This article discusses the various methods one can use in order to make a windowless room less stuffy. First, we discuss what factors contribute towards making a room feel stuffy, and then how one can also prevent stuffy air from accumulating in the future.
What makes a room feel stuffy?
There are a few chemical species as well as biological components that are responsible for making the air seem stale. These include:
- Water vapour
- Mold and mildews
- Tight packed houses
- Poor ventilation system
Let us discuss these in more detail
In certain areas of the house, such as the kitchen, bathroom, basement, and so on, the humidity levels can be much higher in comparison to the other rooms of the house.
This is primarily due to the presence of water in the vapour form. In higher humidity levels, the air becomes heavier than normal, making it harder to breathe.
Furthermore, water vapour also promotes the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, mold, and mildew. These microorganisms further contribute to the odour, thereby making the air stale.
Mold and mildew
Mold is defined as fungal colonies that grow in the form of multicellular filaments.
Most of them are harmless in nature and cause minor allergic reactions other than the odor, but some can have serious implications on health if inhaled.
Some of the most common species of mold in a typical household environment include Alternaria, Aspergillus Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium and Stachybotrys.
Mold growth usually occurs in a dark, humid, and cool temperature condition. Under such conditions, the growth of mold and bacterial microorganisms is favoured.
Certain areas in the house, such as basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and so on, harbor such conditions, thereby being an ideal spot for mold growth to take place.
Additionally, mold growth can also happen in other parts of the house during seasons in which the relative humidity levels are generally high, such as in summer and spring seasons.
Mold itself does not cause any apparent harm to human health. However, the spores that emerge from mold, which are basically the seed, are the ones that can be harmful to health.
Mold spores typically have an aerodynamic diameter in the size range of one to forty microns. Most of these can get filtered out by the barriers in the respiratory tract.
However, the smaller mold spores can evade the protective mechanisms of your respiratory system, and can reach the sinus chambers, where they cause irritation and swelling of the inner sinus linings.
Tight packed houses
Tight packed houses refers to the modern day construction of houses which utilises windows and doors that pack tightly i.e., have no gaps within.
While this is good in certain conditions, since it prevents the infiltration of outdoor air pollution in the indoor environment, as well as limits the heat exchange rate with the surroundings, especially in the winter season, it also causes poor air exchange rate.
Due to poor air circulation, the amount of free oxygen available starts to decline, while the humidity levels as well as the concentration of pollutants responsible for the stale air smell start to rise.
This effect is more pronounced especially in winters and monsoons, when the relative humidity levels are high and the temperatures are comparatively lower than the other seasons.
Poor ventilation system
Ventilation is an important feature in every house. Apart from the fact that adequate ventilation keeps the air fresh and prevents stale air smell, it also removes the indoor air pollutants by bringing in fresh outdoor air, while carrying the indoor air away.
However, some places lack adequate ventilation, which can happen due to various reasons. In such cases, the indoor air pollution keeps aggregating, and growth of mold and mildew can also take place.
A common example of this is seen in basements which typically do not have a natural source of ventilation. Articles such as clothes, furniture, and walls are more prone to mold and mildew than the other rooms of a house.
How to prevent stale air smell
There are multiple ways in order to minimise as well as prevent the buildup of stale air smell within a room. Some of these are:
- Opening windows and doors
- Installation and regular maintenance of HVAC systems
- Regularly cleaning your house
- Investing in an air dehumidifier
- Using an air purifier
Let us discuss these in more detail.
Opening doors and windows
Opening your doors and windows for some time during the day helps to increase the air exchange rate with the outdoor air. As mentioned earlier, this helps to remove the indoor pollutants as well as the odor, while introducing fresh air.
However, it is important to check the outdoor pollen and mold count, since on days of high concentration levels, the smell will get further exacerbated.
Installation and regular maintenance of HVAC systems
HVAC refers to Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Although in some places it is already present, it might be the case that certain places may not have it.
HVAC systems are especially helpful for places which do not have proper sources of natural ventilation, such as basements. They help to regulate the room conditions in a manner that prevents growth of mold.
However, one should also ensure that the HVAC systems are being maintained on a regular basis, since faulty systems as well as older units may sometimes contribute to the stale air smell.
Regularly cleaning your house
It is important to keep your house clean, especially surfaces such as beddings, carpets, or places where people usually are present.
Studies have shown that nearly 60% of total dust accumulated in the indoor air originates from outdoors. Within these dust particles, mold spores and other substances can be present, which cause indoor stale odor.
By regularly dusting surfaces and cleaning the house, there are lesser chances of accumulation of substances that give rise to stale air smell.
Invest in an air dehumidifier
As seen from above, high humidity levels play a major role in the generation of stale air smell indoors. Therefore, it is important to regulate the indoor moisture levels.
This is where air dehumidifiers come in the pictures. These devices, as the name suggests, lower the humidity of the indoor environment, therefore keeping the air dry and hampering the growth of mold.
Use an air purifier
Air purifiers are devices that help to keep the air in an indoor environment clean. They not only remove pollutants that give rise to stale air smell, but can also remove the smell efficiently.
HEPA filters with an activated carbon filter as well as a germicidal UV light chamber are the best option for getting rid of the stale air smell in a relatively short amount of time.