this, the roomba is the perfect solution for home dust control.

See it on Amazon.

I can set the roomba to vacuum for me when I’m away at work. When I come home, the house is vacuumed and the roomba is back at it’s charging station.

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Reduce humidity with dehumidifiers

See it on Amazon

Dehumidifiers reduce the humidity of your home which helps reduce and prevent mold. Mold is extremely hazardous to your health and is extremely common in humid areas.

The most common areas you will experience mold is in your bathrooms. Leaking pipes can cause mold to grow unexpectedly throughout the walls, crawlspace, floors, and ceiling of your home.

Because mold can hide, it can pollute your homes air without you even knowing. Dehumidifiers are one of the most effective ways you can reduce humidity, reduce chances of mold, and improve your air quality.

Still not convinced on purchasing a dehumidifier? Check out the 8 benefits of owning a humidifier.

Other tips to reduce air humidity

Owning a dehumidifier is one of the best ways to lower humidity and prevent mold. However, other options exist for reducing home humidity.

  1. Run exhaust fans – Ensure when you cook or shower the exhaust fans are turned on. Make sure the exhaust fans work and are cleaned as to not restrict airflow.
  2. Boston FernsBoston Ferns are another plant which not only helps promote clean air, but reduces humidity as well. Consider adding a Boston Fern or two in your bathroom.
  3. Take cold showers – Hot showers introduce more water vapor into the air than cold showers. Reducing the temperature will also lower your chance of having mold issues.
  4. Open windows – Opening windows will help create more airflow, removing water vapor from your home.
  5. Dry your shower – After your shower, wipe down any remaining moisture with your towel.

The most important mold prevention tip I can give you is to reduce how much water you introduce to your house. The more water vapor, the greater the chances of mold.

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Chemical free cleaning

As we mentioned earlier, cleaning with harsh chemicals creates a horrible air quality around your home. Your harsh bathroom cleaner will continue to off-gas for days after cleaning, leaving behind airborne chemicals to breath in.

I recommend cleaning your home with a natural all purpose cleaner. Believe it or not, you do not need 30 different chemicals for every surface in your house. At the most, you’ll need an all purpose cleaner, stainless steel cleaner, and window cleaner.

See it on Amazon.

The cleaner shown above is an all purpose cleaner made with essential oils and plant-derived ingredients. Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaner is a better alternative to harsh chemical cleaners and will help keep your air quality high.

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Summary: How to improve home air quality

Home air quality isn’t something that should be neglected. Failure to take control over the air you breath can lead to some serious health concerns. Should you feel that your air quality is at risk, take these steps:

  • Understand most indoor air problems can come from poor building ventilation, mold from high humidity, and dust and dander.
  • You can check with the Environmental Protection Agency to see if a certain event, such as a fire, is affecting air quality near you.
  • Poor air quality can come from within your home. Stop using dangerous chemicals, pest control products, and combustible products.
  • Ventilate your house as much as possible. Open windows and ensure your dampers are open. Change your HVAC filter and supplement with air purifiers. Keep dust and dander down by vacuuming often, use a roomba if necessary.
  • Keep mold away by reducing your homes humidity. A dehumidifier is the best way to reduce water vapor in your home.
  • Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer. Install a CO2 alarm in your house, preferable towards the ceiling.
  • Go all natural when it comes to cleaning products. Natural products do not produce the same dangerous off-gas as harsh chemicals.

If you are interested in learning more about your air quality rights at work, please refer to OSHA indoor air quality guidelines. You can also check out our guide on how to have a dust free home.

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

What steps are you taking to improve your air quality at home? What tip from the article did you like the best?