You can improve indoor air quality by routinely addressing sources of dust and mold. The more we insulate our houses against winter cold and summer heat, the less air leaks between the house and the great outdoors. Pollen and dust that gets into the house stays there, unless you pay attention to it. Areas that collect water also collect mold. Pay attention to that, too.
As the season changes, I want to encourage you to decide on a home maintenance routine. Why create a routine? Because, then you will do it. Not doing it will cost you, in the long run.
I know, you are looking forward to open-window season now, so why does this matter? Because open-window season is followed by air conditioning season. That’s a good filter-watching time if you have pollen or dust allergies.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune covers the most commonly neglected items. Our weather is much different from theirs, but the principle is the same. Below is their list with my advice on what the job looks like here, and when I recommend you do it, routinely.
- Air conditioner filters – Room-by-room systems: your air conditioner filter is found on the AC unit. Poke around or check the manual. Most recommend cleaning every month, when they are in use. At very least, do it at the end of the cooling season. Central AC (HVAC) systems: put a clean filter in at the beginning of the cooling season. Air conditioners move a higher volume of air than heating functions. Also, the air has more pollen in the warm weather. Check your manual, you may need to change these monthly.
- Heating system filters – have a clean filter in at the beginning of the heating season. Most manufacturers recommend a clean filter monthly.
- Clean baseboard and radiators. Vacuum your baseboards. Dust decreases the efficiency.
- Baseboards work by drawing air from underneath, heating it, then letting it rise through the vent at the top. Don’t block the air flow with furniture or high carpet.
- Radiator covers should be dust-free and have air flow at the top and bottom. Make sure the louver at the top is open.
- Gas-fired dryer vents – An annual check is a must to prevent fire and keep efficiency of your gas dryers. Pick a regular time in the spring to go outside, take the cover off and vacuum the dryer vent tube. Inside, you should install a solid metal flue-tube with a removable section, so you can vacuum that tube annually. Electric dryers do not burn as hot, so you are just wasting energy dollars by neglecting them. Clean them every three years.
- Gutters – The timing for gutter clearing is a little tricky. You have to wait for the leaves to finish falling. By the time the leaves are off the trees, the weather is unpleasant for removing leaves from the gutters. Once everything freezes, it become a miserable job.
Use your electronic calendars or task lists — set on repeat scheduling — to create ongoing reminders for these tasks.
AC: Set a reminder for one date in June, July, August, and September. (Example, the first Saturday in June.) If you find that the filters are not dirty, set the reminder for once a season.
HVAC: Set a reminder for one date in October, November, December, January, February, March, and maybe April. If you find that the filters are not dirty, set the reminder for once a season.
Radiators and baseboards: Vacuum around covered radiators and baseboard heating units before the beginning of heating season. Pick a date in September or October.
Dryer vent: Set a reminder for once a year. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, don’t forget to move the reminder to the next weekend.
Gutters: Set a reminder for some time in early November. This will bring the task back into your consciousness. If you are hiring out for this work, make the reminder for a date in September, so you can call to reserve a date. If you routinely decorate your home exterior of Christmas, get in the habit of cleaning the gutters at the same time.