There are areas of your home that you probably have an EXCELLENT handle on, and then there are areas of your home that are basically invisible and many of us don’t have a CLUE on how to handle them. And while there’s a few ways to handle this (indoor air quality monitor or environmental testing), you have to understand why and how to utilize these tools.
Imagine your home is like a patient going in for a checkup. Sometimes a doctor is going to focus on a few very important tests and sometimes they’re going to do a series of tests in a certain order. It all depends upon the patient — and in this case, your house.
Each house is totally different — whether they share a layout with other homes or they’re built by the same builder — no two homes are REALLY the same. And no two families living in a home are going to have the same needs, sensitivities or budget and time constraints.
This is why there is just no “one size fits all” approach that truly works for creating the healthiest home possible. Each step and the order of those steps really has to be chosen with intention. If you don’t know the purpose behind each step you’re taking, you’ll have no idea what to do with the results of any tests or any findings.
And while most homeowners ignore environmental testing, it can be SUCH an insightful eye into the true health and wellness of your home. Because many of these home health issues you can’t visually see and there’s no way to know they’re affecting your home space until you test or monitor for them.
YOU CAN’T FIX IT IF YOU DON’T KNOW
When we talk about diagnosing a sick home, half the battle is understanding WHAT is even going on with the home in the first place. And because homes are SO complex, oftentimes we don’t even know we need to be testing or looking for a problem to begin with. And the truth is, you can’t fix something if you don’t know about it.
Issues that become health concerns in a home won’t always be made aware of until you or someone in your home has health problems that are actually being caused by your home. When this happens the healing is a long road because not only do you have to heal yourself, but you also have to heal your home and the environment you’re living in.
You aren’t going to completely heal our body and then go right back into the same toxic environment that caused the problem in the first place. And chances are your body won’t heal completely while you’re in a toxin-filled space.
It’s why environmental testing is something to think about as a measure of prevention instead of waiting until after someone becomes ill in your home.
ENVIRONMENTAL TESTS YOU CAN DO:
While there are SO many tests you can do in your home, these are the big ones that will really help you eliminate BIG problems. Many of these are offered by local professionals, but some tests are easy enough to mail out (like formaldehyde and water).
Mold: Mold testing can be done a few different ways, but the most common is with a swab test that collects dust from your HVAC filter. Mold spores are large enough to be caught by a filter, and so if there are mold spores floating around in your home, generally it will be collected by your furnace filter, and so a swab should detect the mold spores. Most mold tests will also tell you what kind of mold and how much of it was detected. Remember that some molds come from the outside (from trees, grass and plants) and some mold may come from damaged building materials. It’s important to know which ones you have. A mold test can be mailed to you or completed in person.
Radon: Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and it’s something that many people just aren’t aware of. Depending on where you live in the country, you may have soil around your home that is high in producing radon. Radon is odorless, and so the only way to test for radon is with a test of some kind. You can purchase a DIY radon test or hire someone to come out with a continuous radon monitor to get an accurate reading of what your levels are. If anyone is living or spending a large amount of time in the lowest level of your home, it may be worth testing for radon as proximity and time spent around it are directly connected to lung cancer diagnoses.
Formaldehyde: While formaldehyde is likely in ALL of our homes, some homes can have very high amounts due to off gassing or types of materials or products brought in. We know that formaldehyde is a carcinogenic solution, and so it can increase the risk of cancer in some individuals. It’s also something we generally won’t know is high in our homes without some sort of test. You can test for formaldehyde with an at-home test that is mailed to you by me and then we can go through your results, or you can hire a professional in your area. Either of these options will give you the level of formaldehyde in the area you test, which can be an amazing tool to understand where the levels need to be reduced.
Water Testing: A true water test is going to be more than just checking the pH and the hardness of your water. A home water test should be looking at things like chlorine levels, lead, nitrates, mercury and other toxins that could be at higher levels that is ideal. Every home is going to be completely different based on where your water sources is and then what type of plumbing is in your home. Plumbing can leach plenty of toxins into your water in addition to the toxins that may already be coming into your home from the source. A simple water test (that tests for hundreds of contaminants) is the best way to go — you simply fill up the test tube and mail it back.
WHEN TO HIRE A PROFESSIONAL TESTER
One of the reasons I love the idea of hiring a professional tester is because they can help you go through your test results when you get them. There’s nothing worse than getting detailed information about your indoor air and then having no idea what to do with that information. Chances are it will feel overwhelming to start looking at a laundry list of contaminants found or high levels of a toxin.
That being said, I do advocate for homeowners doing their own testing first if there aren’t any signs that there’s a problem with any particular toxins. Usually testing on your own or with a mail in test is much less expensive and can usually be done on your own, quite quickly. It’s a good way to tell if you need to do more extensive testing by a professional if you get results that aren’t favorable.
Another time I say just head to a professional is if you’ve had another contractor or health professional recommend it based on what they see in your space or with your own health and wellness. This is a time to skip the indoor air quality monitor and head right to a professional test.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY MONITORS TO ASSESS
Another way you can REALLY benefit your space is by having an indoor air quality monitor in your home to help you understand your home’s air, toxins and the timing of these things. One of the most interesting things in a home is that not all problems are at their worst all the time. Usually it ebbs and flow and there is usually a time of the day that you may see a large spike in due to our activities or the air flow within the home
My favorite indoor air quality monitor is by AirThings and it’s been around long enough that it’s been tested for accuracy and yet they keep up with new technology and research to know that things change from time to time. This device is used by professionals like myself, which speaks volumes.
This indoor air quality monitor will monitor:
Humidity: We all know that we want humidity levels to be ideally around 35% to avoid mold, dustmites and the spread of viruses. It’s the key to a healthier home
Air pressure: Air pressure can affect radon levels and can also make you feel crummy, so it’s important to know what your levels are in order to determine what habits need to be fixed at home.
Radon: Radon actually fluctuates throughout the day and then throughout the year, and with a continuous radon monitor built in, you can actually shift your habits to allow fresh air into your home at the right time to dilute the radon gas.
CO2: This is measured in public buildings and in schools because it is directly correlated to how good the indoor air quality is inside. The higher the CO2 level, the worse the indoor air quality is. Essentially it’s a barometer for how much fresh air is coming inside.
VOCs: I love that this indoor air quality monitor has a reading for VOCs because this is a HUGE toxin inside our home. VOCs are toxic to our bodies in many ways, and the truth is we are exposed to them constantly. Having a good idea of the levels in your home can help you make important decisions about changes to your space.
Particulate Matter: The dust and other particles in your air contain toxins from inside your home and toxins that are brought into your home. The higher amounts of particulate matter, likely the worse the indoor air quality is. High particulate matter counts from an indoor air quality monitor can also mean that there are a lot of allergens in the air, which can be irritating to many individuals.
HELP FOR FIXING PROBLEMS THAT TESTS DETECT
The good news is that once you know what’s going on with your indoor air, you can begin to fix the problem and ultimately heal your home. Oftentimes the remedy for these problems we discussed is an easier solution than we conjure up in our heads.
Increased Ventilation: The BEST and LEAST expensive way to improve indoor air quality is to increase ventilation throughout your home. Ventilation can mean opening a window, or it can mean improving mechanical ventilation through vented fans in your home. Whichever way you choose to ventilate your home, just know that it is improving the indoor air quality with very little effort from you. It makes a huge impact with very little work on your part.
Air Purifier: An air purifier will actually fix a lot of the problems detected by an indoor air quality monitor. While it won’t reduce radon, it can remove mold spores, dust, allergens, and even some VOCs that adhere to dust in your home. An air purifier is an excellent way to improve indoor air quality after you’ve got a dusting routine down and after you’ve increased ventilation around your space. The MedifyAir is my top pick (plus they’ve given me a $15 off coupon to use: HHOTB15)
Healthy Home Blueprint: I’m SO excited that my new course is created and ready! This online workshop style course is helping you build the foundation you need to start creating a healthier home and then walking you through how to make a customized plan for your space that will take you through big and small changes. Basically you’ll create an entire blueprint for the health of your home and plan out the steps you’ll take. I have an entire section on just how to fix particular problems that are detected by indoor air quality monitors and the exact steps to take to fix the indoor climate.
Remediation & Mitigation: If testing shows radon or mold, it’s important to know that the only way to TRULY fix these issues without just putting a bandaid on the problem is to actually remove the issue. WIth mold, it’s going to be complete remediation in order to stop the problem from spreading further into your space. Sometimes remediation can be done on a small scale, and sometimes it’s a huge project depending on how much mold is present. WIth a toxin like radon, you’ll mitigate the gas, or essentially remove it from your home and safely expel it outside with a radon mitigation system. This is the only way to truly get rid of radon in a home.
Water Filters: The beauty of having a water test done is that you will know the SPECIFIC type of water filter you should be purchasing for your home. Not all water filters remove the same contaminants, and so you can’t use the one-size-fits-all approach for this. It’s important to choose the right system for the type of issues you’re having. This post can help you identify what type of filters you might need for what issues you’re having.
Whether you decide to have environmental testing done or whether you choose to go the route of an indoor air quality monitor, just remember that knowledge is power when it comes to your home. You can’t really fix what’s going on without knowing which problems are there.