When it’s cold outside, getting rid of stuffy indoor air isn’t as simple as throwing the windows open. So, what’s the best way to let fresh air in without freezing (or running up an astronomical heating bill)? These three easy tips will help keep your home warm, cozy, and smelling great — even in the depths of winter.
Open this door for forced-air systems.
HVAC systems produce especially dry air due to the fans they employ. “Low humidity can lower air quality,” says Darcy Lee, of American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning. “The EPA advises keeping relative humidity between 30 percent and 50 percent, which you can check with a hygrometer, found in hardware stores.”
To raise humidity without cost, just let everyday tasks do double duty. For example, opening the bathroom door and turning off the exhaust when you shower lets out steamy air, as does boiling water on the stovetop. And when your dishwasher is done, open the door and let dishes air dry. Just doing these three easy things daily boosts humidity by a noticeable five percent or more.
Give it a drip for radiators.
Radiators are often guilty of emitting stale air, especially if pipes are impeded. “They can get air pockets that stop hot water from circulating efficiently,” says Chris Harvey of Stelrad radiator company. The solution: “Once a year, ‘bleed’ the pipes — it’s super easy.” First, make sure the heat is off and the radiator is cold. Then place a bowl under the valve — the dial at the bottom of the unit — and turn the valve to open it until you hear hissing, which is the air escaping. When water starts to drip out, the job is done, and you can close the valve.
Also smart: “Make sure your radiator leans slightly downward toward the valve,” says Ian Haynes, director at PlumbingLab. “Just place a clear water bottle half filled with water on top to check if it’s level.” If the unit needs a boost, place a piece of wood under the radiator’s feet on the side opposite the valve to keep the pipes free-flowing.
Grab a dryer sheet for baseboards.
While baseboards can be one of the most efficient and evenly distributed heating systems, they can also be magnets for dust, pet hair and other debris, which impact air quality and how well your heating system works. The easy fix: Once a month, wipe down baseboards with a dryer sheet, which repels airborne debris and prevents it from settling back on the unit. The next step in keeping baseboards clean is replacing your air filters every 30 to 60 days, which will prevent dust from circulating in your home, adding years of life to the heating system.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.