Temps are dropping here in MetroWest and for most of us, that signals the seasons we spend more time indoors. Fortunately, we live in a world that is more conscious of the effects of nutrition and movement on our bodies and minds. We do talk about air quality outside - and how quality is impacted by humidity, wildfires, and more. But there’s not a lot of dialogue about indoor air quality since the height of the COVID pandemic, yet, it IS important to think about, especially with many folks working remotely from home these days. Here are some basics to address:
This one is super important because it can quickly be deadly! If you were selling your Massachusetts home, you would be required to bring your house into compliance for both carbon monoxide and smoke/fire detection. Yet compliance, and health and safety, deserve attention ALL the time - not just when a home changes ownership. Your detection devices should not be more than 10 years old. Placement of the detectors is important. The state’s requirements for when selling a one or two family residence are here, but you can also find information on your own town’s website or your local fire prevention office. There are contractors who specialize in compliance, and can help you to purchase and install what’s correct for the age and remodel of your home.
Your Heating System
Annual maintenance is key here. That, and changing filters as recommended by the manufacturer. Check your filter supply and stock up on what you’ll need for the next 8 months. If you have a humidifier attached to your warm air system, you should be hyper vigilant about the clean condition of that accessory; it’s easy for humidifiers to add harmful bacteria along with the moisture. There are mixed opinions on the benefits or effectiveness of duct cleaning, and there are so many duct-cleaning scammers online these days. If you suspect your ducts need cleaning and that it’s not a furnace/filter issue, the best advice is to get recommendations for local service providers from your friends and neighbors with actual positive experience.
What is it? According to the EPA, it’s a carcinogenic, radioactive gas that can be found in the ground and can enter your home both in the air and in your water. Testing your air space for radon is super easy with a kit you can purchase online (example here). There are also professional inspectors who can place a monitoring device in your home for 48 hours and then instantly provide you with a “ticker tape” of the readings recorded over that duration of time. Well water can be tested for radon (along with a host of other quality ratings). Radon in the air can be mitigated with a system that costs, on average, $1000 - $1500 to install; if you already have a radon mitigation system in your home, just keep an eye on the fan and the gage. Know that without mitigation, radon readings can swing drastically depending on the season and weather conditions, so it’s wise to test in the winter if you recorded a borderline result in the summer, and also to test at least every few years. Note that radon is sneaky, and it’s possible to have it even when all your neighbors on the cul-de-sac do not.
The VERY wet summer we’ve just had means every homeowner should get proactive about looking for mold! It’s not a given that you would smell it, and certain types of mold can be toxic and very damaging to your body and your cognitive abilities. The most common locations for mold growth are in the basement, and in poorly ventilated attics, but mold can grow anywhere. If you’ve had a water-entry event in your home, or if you find anything that looks suspicious - do not handle it yourself. Contact a mold remediation or environmental specialist to identify the source, assess the extent of the growth, and remediate the conditions. I’m a big fan of professional home inspections, as trained and licensed inspectors can alert you to any problem areas that need to be further evaluated. Contact me for a list of inspectors that my clients have hired with satisfaction.
Are you burning wood in your fireplace? Do you have oil heat? Make sure a professional chimney cleaning and inspection is on your annual home maintenance calendar.
As a lifelong New Englander, I can tell you that I have NEVER met a suburban or rural homeowner here who has never had a mouse in the house. The little buggers squeeze into the teeniest space to get warm once the temperatures dip. But know this - mouse droppings can harbor bacteria and viruses that can cause various kinds of sicknesses in humans. Several of these illnesses may be serious or even fatal for some people. Mouse droppings are most likely to cause disease when found in high concentrations or areas without steady ventilation, such as attics or basements. A small problem can become a big problem fairly quickly, and you’re wise to act fast when you start to see the evidence. A good pest control company will give you earth-friendly solutions that do not involve rodenticide.
Carpets, Candles, and more!
And so many of us are catapulted to feelings of cozy warmth by the scent of apple pie baking, or mulled cider, or a raked pile of leaves. It’s Fall, y’all! Not to rain on that pumpkin spice parade, but … there IS much recent publicity around the harmful effects of synthetic scents - the “disruptors” that you may find in candles and sprays. And we’ve known for some time that carpets are probably the world’s most efficient harbor for dirt, hair, and all manner of indoor/outdoor bacteria that can be imagined. Pay attention to your body, your headaches, and your eyesight now that the windows are shut - and eliminate allergens and causal decor where you find it!
Before setting those clocks back an hour and getting cozy for winter, make sure your home has a clean-air bill of health. If you need professional referrals or additional information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.