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December 2017

Stay Healthy This Winter With a Little Help from Your Indoor Air Quality Experts!

portable humidifier

If you are new to Canada's notorious winter weather, you may be understandably taken aback the first time a real winter cold front rolls in.

According to the Government of Canada, Canada can dish out extreme weather—to the level at which it takes some deliberate actions on the part of newcomers to adjust successfully.

But even if you are a veteran of Canada winters, it is always good to take a fresh look at your preparations. Are you doing enough to winterize your home to stay healthy and save as much as possible on heating costs? Is the indoor air you are breathing as germ- and toxin-free as it can possibly be?

In this article, we share two vital indoor air quality tips to help you stay healthy this winter.

Hydrate for Respiratory Health

When the weather here in Ontario gets warm, it usually isn’t a problem to stay hydrated. This is because it is often also quite humid during the warm season here.

Humidity can easily reach 60 percent or greater, which keeps your skin, tissues, and respiratory passages nice and moist to trap and repel airborne pollen and germs.

But in winter, as the temperature plunges, the humidity level typically does the same. This is actually one of the main reasons why winter has become synonymous with "cold and flu season."

Without sufficient moisture in the air to keep your nasal and respiratory passages moist and lubricated with mucus, your body is less well able to fight off germs. In winter, it is not uncommon for humidity levels to drop to 20 percent or lower. Running your heater will dry out your indoor air even further, leaving you prey to all kinds of health issues.

Here, your goal will be to keep winter humidity levels inside your home between 30 and 50 percent to keep your body hydrated. To do this, you will need to add back moisture to your indoor air.

Here are five methods that can work well to accomplish this, depending on your budget and the size of your space:

  1. Don't use your exhaust vent when you shower or take a bath. If you allow the humidity to build up and then open the door as soon as you have finished bathing, this will allow the steam to infuse your indoor air and raise the humidity levels.

  2. Boil a pot of water on the stove. Not only will a pot of boiling water release steam into the air, but if you add a cinnamon stick or some citrus peel, your home will smell lovely naturally!

  3. Place a heat-safe bowl filled with water on top of your radiator. This has an effect similar to boiling water on the stove. The heat from the radiator unit will vaporize the water and disperse humidity into the air in that room.

  4. Use a portable humidifier. If anyone in your family struggles with allergies or asthma, using a portable humidifier in that person's bedroom and/or in general living areas can help reduce symptoms.

  5. Install a whole home humidifier. A whole home humidifier can work with your furnace system to balance indoor winter humidity levels. A dehumidifier can do the same in summer.

Ventilate to Oxygenate Your Body

Oxygen is vital for every cell in your body. With each exhale, you release your body's main by-product, carbon dioxide, back into the air. In an airtight, enclosed space, this will shift the balance in the air from oxygen-rich to carbon dioxide-rich.

Common symptoms of oxygen-poor indoor air include headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, sweating, a rise in heart rate, irritability, fatigue and anxiety, among others. These symptoms, in turn, activate your immune system, which in time will become fatigued battling a problem (oxygen deprivation) it cannot hope to correct.

This leaves your body more vulnerable to airborne germs and allergens, which for many of us ends predictably with a bout of winter cold and/or flu.

Oxygen-poor indoor air is a particular issue in winter, since most people don't even consider opening doors or windows when the weather outside is cold, rainy or snowy. As well, you will likely be more inclined to stay indoors, where you will continue depleting the same indoor air of oxygen.

Here are four of the best methods to re-oxygenate through ventilation this winter, depending on your budget and the size of your space:

  1. Close the door to one room and then open a window. Select a windowed room. Close the door and the air register. Then open the window and set a timer for 30 minutes. After that time, close the window and then open the door to let the fresh, oxygen-rich outside air filter into your home.

  2. Continue to run your fans, but in reverse mode. Ceiling fans generally have a switch that reverses the blades in winter. This serves to pull the cool air up and push the warm air down to even out the temperature. But its more important function is to keep the air moving throughout your home so no one room becomes too depleted of oxygen.

  3. Add houseplants to your indoor space. Plants "breathe" carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen as their waste product. This makes plants the perfect addition to keep your home oxygenated!

  4. Install a heat or energy recovery ventilator to provide whole home ventilation. As Natural Resources Canada explains, a heat/energy recovery ventilator (HRV/ERV) is a useful appliance for keeping your indoor air fresh and oxygenated year-round. If your home isn't ducted, you can even install separate ducting to run your HRV!

Give Us a Call

Need help staying healthy this winter? Give us a call at 877.885.3403!

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