Difficulty Breathing in Your Home? Learn How to Reduce Your Exposure to Harmful Particulate Matter

As I am typing this article I’m noticing one thing below my hands on the black keyboard: dust. Even though my home is cleaned on a regular basis and I do my best to minimize what enters the house there is always some sort of particulate matter floating around and settling on everything. These particles come in varying sizes and most are innocuous, but the larger particles can be a nuisance to your lungs as they enter and settle there, causing breathing problems and other difficulties.

Sources of Problem Particles

Everyday in your home – especially during the winter months when your house is basically sealed shut and you’re not outside as much – particles abound, and their sources are many. A most interesting (and icky) source is from you yourself; that being the hair and skin flakes that drop from you daily. They also fall from any pets you may have as well. This source is a hard one to eliminate. Also, particles enter from the outside every time you open the front door or a window. As well, dust is generated by smoking, washing your clothes, burning incense, well, basically by any activity you can imagine. We’ve all certainly seen copious amounts of dust on everything and feather dusting is not the answer as it merely tosses it around the room only to land somewhere else. You need to vacuum it up or wash it off. The biggest health risk comes from respirable particles. Some sources include: smoking; viruses and bacteria. Hence, if someone in your home catches a cold, every one sooner-or-later invariably catches it (again, especially in winter).

Furnaces and Filters

Nearly all forced air gas furnaces work on the principle of drawing cold air in and blowing warm air out. The air is usually drawn in from both the outside (particularly for high-efficiency models) and the inside of your home. Naturally by drawing air from in through the cold air return in your home, it also draws in everything else such as pet hair, smoke, and dust. Note: Electric baseboard heating and radiator heating do not utilize ductwork, thereby they do not draw dust into them and send it swirling around your home.

So, with all of this particulate matter being sucked into your furnace and ultimately blown back out through the vents and around the home, your choice of an appropriate filter is an important one. In my home I use a 4 inch pleated media filter. It’s large but seems to catch a lot of unwanted dust and hair. I also replace it every year and clean it out regularly – especially during the winter months. Remember, your furnace needs to run as well in the summer if you have central air conditioning, and again draws in various particulate matter.

Other filters include: a 1 inch version of the media filter. HEPA filters are popular as well as electronic plates and wire. Regardless of the one you eventually decide upon it is crucial to keep it clean and replace – as I do – on a yearly basis. Another reason to keep it clean is that your furnace can become starved of air which it needs to properly combust.

Reducing Undesired Particles

So, you have an excellent filter in place and you keep your home spotless – all good! But, how can you reduce, and keep dust and particles down in the first place? Unfortunately, pets are a concern area, and keeping them outside helps a great deal. I know when my cat was alive (he lived to be 25 years old!) my den – as that’s where he loved to hang out – was always filled with his hair so I had to keep it extra clean, as well as keeping him combed out.

I know in the winter it’s a challenge, but ask smokers to puff outside. Also, upon entering the home always remove footwear so as not to tread debris around. Do diligent cleaning and vacuuming, and always wipe down sources of dust from bookshelves, televisions etc. Improve your homes air tightness so that what’s floating around outside doesn’t make it to the inside. And, the last suggestion is to get and use a good quality furnace filter.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to get a damp cloth, and clean off this keyboard!! And, I think I’ll do my desk again as well.