Every day, millions of us travel from our climate-controlled homes to jobs in climate-controlled buildings. Being cool in the summer and warm in the winter is something we all take for granted.

But did you ever wonder, “I know what closed windows keep out, but what do they keep in?” The truth is that closed windows trap recycled air filled with  that can not only cause discomfort, but can even be hazardous to you and your family’s health.

While you can’t change the air outside, here are 5 ways you can improve the indoor air quality in your home:

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Replace Your Air Filters

Experts recommend that you should change air filters in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump every month they are in use. The air filter’s job is not only to keep the air clean from contaminants, but it also keeps dust and debris out of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and duct-work. Dirty air ducts can also be a breeding ground for mold spores in the air.

Replacing air filters is easy. Remembering to do it is hard. Here’s a tip: purchase several air filters at a time, and stack them next to your furnace or HVAC equipment. Next, set an alarm on your smart phone calendar to remind you on the first day of every month to check your filters.

Control the Humidity

Your home’s relative humidity should be high enough to prevent coughing and nosebleeds, but low enough that you don’t create moisture problems like mold growth, especially in your basement. Indoor relative humidity levels between 40-60% are commonly recommended. However, this doesn’t take into account the temperature change between summer and winter. In colder climates, wintertime humidity levels should be 30-40% to prevent condensation on windows and other surfaces.

If you don’t have a humidifier/dehumidifier connected to your home’s furnace, you should invest in a humidifier to use in the winter and dehumidifier to use in the summer.

Check Your Furnace Yearly

You visit the dentist, you get checkups and you change your car’s oil. It’s all called preventative maintenance. Your furnace needs regular maintenance too. It’s the technician’s job to make sure that your furnace is burning fuel at 100% efficiency so that no carbon monoxide is leaking into your home. In addition, a clean heating system will save you money on fuel and prolong your furnace’s life.

Monitor Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

A quick and simple way to make sure you’re enjoying the best air quality available is by using an indoor air quality monitor. For example, this desktop carbon dioxide, temperature & humidity monitor by CO2Meter can be placed in an office, bedroom or in a central area of the home. What makes it so helpful is the ability to see your air quality in real time. The screen on this gadget will show you the carbon dioxide level, temperature, and relative humidity.

indoor air quality meter

Carbon dioxide (CO2, not to be confused with carbon monoxide) levels act like an early-warning system for indoor air quality. CO2 levels too high? This means you’re HVAC system isn’t working properly, and your air is filled with air-borne chemicals, pollutants and microorganisms that spread colds or inflame allergies. Too little CO2 means you have too much fresh air, and are wasting heating or cooling energy.

Pay Attention to What You Bring Indoors

So many indoor air quality problems can be solved by using a bit of common sense. Thinking about new paint or carpet? Don’t do it until the weather allows you to open the windows and release the gases (VOCs) they produce. Are you ready to replacing your bedding? Look at latex foam mattresses and pillows, and encase them with dust mite proof covers. Need a new vacuum cleaner? Purchase one that includes a HEPA air filter instead of a paper bag.