New homes today are built much tighter than older houses. While this improves energy efficiency, trapped stale air can lower the indoor air quality in your home. Watch this video to find ways to reduce pollution and improve the indoor air quality in your home.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality:
- Vacuuming: Use a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner or install a central vacuum system.
- Kitchen Range Hood: Install a range hood, such as those from NuTone, that’s vented to the outside; and use it whenever you cook.
- Bath Exhaust Fan: Install bathroom vent fans vented to the outside and use them during and for 20 minutes after taking a bath or shower.
- HVAC Filter: Install a high quality air filter on your heating/cooling system and replace it regularly; or install a whole house air purification system, such as the Infinity Air Purifier from Carrier.
- Houseplants: Grow houseplants in your home—such as bamboo palm, snake plant, peace lily, and philodendron—that absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air and release oxygen.
Read episode article to find out more.
- Improving Indoor Air Quality in Your Home (article)
- Choosing Air Filters to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution (article)
- Best Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air Quality (article)
- How to Replace a Kitchen Range Hood (video)
- How to Replace a Bath Vent Fan (video)
Danny Lipford: There’s more to fixing up a fixer-upper than new paint and wallpaper, so this week on Today’s Homeowner we’re creating a safe and healthy home.
Someone is going to have to get in the attic. What do you think?
Allen Lyle: Oh, come on.
Danny Lipford: My friend Tom Blizzard is an interesting guy. By day he fixes up old houses for fun and profit, but at night he’s the front man for a big band, crooning those hits from decades past.
Tom Blizzard: Thank you very much.
Danny Lipford: Now over the years, we’ve worked together a time or two. But now he has a new old house, and he’s recently gotten married, so this renovation will include his wife Aubrey and their dog Franklin.
Aubrey Blizzard: Don’t tell daddy.
Tom Blizzard: Well, it’s a great house. There’s a lot of stuff that’s been done to it to update it a little bit. But mostly for us, we just want to make it…
Aubrey Blizzard: Our…
Tom Blizzard: …our home, and a healthier home, and a more comfortable home. We have issues with carpet and 40, 50-year-old bathrooms and stuff.
Aubrey Blizzard: Our master bathroom has probably my least favorite wallpaper I’ve ever seen in my life.
Tom Blizzard: It’s a little busy.
Aubrey Blizzard: They covered the baseboard, everything.
Tom Blizzard: They covered the cabinets. Everything is covered in this wallpaper. So these are things that I really never worried about much before that you really want to take care of—the cleanliness and the dust and the ventilation and the mildew and the mold.
Aubrey Blizzard: And with my environmental allergies…
Tom Blizzard: With her allergies and stuff. Those are the kind of things I’m focusing on now, where before it was, you know, paint this and make it look good.
Danny Lipford: So we’re here to help Tom with that task.
Well, now, what are some of the things that concern you about the house? You’ve been in here a couple of months.
Aubrey Blizzard: Right.
Danny Lipford: What are some things that are bugging you?
Aubrey Blizzard: Well, I’ve noticed—I have allergies—and I’ve noticed that since we’ve been here…
Tom Blizzard: She has more allergies.
Danny Lipford: Oh, really.
Aubrey Blizzard: Yeah, they’ve acted up a little bit.
Danny Lipford: This might be a little bit of the problem.
Tom Blizzard: This carpet is just—you can’t keep it clean.
Danny Lipford: Now, what type of vacuum cleaner? That’s a strange question, but it’s some type of canister vacuum, I assume?
Tom Blizzard: No. We’ve tried everything we’ve got a triple HEPA thing that you’ve got to give it a bath after.
Danny Lipford: Well, the HEPA filters are good. That’s better than some of the other canister vacuums. But really the absolute best, if you are going to have carpet, is to use a central vac system. They are fantastic because instead of recirculating that air when you’re vacuuming, it exhausts it all the way to the outside. So no need for a filter, and it all goes right outside.
Aubrey Blizzard: Oh, that’s great.
Danny Lipford: These two tell me they don’t really cook that much because the range hood is so incredibly loud, among its other issues.
Tom Blizzard: Don’t turn it on.
Danny Lipford: Don’t turn it on?
Tom Blizzard: No.
Danny Lipford: Oh, OK. Why?
Tom Blizzard: Well, I don’t know if there’s a damper issue, but we noticed when we moved in that just a column of hot air pouring out of this thing. So what we’ve actually done is we’ve got cardboard and rags. You can feel the heat now, see?
Danny Lipford: So apparently there’s not a damper on that vent.
Tom Blizzard: Or nowhere something.
Danny Lipford: Huh. Well, that’s not good summer or winter.
Tom Blizzard: No.
Danny Lipford: We’re going to have to do something about that. But speaking of the bathroom. Exhaust fan in there, I guess, OK?
Tom Blizzard: Well…
Aubrey Blizzard: What fan?
Danny Lipford: Oh, there’s no fan in your bathroom?
Aubrey Blizzard: There actually is not.
Tom Blizzard: No, not in that one.
Aubrey Blizzard: The bathroom has not been updated in a while.
Danny Lipford: All right! Look at the wallpaper here.
Aubrey Blizzard: Yeah.
Danny Lipford: It’s probably one of Tom’s favorite rooms here, huh?
Tom Blizzard: Did you bring your reading glasses?
Danny Lipford: Yeah, I could read a little bit here. So, so no vent ever?
Tom Blizzard: Well, there was a window here, I think, before this addition was put on.
Danny Lipford: Oh, I got you. And you’ve got an attic above here, right?
Tom Blizzard: Oh, yeah. Nice open space.
Danny Lipford: So with that and all the switches you have and this being an interior wall, we can get a switch down in there. And that would be something that we really need to do. I’m surprised the wallpaper actually is staying on there because a lot of times with that much moisture, it’ll peel right off, so…
Tom Blizzard: I could only wish.
Danny Lipford: Our next stop—the heating and cooling system.
We’ll look in here and see what you’ve got. Oh, somebody has been in here with a foam can, huh?
Tom Blizzard: I was trying to seal it up to keep it from sucking air out of the walls.
Danny Lipford: That’s great. OK, so the filter—now, Aubrey, has he changed the filter since you guys have been married two months ago?
Aubrey Blizzard: He has.
Danny Lipford: He has?
Aubrey Blizzard: He has, believe it or not.
Danny Lipford: That’s cool. So any system on remembering when to change the filter?
Tom Blizzard: Well, for me, I write the date on the filter.
Danny Lipford: How do you know it’s this year?
Tom is more conscientious than most homeowners about his return air filter. But if he wants to take it a step further, he might consider a whole-house air cleaning purification device like the Infinity Air Purifier from Carrier.
It connects directly to the air handler, and features a large surface area filter that is electrically charged. As particles enter the purifier, they’re also given an electrical charge so they’re attracted to the filter and held there like a magnet, allowing the electrical charge in the filter to actively kill or deactivate bacteria and viruses into particles, including the kind that causes common colds and flu.
Joe Truini: This roll of masking tape has given me trouble all day long, and it’s because it’s an older roll of tape. I’m trying to save it—it cost almost $5.00 to buy originally. But every time I try to peel off a piece, you can see it’s coming off in strands.
And it eventually is trying to get to where it’s wide again, and it just keeps tearing. So I think it’s because the adhesive is really old. There it is. Then I finally got to—look at all the tape I’ve wasted already—then it keeps ripping on me.
So I think what I’m going to do—this is a trick I’ve tried a couple of times, it works probably about half the time I’ve tried it, so I’m going to try it with this old roll—is putting it in a microwave oven for a few seconds to heat it up.
I put a piece of paper towel down just so I don’t get any adhesive on the glass tray. I’m going to give it 10 seconds. That’s all you need, depending on how old it is, so there you go. If it’s an older roll and the glue is really hard, you might want to give it a few more seconds.
But I’ve done this maybe four or five times; and it’s worked, like I said, maybe two or three times—about half the time. But it’s worth it, because like I said, this masking tape gets pretty expensive.
It’s just warm enough. You can feel it. And now look at that. All it took was 10 seconds and this roll is like good as new.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re helping newlyweds, Tom and Aubrey, make their home a little safer and a healthier place. And we’re getting started with the range hood in the kitchen.
All right, Tom, how we doing, man?
Tom Blizzard: Great. How’s it going?
Danny Lipford: OK. We got a brand-new range hood for you. This should be pretty easy for us to put in, it being the same size, having the vent there, all of that. So that’s one thing we’re going to do. Of course, we talked about putting the bath exhaust fan in, in the bath that has no exhaust fan at all.
Tom Blizzard: Right.
Danny Lipford: So I think we can take care of this, but someone is going to have to get in the attic and start working that vent and putting that exhaust fan in. What do you think?
Allen Lyle: Oh, come on.
Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We got this. No problem. Yeah.
Allen Lyle: Thanks.
Danny Lipford: We’ll handle it, Allen. No problem. No problem, man. That looks pretty nice.
In the bathroom, Allen’s locating the joist, and he and Aubrey are positioning the new exhaust fan.
Allen Lyle: I can put it here, central to the bathroom. Not bad. It’s going to pull that moisture and odor. However, in my opinion, I think it would work better over here because moisture is your biggest concern.
Aubrey Blizzard: Right. That makes sense to me.
Allen Lyle: All right. Well, I’ve got to go in the attic, do a little work up there. I could use some help up there, right? Yeah?
Aubrey Blizzard: I am an excellent ladder holder.
Allen Lyle: I see. OK. Well.
Danny Lipford: This Allure III hood from NuTone will move up to 430 cubic feet of air per minute. That’s important because even though Tom’s kitchen is small, the adjoining family room is rather large, so we’re really protecting both spaces from cooking fumes. And that’s important for their indoor air quality because recent studies tell us that cooking releases some of the same pollutants found in smog.
This hood is also about 50% quieter than the average vent hood, and it includes a sensor that detects excessive heat and automatically adjusts the fan speed accordingly.
Meanwhile, Allen is avoiding the attic as long as he can. I’m going to actually mark it and cut it from the top, but I’m going to drive a nail through first. And then, so I can find this particular spot in the attic, I’m just going to run a piece of wire all the way up. Then I can find it when I’m in the attic.
Danny Lipford: Want to go visit Allen in the attic?
Tom Blizzard: No! I mean, which way do you turn this?
Danny Lipford: Yeah! There’s some strange bolts here. What are these bolts?
Tom Blizzard: Just holding that light fixture on behind you.
Danny Lipford: The light fixture?
Tom Blizzard: Yes.
Danny Lipford: Who did that?
Tom Blizzard: I don’t know.
Danny Lipford: I’ve never seen it that way before.
Tom Blizzard: I refuse to answer on the grounds that…
Danny Lipford: You did this. Did Aubrey do that?
Tom Blizzard: Yes.
Danny Lipford: Aubrey did that? That was Aubrey’s first attempt at a home improvement project.
Danny Lipford: I’ve never seen that before.
Tom Blizzard: I’m not saying it was the best option. Maybe we’ll go back with pendant lights.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, that would be a good idea. I think we need to turn some electricity off.
Tom Blizzard: OK.
Danny Lipford: Nope. Yep, that’s it.
Well, Tom, hopefully this is on a different circuit. It looks like this little appliance is still on.
Tom Blizzard: That would be fantastic.
Danny Lipford: That would be lucky. There we go.
Tom Blizzard: That was not on the bedroom circuit.
Danny Lipford: Yeah.
Tom Blizzard: You broke my hood!
Danny Lipford: That’s OK, it was hurting already.
Tom Blizzard: That is a dead lizard.
Danny Lipford: Is that a dead lizard?
Tom Blizzard: Yes.
Danny Lipford: There’s a dead lizard there, Tom.
Tom Blizzard: Aubrey collects dead lizards.
Danny Lipford: Does she?
Tom Blizzard: Yes.
Danny Lipford: So let’s get it out for her.
Now that the zoology lesson is complete, we can finish removing the old hood and that light fixture Tom had attached to it.
Tom Blizzard: There we go.
Danny Lipford: Then we’re ready for the new hood. We have to thread the wiring into the housing as we lift it into position, then slide it onto the mounting screws and lock it in place. Once the wiring is connected and the hood is sealed to the exhaust duct, we’re ready to test it. And, boy, does this thing work. The boost mode kicks in for high heat situations, and look at that power.
Tom Blizzard: It actually holds the other filter up. Wow.
Danny Lipford: There’s some irony there somewhere.
Tom Blizzard: Yeah. That’s crazy.
Danny Lipford: While we’ve been wrapping up the work in the kitchen, Allen has identified the fan location on the attic side, and he’s ready to get to work.
Allen Lyle: If you can see this, there’s already been a lot of moisture. Now, it could be from the roof. It could be from the bathroom. We don’t know.
But that’s another good reason to have that fan. Talk about a healthy home. Draw that moisture out because that moisture is exactly what mold and mildew need to grow.
Danny Lipford: While Allen gets the mounting hardware in place, let’s check in with Jodi for this week’s Best New Product.
Jodi Marks: If you are in the market for a prefinished flooring, you can see there are a lot of options. You can choose oak, you can choose maple, walnut—the list goes on and on. But I have to admit that probably one of my favorites is bamboo, only because it is so environmentally friendly and it’s a renewable resource.
Shea Pettaway: Yeah. You got the GreenGuard bamboo floor, which means it’s a certification to make it indoor air friendly.
Jodi Marks: Let’s talk about that a little more because it goes through some rigorous testing before it can get that certification. I mean, they test it for up to, like, 10,000 chemicals, don’t they?
Shea Pettaway: Yeah, including formaldehyde.
Jodi Marks: Yeah, that’s really important. So that’s going to improve the air quality in your home because it’s not going to be off-gassing these toxic chemicals, right?
Shea Pettaway: That’s correct.
Jodi Marks: Now, I like another thing about this is because it’s a solid wood floor. It’s got a tongue-and-groove connection. So take a look at that. I mean, look how thick that plank is.
Shea Pettaway: And let me tell you, it has seven aluminum oxide layers on there, which means that it’s going to be very durable as well.
Jodi Marks: Very durable. So you can nail this down. You can glue it down. You can put it on or above grade. So this is a great option if you’re definitely in the market.
Danny Lipford: We’re helping Tom and Aubrey Blizzard improve the indoor air quality in their home this week to make it more safe and healthy.
Allen Lyle: All right, now I need the transition piece, that’s the one.
Aubrey Blizzard: OK. And the screws, do you want it in, or—
Allen Lyle: No. Just hang on to it, because I’m going to have to feed that through a little bit.
Danny Lipford: Once that screw is in and the wiring is connected, the fan housing is ready for the motor. All the while, Franklin seems to be very interested in the progress. And finally, the grill goes on to trim out the fan on the ceiling.
Hey, they’re making a little bit of progress there. I bet you’re glad to be out of that attic, huh?
Allen Lyle: Well, I still have to run the venting out, but you can do that for me.
Danny Lipford: Hey, let’s go do the return air.
Cleaning the return air chamber is a convenient excuse not to get into that hot attic, but it is important to keep these things clean. Besides removing the dust, we’re also sealing up the old chase pipe that used to carry the condensation drain to the outside, so this space is completely sealed from outside influence.
Meanwhile, Allen is back in the attic, connecting that new fan to ductwork that will carry the moisture outside, rather than just dumping it in the attic. This is an important step that people often skip when they add or replace a bath vent fan. You can go through the roof—or, as Allen is doing, through a nearby gable wall—but that damp air needs to go outside.
Allen Lyle: Hey, Tom.
Tom Blizzard: Hello, Allen.
Allen Lyle: All right. I need to see if you can feed that pipe in slowly.
Danny Lipford: This louvered vent cap will let the damp air out without letting cold air in.
Tom Blizzard: You all right up there?
Allen Lyle: I’m good. Let’s go.
Tom Blizzard: Hey, hey. You going to make it?
Allen Lyle: I don’t want to go back in the attic.
Tom Blizzard: You don’t have to.
Allen Lyle: Hey, I did notice one thing when I was up there. You need some more insulation.
Tom Blizzard: Yeah.
Allen Lyle: You can see the tops of all those ceiling joists, so definitely look into that. The best investment dollar you’ll spend right there.
Tom Blizzard: OK. All right. I hate messing around with insulation, as a singer, you know.
Allen Lyle: Hey, stone wool. Don’t worry about fiberglass stuff. Go with stone wool. Roxul makes a great product. We saw this before. It’s easy to handle, cuts with a serrated knife.
Tom Blizzard: Oh, wow.
Aubrey Blizzard: Oh, wow.
Allen Lyle: It is so cool. Water repellent—you got a leak, it’s not going to grow mold, mildew up there. Flame-resistant. I saw this at a trade show. They put a blowtorch to this stuff. It’s rock. It’s rock, OK? It doesn’t burn, so I think that’s something that you should consider.
Tom Blizzard: Wow.
Allen Lyle: It really will help your investment dollars.
Tom Blizzard: Awesome. Thanks, man.
Allen Lyle: Aubrey, Chelsea just got here.
Aubrey Blizzard: OK.
Allen Lyle: I think you’re going to like something she’s for you inside.
Aubrey Blizzard: Great.
Danny Lipford: Chelsea has a strategy to help contain some of the VOCs from Tom and Aubrey’s household chemicals.
Aubrey Blizzard: Now what does VOC stand for?
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Volatile organic compounds.
Aubrey Blizzard: Oh, OK.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: It’s like any chemical that’s mixed up, it’s going to kind of off-gas.
Aubrey Blizzard: Into the air.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: You can smell it really strong in paint.
Aubrey Blizzard: Yeah, yeah.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: But these are also still off-gassing, and so you want to kind of contain it.
Aubrey Blizzard: Sure.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: That’s what we had the containers for. And then I noticed this little space right here. What is this right here?
Aubrey Blizzard: That is the door from the kitchen to the trash can.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, wow.
Aubrey Blizzard: We like to keep the trash can out of—outside—so that, you know, you don’t smell the odor from the trash. And it just feels cleaner to not have it inside the house.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Yeah. And see, the chemicals can actually leak through here when the air conditioner is on.
Aubrey Blizzard: Oh, yeah.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: It’s cooling the air. You probably want to get some weather stripping right in there. And that will help with the odors and with the VOCs coming into your air.
Aubrey Blizzard: Oh, OK. That sounds great.
Danny Lipford: While these two get a little help from Franklin, I’m checking in on Allen’s progress back in the bathroom.
So, Allen, have you finished reading all the wallpaper in here yet?
Allen Lyle: I’ve been a little preoccupied with the electrical.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, you are doing a lot of work there in pulling together the switching that we need for the brand new exhaust fan. You know, electrical work is something that intimidates a lot of homeowners, and it is something you have to respect.
You know, a few years ago, national building codes and electrical codes required GFCIs to be used—which are ground fault circuit interrupter outlets—to be used in most bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor areas to prevent any type of electrical shock.
Now there’s another thing that you can install in your house. It’s another specialty type outlet that can prevent a lot of electrical fires. It’s called an AFCI.
Leviton is the first manufacturer to offer an AFCI receptacle that’s easy to install. AFCI stands for arc fault circuit interrupter. Arcs can be caused by damaged wires or loose electrical connections inside or outside the walls of your home, and their temperatures can exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
When an AFCI outlet is installed in a circuit, it will detect any arc that occurs downstream and shut off the circuit, reducing the chance of igniting a fire. Since there are about 51,000 electrical fires in U.S. homes each year, this could be a real life-saver.
Danny Lipford: When people are fixing up older homes, they often want to know, “How can I tell if my house has lead paint?”
The first clue is the specific age of the house. If it was built in 1979 and later, there should be no lead paint in it at all.
Homes built between 1960 and 1978 may have low levels of lead in the paint, and those built before 1960 often have large amounts if the original paint is still in place.
The best way to know for sure is to test it yourself with a lead test kit that’s available from your local home center. The instructions will show you how to use it and interpret the results to determine if lead is present.
It’s very important not to disturb it. The chief danger is the dust generated from cutting, sanding, or scraping the paint. Lead paint can be encapsulated or painted over as long as it isn’t disturbed in those ways.
Danny Lipford: This week we’ve changed our focus for improvements at Tom and Aubrey’s house. We left the bathroom wallpaper and dated kitchen countertop for Tom to change later; but we did help them make their home a safer, more healthier place.
From simple fixes, like sealing up chemical containers and cleaning out the air return for the furnace, to more involved improvements like adding a bathroom vent fan and replacing that worn-out range hood.
Now that we’ve cleared the air a bit, Tom and Aubrey can debate the details on what color to paint the bathroom on their own.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: All right, you probably know that houseplants filter carbon dioxide and make oxygen, but they also filter certain chemicals. You’ll have certain plants that filter certain chemicals, so I got you a variety here to kind of get you started and filter out anything that might come through your air.
Aubrey Blizzard: Oh, that’s cool. Thank you.
Tom Blizzard: Thank you.
Danny Lipford: you know, it only makes sense that over the last few years, we’ve been working so hard to make our homes more energy efficient by sealing them up. That’s why it’s so important to really pay attention to the health of the air inside your home and do everything you can to improve your indoor air quality.
Hey, thanks so much for being with us. And of course we’ve got a lot more information on our website TodaysHomeowner.com.
I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week.
Allen Lyle: Sleek, that’s the name. Sleek, that’s what I like.