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With power plants belching smog and cars choking the air with exhaust fumes, it’s best to batten down the hatches and stay indoors, right? Not so fast. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air you breathe indoors can be as much as two to five times worse than polluted outdoor air. So what’s the health-conscious homeowner to do? Here are a few tips to improve the quality of the air you breathe indoors.

Change Your Air Filters Often

Air filters on HVAC units do a great job of trapping indoor air pollutants like dust and pet dander, but they don’t last forever. Most fill up within a few weeks or so. To avoid putting undue strain on your furnace and unhealthy amounts of allergens into the air you breathe, be sure to change your air filter regularly—once a month if you’re particularly keen on cracking down.

Keep Humidity Levels Balanced

Often overlooked, humidity levels are a central factor in indoor air quality. Air with low humidity can literally suck up the moisture in your skin and throat, increasing your susceptibility to illness. Allow humidity to rise too high, and you’ve got another problem: mold and mildew. To protect yourself, you’ll want to achieve that Goldilocks zone of around 30 to 50 percent humidity. To lower humidity, use a dehumidifier or turn on the air conditioner. If the air is too dry, vaporizers and humidifiers can usually fix the problem. Consider installing gauges to better monitor your humidity levels.

Open Windows and Ventilate

Remember when we said that the air outside is cleaner than the air you breathe indoors? Well, it’s true. Whenever possible, open up your windows and let that fresh Virginia air in. Install fans around your home to further boost air circulation. If it’s stormy or cold outside, you can still ventilate your home by opening up the vent control on your HVAC unit and by turning on the vent fans in your kitchen and bathrooms.

Eliminate Other Sources of Pollution

From shedding cats to cleaning products, the sources of indoor air pollution are many—and often surprising. Fortunately, you’re not powerless to resist them. If you have carpet, prevent the buildup of allergens by vacuuming often and scheduling frequent cleanings from a qualified service. Air ducts from central air units come in contact with all of the air in your home, so be sure to have them inspected and cleaned if necessary. Of course, carbon monoxide is always a concern in any home where fossil fuels are burned. Keep those CO detectors running and in good condition.

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