Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too. Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in home products have increased drastically, while homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.
How pollutants get into our homes
Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. Mold is a VOC that can build up in the dampest parts of your home like the laundry room or crawl spaces. Another example is the “new car smell” that seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.
Many materials used to build a home contain chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, ethanol, and acetone, and even lead. VOCs can also be in the form of pet dander or dust. Fortunately, VOCs from building materials dissipate over time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.
How to reduce VOCs in your home
Choose your building materials wisely
- – Use tile or solid wood for flooring—hardwood, bamboo, or cork
- – Choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
- – Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes
Purify the air
- – Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, air out newly renovated areas for at least a week
- – Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly
- – Install air cleaners if needed
- – Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals
- – Plants are a natural solution to help clean the air
- – Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner
Pick the right carpet
- – Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal
- – Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet
- – Install carpet LAST after completing painting projects or wall coverings
- – Air out newly carpeted areas before using
- – Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors
- – Clean up water leaks fast
- – Keep humidity below 60 percent, using dehumidifiers if necessary
- – Refrain from carpeting rooms that stay damp
- – Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation
- – Use one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water to kill mold in its early stages
If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/.
Choosing less space often has to do with a desire to live a life that’s simpler. Whether you’re retiring, want an eco-friendly, low-maintenance lifestyle or your children have moved away, downsizing might be the best option for you. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to consider before making the move and questions to begin asking yourself now.
- Increased cash flow.
- Spend less on your mortgage payment and you are likely to have more money leftover for other needs or desires.
- More time.
- Cut down on time spent on household chores such as cleaning and vacuuming which will leave you with more hours in the day to do something more enjoyable.
- Lower utility bills.
- Costs less to heat and air condition a small home.
- Less square footage decreases the amount of energy expended.
- Reducing energy is better for the environment and it helps keep your home green.
- Reduced consumption.
- You would likely buy less since you won’t necessarily have the room for it.
- Minimized stress.
- Homeowners who have successfully downsized often feel happier because they are no longer overwhelmed by the demands of a larger home.
- Less responsibility, less housework to do, increased cash flow and flexibility equals reduced stress.
- Fewer belongings.
- Moving into a smaller space would mean you would need to give away or donate furniture, books, kitchen supplies, etc.
- No room for guests.
- Hosting holiday dinners might be out of the question for a smaller home.
- Space restrictions.
- Less space means you could feel cramped.
- Lifestyle changes.
- For long-term homeowners, downsizing means changing a lifestyle.
What to consider before downsizing
These questions are important to ask yourself because for some people, downsizing may not be the best option for them.
- Does size matter to me?
- Think about how much your identity is wrapped in your house.
- Is it important for you to have a guest room or a second bathroom?
- Will I miss some important things about a more spacious home?
- Will moving into a smaller home feel like a step backward?
- How will other life events affect my living in a smaller home?
- Consider possible scenarios you may not expect such as adult children moving back home or if you plan to add a child.
The Cost to You
- How much will it cost to replace the furniture?
- When you move into a smaller home this means you might have to downsize your furniture to make room.
- How much will it cost to get rid of the stuff I don’t need or won’t fit?
- It’s important to have a plan for how you’re going to sell or give away the things you don’t need.
- Consider things like family heirlooms. What are you going to do with all your antiques or treasures that your smaller home may not be able to accommodate?
- How much will I get when I sell my current home, and will it help cover the cost of buying my new home?
If you know downsizing is the right option for you, you’re probably asking yourself, “Should I sell first and then buy or buy first and then sell?”. When you’re ready to discuss your options, talk to an experienced Real Estate Agent.
Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, answers the most pressing question on everyone’s minds: Will there be a recession in 2020? Here’s what he expects to see.