Most of us think of a dusty house as an annoyance – yet another task to add to our already long to-do list.
But excessive dust can also be the sign of a bigger problem: a poor performing home.
While some components of household dust are relatively harmless (like human dander, animal fur, food debris, lint, and tracked-in dirt), insidious things lurk in it as well, such as lead, fire retardants, pesticides, arsenic, fiberglass insulation, and other highly toxic or allergenic substances.
Household Dust Can Trigger Asthma & Allergies
The connection between indoor air quality and health concerns is irrefutable. For the more than 26 million American who suffer from asthma, dust mites, which feed on shed skin, produce allergens that can trigger an attack.
Many people don’t realize that indoor air can often be more dangerous than the air outside. How? One culprit is off-gassing from many of the products used to build, furnish, decorate, and clean our spaces. And with today’s “tighter” construction, less fresh air finds its way into the home to help reduce these off-gassing chemicals.
Another cause of poor indoor air quality is leaky heating ducts. Envision your duct system as the arteries of your home, pushing out about the same amount of air (from the furnace) that it pulls in (from the intake return).
In the duct system of a home designed with a modern understanding of building science, the rooms are all part of that system, as the furnace and intake work in tandem to push and pull air throughout the house.
If leaky ducts cause you to lose, say, 30 percent of air blowing from the furnace into your crawl space, the same amount coming from the heating system will still be pulled in through the intake return. Now that air, in your depressurized home, is coming in through the paths of least resistance: can lights, electrical outlets – even plumbing penetrations.
That extra air also passes through the insulation in your walls or ceilings, bringing with it tiny fiberglass insulation particles.
There’s no question that the air we breathe makes a vast difference in our health. Lessening the dust and allergens in your home is one of the most important steps you can take to increase your and your family’s health and comfort.
You probably already know a few things you can do to help ease the dust in the average home:
- Change your furnace filter regularly.
- Wash bedding weekly.
- Sweep, damp mop, and vacuum frequently (and clean the vacuum bag and HEPA filter often, so picked-up dust isn’t expelled right back into the air).
- Keep closets tidy – and don’t forget to regularly vacuum these dust-magnet spaces, as well.
- Do not allow smoking inside your home.
- Capture dust when cleaning, rather than just spreading it around; use a damp cloth or microfiber cloth, which traps the dust and holds it.
- Beat rugs and carpets with a broom or tennis racket outdoors, draped over a fence, porch railing or clothesline – don’t forget couch cushions and pillows, as well.
- And remember the walls: At least every few months, wipe down walls, trim and baseboards with microfiber cloths.
These are all common sense steps for a clean, healthier home. But in a poor performing home, these good habits alone won’t be enough to tackle the dusty issue.
Calling in the Professionals: The Home and Duct Performance Assessment
If someone has a squeaky floor, the solution is a simple nail – but the skill is in knowing where to put that nail.
“Some guy walks in and looks around, pounds a nail, and then gives you a bill for a hundred dollars,” says Chris Baisch of Barron Heating. “You’re not paying for the nail or the time: You’re paying for the breadth of understanding and knowledge of where that nail goes – rather than pounding nails all over the house.”
Barron Heating’s motto is: Test, don’t guess. So the first step to solving any issues in your home is to have a home and duct performance assessment, which will identify where the air and any accompanying contaminants are coming from, and how best to control them.
A Barron Home Performance Expert has been trained above and beyond the usual HVAC expectations and has the knowledge to pinpoint problems – and solutions – in a poor performing home.
A Home and Duct Performance Assessment is different from an energy audit. Changes suggested by one of Barron’s experts will make your home more energy efficient, but the focus is on making it healthier and more comfortable, answering the “whys” of a home’s issues. Why is the indoor air quality poor? Why is there dust? Why are you losing energy in the home?
“And rather than just throwing a bigger filter, a bigger furnace, a different version of equipment at a problem,” says Baisch, “a Barron home performance expert has access to powerful tools – blower doors, infrared cameras, all of the diagnostic tools available – to identify the issue, support their findings, and give the customer confidence in the suggested end result.”
Each home is unique, and so are the findings and recommendations by Barron’s team, but common solutions to quelling heavy dust and allergens in the home include:
- Air sealing the duct system
- Insulating the duct system
- Air sealing attic floor and crawl space ceiling
- Air sealing leaks from inside the home
- Adding a fresh air duct to the heating system
- Installing whole house ventilation (timer-driven exhaust fans)
- Installing an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
- Crawl space renovation and clean up
- Insulating floors, walls, and ceilings