(Last Updated On: March 28, 2023)

Biohacking Indoor Air Quality: Expert Recommendations on Healthy Living

7 min read

Woman sitting in living room enjoying fresh air

Thoughts of air pollution generally center around what’s floating around outside. We usually don’t consider what’s floating around inside our homes—but we should. We spend a lot of time indoors: as much as 90 percent. Experts say the air quality inside can be two to five times worse than the air quality outside. This means that, even in the safety of our home, you will need to improve air quality indoors or you will  be breathing a lot of bad, dirty air.

How Can You Improve Indoor Air Quality at Home?

So, what can we do? Improving air quality inside your home may be simpler than you think. The easiest and most effective way is to invest in an air purifier. The machines run on electricity and are equipped with HEPA filters that pull the smallest of particles out of the air, trap them and send cleaner, more breathable air back out.

HEPA filtration is the gold standard in air purification and is designed to remove 99.97 percent of the irritants out of the air. It’s incredibly effective in helping everyone—from those with severe respiratory problems to those who have no trouble at all—breathe easier.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Home Air Purifier?

The benefits of using an air purifier will often be noticed quickly, especially if you or someone in your family has respiratory issues. They can help lessen the effects of irritants, like pollen, that trigger allergies. Air purifiers pull pollutants like dust mites and pet dander out of the air—both can be a problem for anyone who suffers from asthma.

Certain air purifiers can also pull odors out of the air and eliminate chemicals and gasses that may be floating around. They can also help you improve your sleep by pulling things out of the air that disrupt it.

How Many Air Purifiers Do You Need at Home?

In theory, you would get the best results by having an air purifier in every room of your home. However, the cost of doing this can make it impossible for most people. If you can afford two air purifiers, choose one for your bedroom and one for the living area. But if you can only afford one, you’ll want to put it in the room where you and your family will receive the most benefit.

Once you choose where your air purifier is going, you’ll want to know the square footage of the space. Every air purifier is designed to cover a certain amount of square footage, so it’s important to make sure the air purifier you choose covers the space you plan to put it in. Instead of guessing at your room size, grab a measuring tape and measure the length and width of the room. Multiply those two numbers to get the area. For example, if your room is 10 feet by 15 feet, the square footage is 150.

  • Room Size: 10 x 15 = 150

But just because the air purifier’s box says it covers rooms up to 150 square feet doesn’t mean it’s the right size for your room. That’s because the square footage coverage number on the air purifier box is usually based on ceilings that are eight feet tall. Your home may have ceilings that are taller than eight feet. If that’s the case, then you will have to calculate the cubic footage of the room. So, let’s say your 10 x 15 room has 10-foot ceilings. Here’s how to find the cubic footage:

  • Room Size: 10 x 15 = 150 square feet
  • Cubic Footage: 150 (square footage of room) x 10 (ceiling height) = 1500

So, with the cubic footage above, you’ll need an air purifier that covers at least 1500 square feet. You’ll also want to pay attention to how many times the air purifier cleans that amount of square footage an hour – the more the better. If the box says the machine will cover up to 150 square feet, that generally means it will clean that amount of space on the highest fan speed once an hour.

How to Optimize Air Purifier Usage

Air purifiers can be expensive, and they perform an essential function, so you want to make sure it serves you well. It’s important to take good care of the machine and there are some simple steps you can take to keep it performing like it’s supposed to.

Filter Replacement
All air purifiers work with a filter and all filters have a lifespan. Some last longer than others, but the general time frame is usually between 6 and 15 months. One of the most important things you can do to extend the life of your air purifier, and ensure you’re breathing clean air, is to replace the filter when it’s recommended.

Whether it’s time to change the filter or not, you should check it at least once a month. Depending on the quality of the air or how hard the purifier has had to work, the filter may get dirtier quicker, and may need changing before the recommended time. If the machine you have contains a permanent filter, make sure you clean it regularly. That will extend the life of the air purifier and the disposable filter.

Clean the Air Purifier
Just like everything else, air purifiers need to be cleaned. Dust the outside of the machine as often as you dust inside your home to make sure there’s no unnecessary build-up. And at least once a month, wipe down the area inside the purifier where the filter goes. It will help keep your machine running longer.

HVAC Filters
Just like the filters for your air purifier, the filters for your HVAC need to be changed regularly. These filters help protect the sensitive components of your HVAC system, while also filtering out large particles like dirt, dust and hair.

HVAC filters should be changed, on average, every three months. If you have pets in your home, you should change the filter every two months. If you have more than one pet or suffer from allergies or respiratory problems, you should change the filter once a month.

Air Purifier Placement
You may not realize that where you put your air purifier is just as important as how often you run it. Where the machine sits can affect how well it performs. If the air purifier is in your bedroom, place it near your “breathing zone.” Typically, placing it on a night stand or near the head of the bed will be most effective.

If the air purifier is in the living room, it’s best to place it off the ground and near places with the highest air flow—think doorways, near windows, and along walls. Don’t ever put your air purifier directly behind a curtain or piece of furniture. That will obstruct the machine and keep it from performing correctly.

Air Quality Monitoring
More and more air purifiers are coming equipped with air quality monitors. These machines will track air quality in real-time and adjust the fan speed accordingly. But if your air purifier doesn’t have one, it may be worth investing in an air quality monitor. That way you can know when to turn the fan speed of the purifier up to clean the air.

When to Replace Your Home Air Filters

As mentioned, it’s important to replace the filters in your air purifier regularly to keep the machine working correctly and to make sure the air inside your home is as clean as it can be. But there are several factors that can result in the need to replace the filters more often than the recommendation on the box.

For instance, if you or someone you live with has pollen allergies, you will want to change the filters more often during pollen season. This is especially true if you like to open the windows on warm, spring days.

If there is a smoker in the house, you’ll want to change your filters more often. Tobacco smoke has been proven to be a health hazard. Because of the way it sticks to other particles in the air, it has the tendency to linger much longer. For those reasons, it can dirty up filters quicker than other pollutants and create the need for them to be changed more often.

Some air purifiers contain activated carbon filters. They’re highly effective at removing odors, gasses and VOCs from the air by adsorbing them into the porous material. Because of the process, these filters have to be changed out about every three months.

What Factors Affect Filtered Air Quality?

If you’ve done any research on air purifiers, you’ve likely heard of ionization. Some machines are equipped with ionizers which use negative ions to remove small particles from the air. Ionizers will help mask the smell of odors in your home and make the air seem fresher.

The problem with ionizers is they can also emit ozone, which is an unhealthy lung irritant. Inhaling small amounts of ozone can cause an immediate reaction including chest pain, coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation. Over time, breathing in ozone can make asthma worse, give you a higher risk of respiratory infections, reduce your lung function, and cause lung inflammation. It’s a good rule of thumb to stay away from air purifiers with ionizers, or turn the ionizer off if the machine has that option.

Are Air Purifiers Good for the Environment?

When in use, air purifiers are a great addition to your home to help clean the air inside. We don’t truly realize all the irritants that can be floating around in our homes on any given day. Whether it’s dust, allergens or gasses and VOCs, an air purifier can pull those things out of the air, trap them in the filter and send fresher, purer, more breathable air back out. Eliminating those things are good for the environment because if left alone, they can lead to chronic health issues.

The units run on electricity, but most companies make them energy efficient so you’ll see very little difference in your electric bill. The air purifiers and filters themselves aren’t recyclable. They may eventually end up in a landfill, which can be an environmental mark against them. But air purifiers are generally made to last and don’t have to be frequently tossed out and replaced, which makes the environmental benefits outweigh the risks.

What is Biohacking and How Do I Start?

You may have heard the term biohacking. It’s a do-it-yourself biological process to help make improvements in your performance, health and well-being. It can include anything from losing weight to enhancing brain function. It can also be making changes to help improve the air quality in your home.

One simple biohack is to add flowers or plants that are known to be natural air purifiers:

  • Spider Plants remove formaldehyde, which is emitted by sources such as cigarette smoke and fingernail polish. They are easy to grow and maintain inside.
  • Chrysanthemums eliminate common toxins, including ammonia, from the air.
  • Philodendrons are not only popular indoor plants, they’re great air purifiers. They are easy to grow and maintain and can remove formaldehyde from the air.
  • English Ivy is a hardy plant that removes most pollutants.
  • Peace Lilies can clean the air of alcohols, acetone, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

How Cleaning Your Carpets Can Affect Air Quality

Aside from purchasing an air purifier, one of the biggest ways you can help improve the air quality inside your home is by cleaning your carpets regularly. Carpet naturally traps dust, pet dander, and other allergens in its fibers. So, it’s important to vacuum your carpet often to rid your home of those pollutants and help maintain the air quality inside. In addition to regular vacuuming, you should also consider having your carpets deep-cleaned every 12 to 18 months by professionals, which will dig out the deep-seated dirt and grime.

How to Address the Chemicals You’re Bringing into Your Home

We don’t often think about all the chemicals we expose ourselves to on a regular basis. But our cleaning products, pest control liquids, aerosol cans and a host of other products we use every day contain harmful chemicals that we don’t want to breathe in for long periods of time.

In addition to making sure containers are sealed and stored properly, many air purifiers are designed to pull chemicals, gasses and VOCs out of the air, making your home a safer place overall.

What Are the Health Benefits of Sustainable Products?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 90 percent of the world’s population live in places where pollution levels exceed recommended guidelines. In recent years, emphasis has been put on building and using more sustainable products. Taking this approach can help reduce emissions and improve the air quality of our world, our country and our home.

When we buy sustainable products or corporations build sustainable buildings, we reduce air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. Fossil fuels used for transportation and agriculture, and even cooking stoves can be linked directly to air pollution. And while those things help us, looking for more sustainable alternatives in your purchasing decisions can go a long way in helping you breathe easier.

How Do I Start Practicing Mindfulness?

Sometimes the best way to clear the air is to clear your mind. We use the phrase “be mindful” a lot, but it’s important to know what that means. Mindfulness is a basic ability we all have to be fully present or aware of where we are, what we’re doing and what’s going on around us. It can be achieved by using our five senses or through our thoughts and emotions.

Mindfulness can help you reduce anxiety and depression, help you manage stress and cope with serious illness. It can also make you more aware of the choices you make and how they can affect the quality of the air around you. When your mind isn’t on auto-pilot, you’re more likely to make choices that are better for you. Before making any purchasing decision: find a way to clear your mind. It may be a moment of meditation or some deep breathing exercises that can help you focus on researching products that are more sustainable and therefore, better for you and your family over time.

What is The Best Way to Start Decluttering?

Humans collect things and things collect dust. And when dust floats through the air inside our homes, it can lead to coughing, sneezing or breathing problems. Even if it doesn’t cause an immediate reaction for you, it can cause long-term respiratory problems. As much as we would like to, it’s impossible to rid this world of dust completely. But you can get a good start on it inside your home by dusting regularly and decluttering.

If you’ve lived in the same place for a number of years, decluttering can seem like a monumental task. It’s also difficult to figure out what to get rid of, since we develop an attachment to things. But if you’re looking to clean out, don’t try to do everything at once. Start small, like with the junk drawer in the kitchen. It won’t seem as overwhelming, will be easier to manage and quicker to finish.

You’ll also want to separate everything into one of three piles—keep, donate or throw away. When you decide to keep something, find a specific home for it. If you’re holding onto things you want to pass down to children or grandchildren, ask first if they want the items. They may tell you no, and while that may be upsetting, it will help you decide whether to keep something or get rid of it.

And lastly, when you buy something new, make a promise to get rid of something else to limit what is inside your home and keep from getting cluttered up again. Getting rid of the clutter will help cut down on the amount of dust inside your home, and improve the quality of the air you are breathing.

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Most of us spend the majority of our time in our homes. It is where we eat, sleep, spend time with family, and—for many of us in a post-pandemic world—where we work. We want to feel safe in our homes, but invisible contaminants may be polluting our space and negatively affecting our health. An air purifier can be the first line of defense against poor home air quality, but there are numerous factors that can affect air purifier performance, as well as impact which air purifier you should choose. We can also choose sustainable cleaning products that help us eliminate dirt and disease in our living spaces without bringing harmful chemicals into contact, practice mindfulness and intentional living habits, and keep our spaces clear and free of clutter. With a little bit of effort, we can give ourselves (and our loved ones) the gift of clean home air.