Pollution doesn’t exist solely outside your door. Inside your home, mold, mildew, dust, and odors can cause itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and headaches. According to the Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Resource Bank, mold is responsible for 4.6 million current cases of asthma and about 20 percent of other common respiratory infections.

In fact, indoor air pollutants are rated among the top five environmental health risks today, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Air-tight construction and home insulation contribute to poor indoor air quality. Although these home improvements stop drafts and save on energy costs, they stop fresh air from coming into your home and pollutants from leaving.

Consequently, you have two options to improve indoor air quality: allow clean exterior air into the home to provide ventilation or use an air cleaning device that removes indoor pollutants.

Keep your home smelling fresh and your family breathing easy by following these simple tips.

Flat-paneled fiberglass air filters

Usually carrying ratings of 1 to 4, flat-paneled fiberglass air filters consist of a disposable filter made of layered fiberglass fibers. A metal-like grating reinforces and supports the fiberglass material and helps prevent the filter from collapsing.

These inexpensive air filters mostly provide protection for heating and cooling components and not for cleaning the air. The filters have a medium efficiency rating for capturing larger airborne particles and a low efficiency for filtering dust mites, viruses, bacteria and dander.

Pleated media filter collects more particles

Similar to fiberglass filters, disposable pleated polyester filters have a sizable surface field and a rating of 5 to 13. The pleats increase the surface area and make the furnace filters more efficient at capturing airborne particles. A pleated air filter with a medium efficiency rating can filter small to large particles. Filters with a rating of 7 to 13 provide a level of effectiveness compatible with absolute high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, but at a lower price point.

Because some pleated filters are large enough to have the physical appearance of true HEPA filters, they are often confused with HEPA products. However, pleated HVAC filters have less airflow resistance compared to HEPA filters and support quieter operation of the blower fan. They also come in higher efficiency models with a rating of 14 to 16.

HEPA filter offers best air quality control

HEPA filters are recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and EPA as the ultimate product for cleansing airborne particles. HEPA products filter air at a very fine level, blocking elements that are 0.3 microns or larger. These filters catch 99.97 percent of all particles.

HEPA air filters have an efficiency rating of 17 to 20. However, most residential HVAC systems can’t accommodate HEPA filters because they are too large or restrict airflow. Switching to HEPA filters will significantly improve your indoor air quality. but doing so will probably require calling a heating and cooling professional to retrofit your furnace.

Finally, on those sunny days when the weather is warm and dry, open the windows. Letting the breeze circulate through your home lowers indoor humidity and removes stale smells.