Basement air quality is something that too often falls through the cracks of home improvement, health, and lifestyle. Some homeowners rarely go into their basements, which is why they can get ignored.
Have you ever noticed a musty or damp smell when you walk down to your basement? If you have, you’re certainly not alone. Basement air can be up to ten times more polluted than other indoor areas of your home.
Poor basement air quality can lead to foul odors. Still, more importantly, it can harm your health – especially if you already have a respiratory issue.
But you don’t need to be without the use of your basement. There are ways to tell if your basement air quality is poor and if it is, there are things you can do about it. In the following post, Summit Heating and Cooling provides tips on identifying poor basement air quality and solutions to correct the problem.
Why is Basement Air Quality Often Worse Than Other Interior Areas?
A lot of the reason why basement air quality tends to be so poor is the materials commonly used to construct them. For instance, gypsum is a magnet for moisture. As a result, it can harbor mold, bacteria, and mildew – all things that can immediately negatively impact indoor air quality.
However, there are other factors at play:
Poor Basement Air Quality Causes
Often, people store things like improperly sealed paint cans, pesticides, old rags, and cleaning chemicals in their basements. Unfortunately, all of these types of items can harm indoor air quality.
Frequently, dryer venting is run through the basement. Suppose the venting is torn, faulty, or improperly installed. In that case, it could be sending particulate matter into the air of your basement.
Rodents love dark, cool basements. Unfortunately, rodents can also lower basement air quality by leaving their droppings in their interior spaces. Once the residue becomes airborne, it can have a significant impact.
Usually, when you have some interior or exterior plumbing/irrigation leak, the water and moisture find their way to your home’s lower levels, i.e., your basement.
We probably don’t have to tell you that standing water and flooding (major or minor) will seriously diminish the indoor air quality of your basement. It doesn’t always need to be a leak, either.
Sometimes if your sprinklers are broken and spraying errantly, the water run-off will get to the basement.
How to Tell if you Have Poor Basement Air Quality
The good news is that there are some tell-tale signs that you have poor air quality in your basement. Be on the lookout for:
A Musty Odor
Your nose will be your best indicator of whether or not something needs to be done about your cellar air quality. If you notice a moldy, mildewy, stale, or musty smell in your basement, you may have an air quality issue on your hands.
Suppose you walk down to your basement, and it feels abnormally stuffy or humid. In that case, you could be dealing with an air quality issue.
Signs of Mold and Mildew
Mold, mildew, and bacterial growth will undoubtedly adversely impact basement air quality. So scan your basement for signs of growth, including rotting drywall or boards, discolorations in the ceiling or walls, streaks, and water damage.
A busted dryer vent will likely make the air very dusty, so be on the lookout for excess dust in the air or resting on surfaces.
Good Air Quality Monitors
If you want to be sure, you can always invest in a good air quality monitor. A good model can detect changes in temperature, humidity, and airborne chemicals. In addition, you can order an air quality test.
Tips for Improving Basement Air Quality
In some extreme cases, you will need to call out an HVAC expert to help improve your basement air quality. However, there are some things you can do if the problem isn’t too far gone.
Here are some tips for improving air quality in your cellar:
Use a Dehumidifier
Moisture is bad news for your basement, but you can limit the moisture levels in yours by using a dehumidifier. Mold needs a relative humidity level of 55% to live, so make sure that your dehumidifier keeps the moisture below 55%.
Seal Off Openings
Cracks in the foundation walls or the frames of basement windows can also let humidity in. Sealing up these cracks will help improve the air quality.
Remember that windows are openings, so be sure to keep them closed as often as possible.
Fix Broken Vents
Broken dryer vents should be replaced or repaired as soon as possible. However, doing so will immediately impact air quality as broken vents could be spewing dust particles and lint into your basement.
Keep your Basement Clean
In particular, try to keep volatile organic compounds like paints, roofing materials, dyes, and harsh cleansers and sprays out of your basement.
Use an Air Purifier
Air purifiers help circulate the air in the basement (suitable for air quality) and cycle it through filters that trap airborne contaminants. Some air purifiers can trap particles as small as 0.03 microns, enough to trap most viruses and bacteria.
Use a Fan
If you have had a recent plumbing leak or flooding, try running a large or commercial fan in your basement for a day or two. The increased ventilation will help get rid of moisture.
Clean Air is Important
The air that you and your family breathe should be as clean and fresh as possible. It’s essential not only for comfort; but for health as well. Here at Summit Heating and Cooling, we are just as concerned with indoor air quality as you are.
That’s why we offer professional whole-house air purification services. Contact us for healthier air in your basement and throughout your entire home.