Simple Steps to a More Eco-Friendly Home
Your home is your haven – the place where you relax and retreat from the stress of the day. But your home may also be housing unwanted materials and microbes that affect your health and the environment. Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to reduce your overall impact on the environment and help create a healthier refuge for you and your family. Try these tips for an eco-friendlier home.
Properly Manage Hazardous Household Materials
The typical household contains dozens of hazardous products. Pesticides, cleaning products, paint thinner and solvents, acids and other corrosive substances, paint and gasoline are just some of the substances that could adversely affect your health and the environment if handled or disposed of improperly.
- Reduce the amount of hazardous chemicals you bring into your home and look for products labeled with the "Design for the Environment" logo. These products have been evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency on a strict set of criteria and are labeled by the EPA as containing the safest possible chemical ingredients.*
- Experiment with natural cleaning products made from common ingredients, such as distilled white vinegar, baking soda, borax, lemon juice and castile soap, which can be surprisingly effective while being less toxic to the environment and easier on your budget.**
Reduce VOCs In Your Home
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are routinely found in adhesives, carpet and upholstery, composite wood products, paints and varnishes, sealing caulks, solvents and vinyl floors.*** Because VOCs are present in so many common household products, taking steps to reduce them can help improve indoor air quality and keep potentially harmful substances out of your home.
Allow for ample ventilation when using items high in VOCs. Open doors or windows and run fans.
Keep your home's humidity level between 30-50 percent. Because products tend to off-gas more in higher humidity and warmer temperatures, managing these factors can help reduce VOCs and lower humidity has the added bonus of helping to inhibit mold growth.
Keep Heating and Cooling Systems in Good Condition
Your home's HVAC system is called into use year-round, so regular maintenance is important to get the best performance from your system. An energy efficient HVAC system is easier on the environment as well as your household budget.
- Have your HVAC system cleaned and serviced in spring and fall to check for cracks that could cause carbon monoxide leaks and other wear that could cause a system malfunction.
Change your furnace filter at least every three months to ensure the best air filtration.
- Replace your regular filter with a Filtrete Healthy Living furnace filter from 3M. The electrostatic technology of a Filtrete filter is three times more effective**** than traditional fiberglass filters at reducing airborne dust, allergens, bacteria and viruses from your home's air.
Maintain Household Appliances for Safety and Savings
It's tempting to simply buy a new appliance when the old one breaks down, especially when cool designs and impressive features of a new model are so appealing. But repairing an appliance keeps it out of the landfill and may actually save you money over the long term.
- Check for frayed plugs, loose hoses and wires and other signs of deterioration and wear. Regular maintenance will keep appliances working longer and more efficiently.
- Be sure appliances and exhaust fans are vented to the outside to prevent moisture, odor-causing particles and other irritants from adversely affecting your indoor air quality.
Insulate and Weatherize for Energy Efficiency
Don't go to the expense of heating and cooling your home only to needlessly lose that energy through leaks in your windows and walls. A few basic changes will help you go easier on the environment by conserving energy.
- Caulk around doors and window frames and add insulation in leak-prone areas, such as the attic and walls and floors adjacent unheated areas, such as the garage or basement. Unseen gaps around windows and doors can create nearly as much air flow as an open window, making your HVAC system work harder than it should.
- Weatherize your home by installing storm doors and storm windows. Apply a 3M Window Insulator Kit to windows to seal avoid heat loss from drafty windows.
You don't have to devote countless hours or empty your bank account to create a home that is easier on the environment and your household budget. Basic changes in the products you use and simple tweaks to your household maintenance routine can help you achieve a healthier, eco-friendlier home environment for you and your family.
*Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/dfe/faqs.html
**National Geographic: http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/natural-house-cleaning-2548.html
***Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=volatile-organic-compounds
****compared to non-electrostatic pleated filters for the capture of 0.3 to 1.0 micron particles