Maybe you’ve heard of the Air Quality Index (AQI), but you don’t know how it’s measured. Or you’re not sure whether to change day-to-day activities when air quality is poor. Maybe it’s your first time hearing about it. No matter where you are on your air awareness journey, we’re here to help you understand the basics of the AQI, and what you can do to breathe cleaner air on “bad air days.”
Each day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analyzes levels of five major air pollutants in various locations around the country, then assigns it a number from 0 to 500. That value is the AQI and it measures air quality in your area. The higher the AQI value in your area, the greater the level of air pollution.
AQI values under 100 are generally safe for healthy individuals, although anything above 51 can be potentially irritating to sensitive individuals—usually those with asthma, the elderly or young children.¹ AQI values above 100 are deemed “unhealthy,” and can cause adverse health effects in sensitive people. The higher the value, the more affects it can have on your health.¹ You can look up your local AQI anytime at AirNow.gov.
The higher the AQI, the more you should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion outside.² If you’re worried about poor air quality, plan any outdoor activities for the morning or evening, when ozone levels are generally lower, or move them to another day.³ Watch for signs that air pollution is affecting you, such as coughing and shortness of breath. Asthma sufferers should keep quick-relief medication handy. On days when the AQI is more than 300, everyone should avoid outdoor physical activity and remain indoors.
Keep in mind “inside” isn’t a sealed off clean-air bubble—your indoor air can be polluted by pet dander, mold spores, dust, smoke and smog from the outside or even airborne particles from candles and cooking.
The good news is you can improve your indoor air quality in lots of ways. Start by ensuring all HVAC and air purifier filters are within the lifespan on their packaging, so you know it’s effectively capturing unwanted air particles:
- For 1” HVAC air filters, that means a change at least every 3 months.
- For 4”, 5” and 6” deep pleat filters, that means a change every 12 months.
- For Filtrete™ Air Purifier filters, that means a change every 6 to 12 months, depending on the type of filter.
If you need a reminder about replacing your filter, the Filtrete™ Smart App can help you track filter life and will notify you when it’s time for a new air filter.
Other ways to improve your indoor air: Keep humidity under 60% to mitigate the growth of mold in places like the kitchen and bathroom. Use a dehumidifier as needed. Even small things like putting plants inside, running exhaust fans and avoiding candles can help keep your indoor air cleaner.
Our app uses a slightly different scale to measure outdoor air quality, but it does pull in data from the EPA and other sources. We use PM 2.5 to determine the quality of your air, and translate this measurement into colors on a five-point scale (good to severe).