Our home’s appliances and systems are designed to keep us warm once winter hits, but we can’t forget about how they impact the air we breathe.
As winter arrives and temperatures drop, we rely on our home’s appliances and systems to keep us warm — often not giving a second thought to how these heat sources may impact our indoor air quality. Through this series of true/false statements, test your knowledge of how extreme cold weather affects how we run our homes and, consequently, the air we breathe. Then, take steps to reduce pollutants this season.
TRUE. Some of the best parts of winter — curling up in front of a wood-burning fireplace, cooking gut-warming meals and simply being inside more with loved ones — are to blame for an increase in indoor air pollution. Plus, we’re not getting natural ventilation from open windows and doors during those cold-weather months.¹ To combat this buildup of pollutants, hire a professional to service your HVAC system to ensure it’s working properly, and keep up with filter changes — Filtrete™ Healthy Living Air Filters help cleanse indoor air by trapping dust, bacteria, viruses and allergens — at least every three months to maintain optimal performance.
FALSE. During the cold winter months, the warmth of heated floors is perhaps the only thing that makes slipping out from under cozy covers a bit easier. But if you’re worried about yet another heat source adding more pollutants to your home’s air, we have good news: Heated floors don’t contribute to airborne particles since, unlike forced-air systems, they don’t blow warm air — nor the dust, allergens and contaminants that come with it — throughout your spaces.²
TRUE. No matter how tempting it is to warm up your car in the garage on cold winter mornings, it isn't worth the risk. Even with the garage door open, idling in a garage can cause a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide that can make its way into your home. To avoid exposure to the poisonous gas, don’t turn on your vehicle until everyone is in the car and the doors are closed. Open the garage door, start the car and then immediately back out of the garage.
FALSE. Mold is often thought of as a nuisance of summertime, when temperatures and humidity are at their peak. After all, moisture and warmth are the two conditions mold needs to grow. Unfortunately, even cold weather can foster an environment for mold spores to populate, thanks to a combination of snow and ice, plus warmer indoor temperatures.³ Be proactive against mold in wintertime by taking steps like removing snowy boots at the door, keeping your home’s humidity level between 30-50%, and addressing leaks quickly rather than adding them to your springtime repair list.⁴
IT DEPENDS. When your home's heating system can't keep up with the cold temperatures outside, space heaters can help warm small areas throughout your home. Depending on the type of space heater, however, you could end up inadvertently introducing pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide in your home. Your safest bet is to skip combustion space heaters in favor of an electric space heater that plugs into a wall outlet and is outfitted with an automatic shut-off feature that’s engaged if the unit is tipped over.⁵
Download flashcards to test your family’s cold weather knowledge (PDF, 109.88 KB).
1. "Easy Ways you can Improve Indoor Air Quality," Harvard Health Publishing. 2021.
2. "Particle Concentration Comparison of Radiator and Floor Heating Systems under Zero Air Change Rate Condition," Aerosol Air Quality Research.2021.
3. "How to Prevent Mold Growth During the Winter," JSE Labs Inc. 2021.
4. "A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home," EPA.