How to Improve Air Quality in a Basement Apartment

In this fast paced World rapid urbanisation has forced the people to live in congested apartments. Approximately 32% of American homes have basements. Many people have converted their basements into living spaces. As people spend more time indoors, this raises the problem of poor indoor air quality.

In 1984 World Health Organization Committee reported that upto 30% of new and remodelled buildings worldwide may have complaints related to indoor air quality.

Ever witnessed that damp and unpleasant odour in your basement? Living in basements possess several issues related to indoor air quality.The most common problems include enormous levels of dust, dampness, musty odours, etc. This air is capable of spreading  to other parts of the house resulting in several adverse health effects.

Researchers like Weschler and kauneliene et al.have studied that Advances in technology have led to the creation of highly compact residential areas, which often lacks the sufficient air exchange and ventilation system malfunction. Thus the effect of these factors are much greater than that of ambient air.

The condition in which people experience acute health problems and discomfort while residing in their homes, but no specific cause can be identified is known as Sick Building Syndrome. 

In this brief article we are going to discuss the health impacts of poor basement  air quality and provide you with some insights on how to purify the air quality  in a basement apartment.

How to Improve Air Quality in a Basement Apartment?

You can improve air quality in a basement by doing the below things:

  • Install air purifiers
  • Dry your house properly
  • Keep your basement ventilated
  • Keep windows closed
  • Check for VOC contributors
  • Monitor the Radon levels

Is there a Need to Improve the Air Quality in a Basement Apartment?

Yes, there is a need to improve the air quality in a basement apartment. There are several health problems faced by people living in basement apartments. The basement environments are mainly composed of a mixture of indoor and outdoor pollutants.

The following contaminants present in the basement air possess threats to our health:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as (benzene, acrolein, formaldehyde, benzo(a)pyrene)
  • Particulate matter
  • Biological particles (bacteria, fungi, and pollen)
  • Gases( CO, NO2, Ozone, Radon)
  • Environmental tobacco smoke

What do Recent Studies show?

Researchers have conducted various experiments which demonstrated that poor indoor air quality can lead to reduced performance of office work by 6-9% which are accompanied by increased episodes of headaches and fatigue.  

Many researchers believe that Indoor air pollution has received less attention as compared to outdoor pollution but in reality indoor pollution levels are twice higher. We spend about 80-90% of our lives in airtight buildings. More than 5 million people lose their lives every year due to premature illnesses caused by poor indoor air quality.

What are the Detrimental Effects of these Pollutants on Human Health?

Basement environments are mainly composed of a mixture of indoor and outdoor pollutants. 

  • Indoor contaminants that originate inside the building includes; combustion sources (burning fuels, candles, coal and wood, tobacco products, etc), Emissions from building materials, Central heating and cooling systems, Moisture processes, Electronic equipment, Pets.
  • Outdoor pollutants are associated with vehicular traffic and industrial activities. These pollutants enter the house by infiltration or through ventilation systems. 

Some of the major health effects of these pollutants on human health are discussed below:

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, acrolein,  benzo(a)pyrene

Common sources of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at home include paints, solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, household cleansers and disinfectants, air fresheners, stored fuels, dry cleaned clothes.

VOCs are known to cause symptoms like

  • eye, nose and throat irritation,
  • shortness of breath, 
  • headaches, 
  • fatigue, 
  • nausea,
  • dizziness, 
  • skin problems.

However the higher concentrations may cause irritation of lungs as well damage to the vital organs like liver, kidneys or central nervous system. Some VOCs are suspected to cause cancer such as Benzene. It is a known human carcinogen.

 Particulate matter

The presence of particulate matter in the indoor air causes

  • elevated susceptibility to respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory distress, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • disease as severe as lung cancer 

Biological particles (bacteria, fungi, and pollen)

Diseases caused by biological particles include:

  • Alveolitis ( hypersensitivity pneumonia) and organic dust syndrome- caused by any biological dust that has particles. 
  • Biological particles such as mold affect the respiratory tract as well as eyes, causing allergic rhinitis, asthma and allergic conjunctivitis, fatigue, nausea, and secondary bacterial infections such as sinusitis. 


Gases (CO, NO2, Ozone, Radon)

 Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless and toxic gas. Major sources of indoor carbon monoxide

include; leaking chimneys and furnaces, wood stoves, gas stoves, generators and other gasoline-powered equipment, tobacco smoke

 The effects can vary depending upon the concentration. For example

  • At low concentrations, it can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart    disease
  • At moderate concentrations it can cause angina, impaired vision and reduced brain function.  
  • However at higher concentrations it can cause impaired vision and coordination, dizziness, confusion, nausea and fatal at high concentrations


Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

The most common indoor sources of NO2 include tobacco smoke, gas, wood-burning, kerosene, coal-burning ( stoves, ovens, fireplaces etc.)

 Nitrogen dioxide has various harmful health effects on lungs including; 

  • increased inflammation of the airways,
  • cough and wheezing, 
  • reduced lung function, 
  • increased episodes of asthma attacks.


Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soil. It enters the buildings through cracks and crevices and is known to cause lung cancer if present in dangerous amounts in buildings. Sadly more than 21000 people die each year because of exposure to this poisonous gas.


Environmental tobacco smoke

 Environmental tobacco smoke is also a significant contributor of indoor air pollution and releases human carcinogens like benzene. 

The smoke released from tobacco causes several health hazards like:

  • Can increase the frequency of chronic respiratory symptoms
  • Reduces the level of lung function particularly in children,
  • It Causes lung cancer in adults.


Some Tips to Improve the Air Quality in your basement apartment

Here we will share some tips on how to improve the basement air quality: So stick together till the end so that you’ll have everything you need to have a pleasant, clean, fresh smelling basement.


Installing  Air  Purifiers

The simplest way to improve basement air quality is to install air purifiers. Air purifiers are devices which circulate the air through a set of filters and capture the contaminants like; microscopic particles such as dust, allergens, molds, spores, bacteria, etc, that are floating around.

Nowadays there are many filters available in markets having several features like HEPA filter, Activated carbon filter, and ultraviolet light.  

Here are some pros and cons of using the following air purifiers:

HEPA Filters: Have the efficiency against 0.3 microns particle size.Have removal efficiency of 99.7%  Usually designed to remove particles not gases. 
HEPA filters with UV light Effective against mold or bacterial growth. Some UV technologies generate toxic Ozone
Carbon filterDesigned to remove gases through a bed of activated carbon.Address pollutants like vocs Frequent replacement of filters makes it expensiveIneffective against particulate matter like allergens, pollen, and dust.

Below are the best Hepa filters for improving the air quality in your basement apartment:

Air purifiersWhy I recommend it
HATHA SPACE air purifier HEPA Air filterParticle efficiency of about 99.97% for particle size 0.3-0.1 micron.Effective against pollen, dust, VOCs, tobacco smoke, odors, pet hair, etc.Medical grade filterGood for extra large roomsAuto mode available for fan speed adjustment5 years warranty
LEVOIT Air Purifiers for Home
You can access this device from anywhere, fan speeds can also be operated through your smartphone. Better purification with its 360 degree design. Suitable for large rooms. It has an ultra fine nylon pre filter and activated carbon filter. Highly efficient against 99.7% contaminants for particles as small as 0.3 microns such as; dust pollen, pet hair, mold, odor etc. Does not make much noiseVoice control feature   

Below are the best HEPA filters with UV light for improving the air quality in a basement apartment:

NameWhy I recommend it
Germ guardian true HEPA filter air purifier with UVlight sanitizer
Particle efficiency of about 99.7% for particles as small as 0.3 microns.UV C light sanitizer is effective against viruses like; staph, rhinovirus, influenza, and VOCs.Effective against allergens; pet dander and other large particles. It has a carbon filter and is highly effective against odors like; odor from cooking, smoking, pets etc. Does not make much noise 
TOPPIN HEPA Air Purifiers for HomeEfficiency of about 95% for particle size of 0.3 microns. It has UV light, carbon filter and nano silver filter coating. Highly efficient against airborne contaminants; dust, pet hair, pollen and also efficient against odors, tobacco smoke etc. Fragrance sponge and aroma diffuser are also present. Purifies a large area of upto 160 sq ftLow noise levelsUV lamps are covered to avoid direct eye contact.

Proper Drying of the House 

Several problems with basement air quality arise from dampness, humidity and moisture. Proper ventilation and drying of the basement eliminates most of the air quality issues. Moisture in basements become a breeding ground for molds such as; penicillium and aspergillus fungi and mildew. Molds are not normally seen but could be identified by a characteristic odor.  

It gives rise to several  health problems like coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, eye irritation and allergic reactions. Molds need moisture to thrive, ventilating and drying the basement will kill the mold. 

  • Installing a dehumidifier in the house will solve the purpose. The ideal range of 30%- 50 % humidity works well. Anything less than 50% will prevent mold from surviving
  • Using mold resistant drywall and paints also helps to keep mold at bay.
  • Installing ventilation fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen also serves this purpose.

You can find the links to some dehumidifiers and ventilation fixtures below: 


Dehumidifiers     Why i recommend it
Gocheer Upgraded DehumidifierHigh efficiency dehumidifier Equipped with a 2000ml water tank capacity It is very compact and portable suitable for highly humid areas; such as the bathroom, basement, kitchen, living room etc. Quiet operation of as low as 40dBComes with automatic shut off mode to prevent overflowing of water tank Saves energy with a consumption of only 1.15 kW of electricity within 24 hours of operation. 
COSVI Upgrade DehumidifierCOSVI home dehumidifier keeps moisture below 35%Comes with one-button switch design for easy operationOffers a whisper quiet operation with sound levels below 35 dBEnergy efficient; consumes less energy with a power only 48W/ hour after running for 24 hours. Cost effective Comes with an auto shut featureCompact and lightweight ideal for bathrooms, basements, kitchen, bedrooms etc. 


Types of ventilation fixturesWhy i recommend it 
AC Infinity AIRLIFT T10, Shutter Exhaust FanOffers high airflow; draws out heat, moisture, odor, and dust etc.EC-motor with PWM-control increases and reduces energy consumption and noise levels (67dB)Blades are made of aluminum that are resistant to liquid and dust.
VENTISOL Variable Shutter Exhaust FanProvides superior airflow; ideal for  garages, gardens, attics, barns, greenhouses, basements etc.Easy installation consists of hard wire connection for wiring. Body made of galvanized steel frame, 3 aluminum shutter blades, fully enclosed ball bearing motor, self closing shutter system provides protection to fan when not in useIt’s suitable for ventilating a building to the outside.Powerful & Efficient: 120 volts at 70W, 0.57 amps, with 1680rpm


 Proper Basement Ventilation

Another reason why basements have bad air quality is the lack of exchange of air. In order to improve ventilation in the basement a mechanical ventilation system can be installed. 

  • These systems do not require windows and are most energy efficient.
  • However the drawback to this approach is the cost effectiveness and professional installation.

Keeping Windows Closed

Opening the windows of your basement might seem  helpful with the air quality. But that’s not the case especially during summers when  moisture levels are high and dust and allergens are also prevalent. In such cases opening the windows adds to the moisture content of the place and becomes a breeding ground for molds. And lets the allergens further deteriorate the indoor air quality. 


Check for VOC Contributors  

The paints that we use in our houses have VOCs in them. Volatile organic compounds ( VOCs) are substances emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. Many paints contain VOCs in high amounts leading to exposure to these toxic chemicals. This can further worsen the air quality of basements. 

  • Opting for paints with either having low or zero levels of VOCs can prevent the formation of the toxic fumes.
  •  Many of us store certain chemicals like paints, lacquer gasoline etc in the basements. It is always better to store these harmful chemicals in an outdoor shed. 


Monitor the Radon Levels

High Radon levels in the house also proves to be a challenge for basement air quality. Radon is an extremely poisonous gas that can cause lung cancer. 

Radon levels can be detected by a professional test or installing a radon meter at home.

  • If your house is having dangerous levels of radon then installing a mitigation system proves beneficial as it draws out radon into the outdoor air.

Below are the links to some radon detectors to ensure safe radon levels at your home: 

Radon detector Why i recommend it 
Corentium Home Radon Detector Digital radon level detector which is battery operated Monitors your house without the need for an outlet Ideal for both long term and short term monitoringGives faster readings 
SafetySiren Pro4 Series Offers a continuous monitoring of radon levels on an easy to read digital display High radon levels alerts can be  detected by audible alarm Visual mode is also available for hearing impaired persons 

Having a House in Basement is not a Problem Anymore

The above mentioned tips and tricks will definitely help you achieve the optimum indoor air quality. 

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Methane Gas: What do you need to know?

Why is PM10 harmful?

What does poor air quality mean according to Accuweather?


In this brief article we discussed how to improve air quality in a basement apartment and provided you with insights on what elements purify the air quality in a basement apartment. We also mentioned the pros and cons of using different air quality filters. 

We hope this information proved beneficial for you to keep check on your indoor air quality levels. 

If you have any questions or comments please let us know.


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Indoor air quality and its effects on humans—A review of challenges and developments in the last 30 years

A state-of-the-art review on indoor air pollution and strategies for indoor air pollution control


Carbon Monoxide’s Impact on Indoor Air Quality

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5)The culprit for chronic lung diseases in China

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How to improve basement air quality retrieved from