Story at a glance:

  • Carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless natural gas that can be hard to measure without the proper tools.
  • A home with an efficient HVAC system can help mitigate CO2 trapped in the air.
  • Limiting open flames, adding plants into your home design, and more can help keep the air clean.

Spending more time at home these days means we may be noticing things we didn’t see before: a crack in the wall, a slow drain. But one thing you probably won’t notice: rising carbon dioxide levels.

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is an odorless, colorless natural gas that is released into the air when we breathe. Although CO2 is harmless in small quantities, the buildup of this natural gas can lead to adverse health effects such as fatigue, headaches, loss of concentration, dizziness, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and more.

So how can you improve indoor air quality? Here are 10 easy fixes that can help lower CO2 levels and reduce air pollution in your home.

Ensure that your HVAC system is working properly.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Check your HVAC system, be it a radiant system or forced air. Many efficient ventilation solutions recycle air to conserve energy, which is great for the environment but can move contaminated air around rather than cycling in new air, which can lead to a higher concentration of CO2. Replace your air filters and any other parts as needed to improve ventilation and lower CO2 levels in your home.

Design your home to support airflow.

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Natural light and light wood are key to the design of The Lookout. Photo by Rafael Soldi

As buildings become more airtight, less fresh air is circulated around your home, and air confined to one space keeps CO2 trapped. Other than a strong ventilation system, think about how to set up your home to keep air moving. Consider opening your windows when you can and placing big furniture pieces against the wall rather in the center of a room, where they can block airways. At night, keep bedroom doors open so air can filter through while you sleep.

Limit open flames.

earthcore gbd magazine fireplace

Photo courtesy of Earthcore

Chestnuts roasting over the open fire is great come the holiday season, but fire uses up the oxygen in your home and replaces it with CO2, so be cautious of how often you light a fire or a candle. Similarly, smoking also releases large amounts of CO2, along with other chemicals, which then get trapped in your home.

Incorporate plants in your home.

COOKFOX designed the new IWBI offices in New York City with an emphasis on biophilic design. Photo by Eric Laignel

Plants not only boost your mood, concentration, and creativity—not to mention provide stress relief—but greenery also helps purify the air by converting CO2 into oxygen and absorbing toxins. Red-edged dracaena, weeping fig, and bamboo palm are among the best indoor plants due to their air filtering capabilities.

Invest in an air purifier.

Plants might be nature’s air purifier, but sometimes they need a boost. An air purifier with activated carbon filters and a fan can help capture pollutants from the air and improve air quality.

Increase airflow while cooking.

Simple changes in residential kitchen design may have a tremendous effect on the environment. Photo courtesy of InSinkErator

Another way CO2 is released into the air is through combustion, which is common in cooking, particularly with gas ranges. Turning on an extractor fan can expel CO2 and other gases that form while cooking, such as nitrogen dioxide, outside. If you don’t have an extractor fan, open a window to keep air moving.

Limit your exposure to VOCs.

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Farrow & Ball’s reformulated Modern Emulsion finish is extra durable, and still water based and low-VOC. Photo courtesy of Farrow & Ball

Besides carbon dioxide, other carbon compounds called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can also linger in the air. Unfortunately VOCs can be hidden in many everyday materials, furniture, cleaners, and more. For example, VOCs from interior paints continue to off-gas for months or even years after the fresh paint smell disappears. When you can, opt from products made from natural materials and ingredients, such as nontoxic paint.

Watch your home’s humidity levels.

Moisture in the air can help prevent coughing and nosebleeds, but too much moisture and issues like harmful mold growth can arise. The ideal relative humidity for your home should be between 30% and 50%, according to Mayo Clinic. To reduce extra moisture in the air, cover boiling pots and pans, turn a fan on during hot showers, and keep windows open while cooking to limit extra condensation.

Minimize rug use.

Particle buildup in rugs and carpets means that pollutants can get trapped in fabric fibers. Choosing hard surface floors, such as hardwood, bamboo, or tile, can prevent that buildup. If your home is carpeted, make sure to vacuum regularly.

Pick up a CO2 monitor.

Because carbon dioxide is odorless and colorless, it’s tricky to track. A CO2 monitor will tell you exactly how much carbon dioxide is in the air and when you should take steps like those above to lower the CO2 levels in your home.