Indoor pollution and UrbanMeisters have been at war for quite some time. This formidable foe has always managed to slip under the ‘alert’ radar because outdoor air tends to worry us more. But indoor air pollution can be much higher than outdoor and considering we spend more time indoors in homes and offices this can be a big health menace. Increasingly a number of urbanmeisters have joined us in the efforts to weed out unhealthy indoor air from homes and offices. We present one such UrbanMeister and Guest Writer from Austin, Texas- Kara Mauerhan who has joined forces against indoor pollution. Kara is an Energy Conservation professional who gives us really easy checks we can place at home to control indoor pollution. Over to Kara.

Meet the indoor pollution fighter: UrbanMeister Kara

Hello all! My name is Kara, and today I would like to tell you about how to improve the indoor environmental quality of your home, but first let me tell you a little something about myself. I live and work in Austin, Texas, the home of the first green building programs in the US and the live music capitol of the world! I am a certified International Energy Conservation Code inspector, HERS rater, and LEED AP. HERS stands for “Home Energy Rating System,” and LEED AP stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Accredited Professional.” I help builders obtain Energy Star and LEED certifications for their newly constructed or remodelled homes as well as just comply with state mandated energy codes. Now on with the show!

Tackle indoor pollution with basic checks at home

The quality of your indoor environment is probably not something that people think about too often, but it can greatly contribute to your general well-being. Think about it…everyday you’re being inundated by toxins that are entering your home on your shoes or through cracks in the walls that are then being circulated throughout your space by your HVAC equipment. But the good news is that there is plenty you can do about indoor pollution at home.

1. NO ENTRY sign for all things unhealthy  

First let’s talk about how to cut down on what’s entering your home. Every day you go out into the world and you go to work or grocery shop or take your kids to school, and every day you bring the world home with you – on your shoes or clothes or whatever. My first suggestion is simply to install walk-off mats at your front door and create some sort of shoe storage. You have no idea the different kinds of things that you’re picking up with your shoes. You step in a lot of rubbish all day and then you bring it into your house without a thought! Simply install a mat at your front door, wipe the bottom of your shoes well, and remove those shoes and leave them at the door. If you’re the type of person who likes to have your shoes on always, invest in some “house shoes” that you wear around your house only. I have some lovely and fashionable VANS slip-ons that I like to put on when I get home. And while you’re at it, go ahead and change into some clean lounging clothes and throw the dirty ones in the hamper. Or cruise around in your underwear!

2. SEAL it up tight

The next thing that you can do is walk around your home with a caulk gun (make sure the caulk says that it is LOW VOC or NO VOC) and check out the sealing of various items in your home such as can lighting and plumbing penetrations. If those things aren’t sealed properly, outdoor air is consistently getting sucked into your home through those cracks contributing to indoor pollution. Also get yourself some weather-stripping and make sure that exterior doors are sealed. Caulk and weather-stripping should be available at any hardware store, and both are very easy to install.
Another easy thing that you can do is buy GOOD air filters for your HVAC equipment and change them out EVERY THREE MONTHS. By good, I mean something with a MERV rating of 10 or higher. MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting value,” and the higher the number is the better. These babies filter all the particles from the air that is being brought into and circulating through your home. That means dust, mold, pet dander, tobacco smoke, pollen, dirty carpet fibers, auto emissions, etc. Also, a dirty filter inhibits your HVAC systems ability to work efficiently and cool your home.
Speaking of auto emissions…if you park your car in a garage that is attached to your home, you very well could be allowing toxic CO2 into your space especially if you aren’t using that weather-stripping. Buy yourself a CO2 monitor for just inside your garage door so that you’ll know if any of that yucky stuff is getting into your house and you can keep a tab on indoor pollution. You can buy one at a hardware store with some stick-em on it and just stick it to the ceiling. And the best solution? Just get rid of that gas guzzler and get an electric car if you’re a baller who can afford to do so on a whim.

3. Carpet Conundrums 

One other thing. It could potentially be a pricey renovation, but I feel compelled to talk to you about your carpet. Carpet…well it can just be nasty y’all. Especially if you have pets who spend time outdoors. There’s always a ridiculous amount of dirt and dust under the carpet. You think that you’re vacuuming but even the strongest of vacuums can’t get to some of that stuff trapped under your carpet and carpet pad. Avoid carpeting and if you’re one of the many people who love the feel of the carpet under their feet,  using rugs will do the trick and, unlike the carpet, you can wash those suckers or beat them outside with a broom like they did in the olden days. Not to mention, the actual carpet, carpet glue and carpet pads can be toxic to the environment. They contain volatile organic compounds in the adhesives and sealants. So better to keep those out of the house.
Well folks, that’s my spiel. I hope that some of you found this information useful and if you’re interested in learning more, just shout me a holler and I’ll be more than happy to share whatever knowledge that I have with you because we’re all in this business of improving our personal environment and the global environment together!
We hope you found Kara’s tips handy and easy to follow. Reach out to her by writing to us on We also welcome any tips you may’ve on improving indoor air quality.

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