The heat waves we’re enduring drive us to live in air conditioning, but it’s essential to ventilate the inside environment before switching the a/c on.
If you work from home with the windows closed or spend many hours in a poorly ventilated office every day, you might find yourself getting sleepy, thirsty, and tired early on. You pour yourself another cup of coffee, hoping caffeine will pump up the energy levels so you can focus better. You might resolve to improve your sleeping habits, eat more healthily, learn to de-stress through meditation… but the simple act of opening the windows might be the only thing you need.
When fresh air flows through the house (or office), it sweeps out stale, used air, gases, odors, and dust. Oxygen flows in with fresh air, and as it’s known, higher levels of oxygen keep people awake and focused. Casinos, for example, have known this for years. They pump oxygen into the gaming rooms to keep gamblers high on the excitement for longer.
Letting fresh air in reduces accumulated condensation in the home. This helps to avoid wood rot and mold in your closets and under your bed. Mold likes warm, dark, moist conditions and can grow comfortably even during the summer. If your area has high humidity, it’s worth leaving your closet doors open for half an hour every day, longer if possible. My mother used to open her closet doors before she went to bed and slept with them open.
Consider using the old-fashioned method of keeping mattresses fresh by standing them up in the bedroom with the windows open. Your clothes, linens and beds will be the sweeter for it. And moving linens and bedding around discourages dust mites.
Prudent housekeepers have always known the value of fresh air and sun. I have folkloric memories of years when I lived in a Jerusalem apartment, observing head-kerchiefed Bukharan housewives pushing blankets and pillows out on the windowsills to air out, every day unless it rained. On Fridays they would fold their colorful rugs over the low walls around the building and have at them with bamboo rug beaters, freeing them from dust and exposing them to the cleansing sunshine. Nowadays we rely on washers, dryers, and vacuum cleaners, but letting the sun and air into your rooms is always good therapy for the house.
Save money on electricity when you ventilate. We automatically assume that the house will be unbearably hot from early morning on, but most days there’s a temperature interval of grace between night and the time we start the day. Open all the windows and doors inside the house as early as you can. You might have even several hours before you feel the need to turn the a/c on and close everything up again. Remember, you pay for every hour of a/c.
Ventilating keeps you healthier. According to the American Lung Association, air pollution exists indoors too. People with compromised immune systems, lung diseases, asthma and allergies are at higher risk of getting sick when their indoor environment isn’t clean, and that includes good air quality. Nobody likes walking into a stuffy room. That’s our instinctive reaction to polluted air that’s not only unpleasant to breathe but dangerous to our health.
So ventilate to reduce indoor air pollution. Open the kitchen window when you’re cooking, to expel fumes, gases, moisture and airborne particles in the home. Ventilate the bathroom, particularly after a shower. Install exhaust fans in both kitchen and bathrooms.
Fumes from cooking and heating fuel must be vented to the outside. Use a fan to expel fumes. In the same way, make sure the exhaust from the dryer vents outdoors. And if you have a hobby that requires paints or chemicals, keep the room well ventilated with a fan in the window to help expel air pollutants.
When should you ventilate? Unless there’s a sandstorm or a raging blizzard outdoors, open windows every day. Choose hours when the outdoor temperature is tolerable. Early morning is usually the best time. Now in the summer, open bedroom windows before you sleep, with due consideration to security.
How should you ventilate? The simplest way to ensure a healthy flow of air in the house is to open all windows and doors for a while, allowing a draft. You will probably not want to open the front door for security reasons. Exhaust fans in rooms where moisture and fumes accumulate are efficient air cleaners – and as we wrote earlier, some house plants “scrub” the air too.