Today’s weather in Atlanta is perfect for opening the windows of your home to get some fresh air. Do you know why?
Atlanta’s weather forecast for today looks like this:
Three Metrics for Health
It’s important to keep an eye on three metrics other than outdoor temperatures when you’re deciding whether to open your windows: humidity, pollution and pollen. Each of these is a concern no matter where you live though, hopefully, you have low levels of each.
Indoor humidity below 40% becomes noticeable for people because we dry out – we get itchy skin, nose bleeds and other issues as the humidity drops. You might notice this in the winter when the outdoor humidity is very low (sometimes in the teens). The humidity in our homes drops as it escapes through air leaks to the outside.
An indoor humidity above 50% begins to encourage the growth of dust mites and mold. An indoor humidity of 70% is the level at which mold growth dramatically increases and can quickly create significant health problems like allergic reactions and other respiratory concerns. It’s common for outdoor humidity levels to be well over 80% in the summer. Opening your windows allows that humidity into your home so your indoor humidity level should rise too.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains an Air Quality Index for the fifty states. You can find the index number for your area or read the color-coded map to see the conditions in your area quickly. You should also be able to find information from your state agencies. In Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Air Protection Branch operates an “Ambient Monitoring Program” to alert residents of potentially hazardous concentrations of compounds and particulate matter in the air.
Check to see if there are high levels before you open your windows and let that air into your home. Air conditioning filters rated to a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) of 17 or above should filter out most of the particulate matter down to 2.5 micrometer (fine) particles.
Pollen from various plants can trigger allergies in some people. The advent of wireless internet is a blessing for people trying to keep track of the pollen count so they can anticipate allergic reactions. Many weather forecasters include pollen count information. Some even email you in advance and offer apps for smartphones.
The National Allergy Bureau of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology offers free pollen count information from stations across the United States.
A check of the three metrics mentioned above shows that today should be a good day to open up the windows and let some fresh air into our homes. If you decide to keep your windows closed, please remember your air conditioning system is only as good as the maintenance it receives. You need to change your filter as recommended by the manufacturer, have the system(s) checked to be sure it’s working properly and have your ducts checked to be sure they’re working properly.
Air conditioners offer some filtration though they just circulate the air in your house. They don’t bring in any fresh air unless they’re designed to do so. If you need fresh air in your home (Who doesn’t?), you should consider mechanical ventilation so you can filter and control the amount of fresh air coming into your home.
Please don’t forget to turn off your air conditioner if you open the windows! You should also turn off your dehumidifier, humidifier, ERV, HRV or any other related mechanical equipment in your home so you don’t realize one of your parents’ worst fears: wasting energy trying to air condition the great outdoors.
Please leave your questions and comments below. Thanks!