5 Easy Ways to Improve Air Quality in Your Home Office

We’re celebrating Clean Air Month with a few tips for improving air quality in your home office. We now spend more and more time working at home, on top of the time we spend indoors overall. In fact, the Vancouver Health Authority says Canadians spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors. It makes sense that cleaner indoor air can have a huge impact on our health, wellbeing, and productivity.

The proven impact of poor air quality on our health is nothing short of alarming.

“Health effects from poor indoor air pollutants might include short-term symptoms like headaches, eye, nose, and throat inflammation, coughing and painful breathing, bronchitis, and skin irritation,” warns the American Lung Association. “Extreme side effects can target the central nervous system, cause flares in respiratory diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and cardiovascular disease, and even cause cancer after long term exposures. Poor indoor air can also impact the blood, spleen, liver and reproductive system.”

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If you’re not sure if you have indoor air quality issues, you can measure it. There are monitors and apps for your smartphone or standalone monitors, both of which may be integrated with current smart home systems. For example, AIRTHINGS Wave Plus Indoor Air Quality Monitor works seamlessly with Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT (If This Then That). Monitors can measure contaminants on demand, or continuously monitor levels to alert you when there’s a problem.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Office Air Quality

Once you become aware of just how bad indoor air quality can be, you’ll probably be anxious to improve it. Luckily, it isn’t difficult or overly expensive to improve indoor air quality in our office space and throughout our home. Some methods work better than others though, so we have five proven suggestions for you to try.

1. Plants

“Some plants are able to filter out harmful chemicals and VOCs from wood, cleaning products, furniture, trash, carpets, natural gas, and more,” said Dakota Hendrickson, co-founder of Filti, a filtration technology company.

While some plants have proven to be stars when it comes to cleaning the air, most do it too slowly to have a profound impact. That said, they do offer that function and add oxygen, which contributes to overall air quality to a certain degree. Other plants have cleaned the air in 24 hours flat for NASA. The more, the better!

Some studies indicate plants do improve overall health and wellbeing in the office.

For example, “A study in India (2008) showed that workers in plant-filled office buildings had 24 percent fewer headaches, 52 percent less eye irritation, 34 percent fewer respiratory conditions, and a 12 percent higher lung capacity than workers in plantless environments,” reports the Farmer’s Almanac.

The following common plants are often recommended by experts for improving air quality:

  1. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  2. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  3. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
  4. Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
  5. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  6. Philodendron
  7. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
  8. Ficus (Ficus benjamina)
  9. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
  10. Broad Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

Warning:

If mould allergies are a concern, however, you may want to skip plants.

“Indoor plants are pretty, but they can also collect and foster the growth of mould. So, if indoor allergens are a problem, you’ll want to avoid them,” says Dr. Nicholas BuSaba, associate professor of Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School

2. Lower Heat & Humidity

Use a dehumidifier and lower the thermostat, as both humidity and heat can increase the level of air pollutants. It’s important to balance humidity, however, which may mean a humidifier in winter.

3. Essential Oils

Essential oils can be tricky because they’re putting something into the air, but some of them actually claim to clean the air too. Most of these claims come from retailers/sellers of essential oils, which may or may not be exaggerated. We checked into the latest science to find out what’s been proven or disproved.

“Depending on their composition, essential oils can inhibit the metabolic functions of microorganisms,” concludes the study, Indoor Use of Essential Oils: Emission Rates, Exposure Time and Impact on Air Quality. “Indeed, Inouye et al. (2001)- (Inouye et al., 2003) exhibited the antimicrobial action of essential oils by gaseous contact. The results suggest that vapor levels of 0.1-0.9 mg/L in air may suppress the growth of the bacterial pathogens of respiratory infection. Cinnamon bark, lemongrass and thyme oils are evidenced as the most effective for this purpose.”

Warnings:

  • Low quality essential oils may emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as ethanol or acetone.
  • Animals are much more sensitive to essential oils than humans to a point of toxicity, especially cats and birds.

4. Filtration

You can add filtration in a variety of ways, including some heat sources or air ducts, or even your vacuum cleaner. The Eufy HomeVac line, for example, has a HEPA filter to help clean the air before it’s blown back into your home.

5. The Champion: A Medical Grade Air Purifier

Hands down, the most effective and consistent way to clear office air is with a medical-grade air purifier. Good news! They’re far more effective and affordable than they used to be.

As with most things, not all air purifiers are created equal. In order to provide adequate filtration to address all of the above issues, multiple filters and broad functionality must be present. With proper filtration that includes several layers, an air purifier can capture almost all air pollutants, including viruses, bacteria, smoke, allergens/pollen, odours, mould, fungi, fur, dust, asbestos, anthrax, formaldehyde, ammonia fumes, benzene, hydrogen, and more!

I’ve been using air purifiers for many years, from a tabletop version 30 years ago to the medical-grade floor models available today. Besides the need to clear the air in general, I also have to deal with allergies, BC wildfire smoke, city pollutants, and mould due to our damp climate. They’ve helped so much I can’t imagine not having an air purifier now, and I buy them as gifts for loved ones too.

Most recently, we’ve been trialing the MIKO Medical Grade True HEPA Air Purifier. It meets all of the requirements for truly cleaning the air of 99.97% of particles, and all of the above-mentioned filtration layers. Other features I like about this particular model is the quiet sleep mode and the air quality indicator. Even cooking can trigger air quality indicators.

My spring allergies have noticeably improved so far (they surprised me with early high pollen and mould levels this year). The fire season has already started here in British Columbia, but we haven’t had any noticeable smoke in our area as of yet. We have used air purifiers in the past that quickly cleared smoke in our home, and I anticipate similar results from this unit.

The downside of the multi-filter protection in medical grade air cleaners, is all of that filtration is somewhat expensive to replace. The filters last a long time though and the health benefits are truly priceless.

Do you have any tips for improving home office air quality? Take a deep breath and share them (or your questions) in the comments below.

Related Reading

10 Natural Remedies for Spring Allergies

6 Herbs that Boost Your Brain Power

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