Q&A: Should I ventilate my home on “bad air” days?

Question:
What is your pollution threshold to air out the house?  Should I even open windows to ventilate when the air quality is reported as “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy”?

Answer:
Regular ventilation is key to reducing indoor build-up of carbon dioxide from breathing, as well as chemical emissions offgassing from paint, chemicals, cleaning products, and building materials.

When it comes to ventilating, make sure that you’re looking at the first figure following the words “PM2.5″ – the ug/m3 reading – as opposed to the AQI overall number:

If you have air filters and vacuum regularly, then air out as normal, but just for 15 minutes instead of longer.  Once you have aired out, be sure to turn your filters back on. The vacuum and air filters will reduce the particles that come into nothing.

If the conditions above don’t apply to you, keep an eye on the hourly air quality reporting, and briefly air out when the ug/m3 reading drops below 100:

Rarely do we have sustained really good or really bad air over a single day – readings fluctuate – so you should be able to find some point during the day when it is possible to ventilate.

You may also want to review our guide to understanding read air quality reporting from the US Consulate in Shanghai.  This framework applies to air quality reporting from the US Embassy in Beijing as well.

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