Ventilation is the key
By Roy Nandram
The pandemic has changed the way people live, work, and study in Canada and around the world. Many of us have transitioned to working at home. Children are being home-schooled and elderly parents and adult children are moving back in with us. We’re cooking more at home, and in general, we are all spending more hours at home than we did pre-pandemic. These changes are forcing us to renovate our homes to meet these needs. And because of the pandemic, the majority of these renovations are being done while people are living in their homes. It is for these reasons that we need to look at ways to protect our home’s indoor air quality, especially during renovations.
A typical home today contains more than 60 toxic biological and non-biological chemicals. These are caused by items such as household cleaning products, personal care products, carpets, furniture, smoking, and cooking. And then there is pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, dead skin that falls off the body of humans and pets, bacteria, viruses, radon, and the dust that is generated in renovations.
Ventilation is the key to improving indoor air quality within existing homes and during renovations. With the increase in the number of people in the home and the increased time spent indoors in addition to doing renovations, experts recommend that you check your filter weekly. If you can’t see light coming through the filter, it’s time to change it.
If you are renovating by removing drywall or creating an addition, be sure you are not exposing yourself to asbestos. It is very important to test for asbestos before starting any renovations that involve tearing down walls.
Testing for radon is also important. To get the most accurate results, it’s best to test in the winter when the windows and doors are closed. Radon gas migrates from the soil into the basement of homes and is considered to be a serious risk to the building’s occupants. Since radon is undetectable by human senses, the only way to measure radon levels is through radon testing. (To find a radon test kit, visit takeactiononradon.ca.)
Ensure that when your renovation contractor is selecting materials, they choose low volatile organic compound (VOCs) materials. VOCs are chemicals found in everyday products which have the potential to change into the gas phase and contaminate indoor air (off-gassing). VOCs can be found in many household products such as paints, vinyl, adhesives, cleaning products, computers, and more. For example, paints are a major source of VOCs but with growing awareness virtually all paint manufacturers now offer no-VOC or low-VOC paint lines.
During renovations experts recommend you create a separation between the renovation area and the rest of the home by using a temporary plastic barrier. This will help control the spread of dust. It’s also important to protect your ductwork system from dust by covering your return air vents with filters.
What are some everyday best practices you can put in place?
Installing a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) (like the lungs of your home) is a great way to constantly bring fresh air into your home. Running your furnace fan and HRV/ERV 24/7 will improve your home’s indoor air quality. Using a good-quality furnace filter and changing your furnace filter frequently can also make a big difference.
You can also improve your indoor air quality by growing indoor plants. Indoor plants naturally clean and freshen the air by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Plants can also remove many common indoor air pollutants. Bring greenery such as English Ivy, Aloe Vera, and Peace Lily (only three of many air-purifying plants) into your home to help reduce levels of various indoor air pollutants.
All these strategies will help ensure your home is a more comfortable place to work and live during your home renovations.
Roy Nandram is president of RND Construction.