Your HVAC system plays a critical role in keeping your Tampa, FL home both safe and comfortable. Not only does it regulate your indoor temperature and humidity, but it also filters out a number of airborne particulates. To keep the system running efficiently, you need to maintain a fairly airtight dwelling. This means that any contaminants that you introduce into your living environment could have a lasting impact on your indoor air quality (IAQ). With this in mind, it’s important to consider how cooking in your home contributes to indoor air pollution.
Fried Foods Negatively Impact Your Indoor Air Quality
Whether performed on an electric range or on a gas burner, sautéing and deep-frying foods always lowers the quality of indoor air. This cooking method requires oil to be heated to a temperature that’s fairly close to its smoke point, which is the point at which it starts to burn and release smoke. As oil nears its smoke point, it emits compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs can negatively affect both your respiratory and eye health. Studies show that regular exposure to PAHs is connected to higher rates of bladder, skin, and lung cancers. PAHS are also found in the emissions produced by burning fossil fuels, wood, garbage, and tobacco. Thus, in terms of releasing dangerous compounds, making your own French fries or fried chicken at home can be likened to smoking or incinerating trash indoors.
It’s also important to consider the smoke that’s released when oils and fats are heated beyond their smoke point. For instance, if you’ve ever made browned butter or accidentally burnt butter, then you know that the smoke that gets released can instantly irritate your nose, airways, and eyes. People who cook often are regularly subjected to the smoke that’s released by heated fats. Moreover, failed cooking projects that involve oils can cause thick plumes of smoke to permeate the entire home.
Incomplete Combustion and Carbon Monoxide Exposure
People who enjoy cooking at home are often very particular about the type of stove they use. Many prefer traditional gas burners to induction cooktops or electric ranges. Unfortunately, although gas stoves are frequently lauded for providing superior temperature control, these stoves use direct combustion to produce heat. Whenever gas is burned for heat, harmful emissions are released as the result of incomplete combustion. More importantly, the venting systems that are used to route these exhaust gases out of the building aren’t 100% effective. When you use a gas stove indoors, small amounts of carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde enter your living environment. Although these gases might not be detected by your CO alarms, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have a cumulative impact on your health.
Off-gassing and Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the most common indoor air pollutants. In fact, it’s all but impossible to build and furnish a home without bringing these compounds in. VOCs are constantly being released by interior paint, unsealed particle boards, adhesives, and many other building materials. This process is known as off-gassing.
Unfortunately, airborne VOCs aren’t picked up by HVAC air filters. These particulates are so small that they pass right through all basic forms of air filtration. Worse still, heating up off-gassing materials expedites this process and increases the concentration of VOCs in the indoor air. Thus, if your stove is near a painted surface or close to a cabinet with an unsealed particle board, even warming up leftovers can lower your IAQ.
Dirty Range Hood Vents
Every indoor stove that uses combustion has a range hood vent or another form of mechanical ventilation. Given the considerable amounts of steam and smoke that cooking projects regularly produce, even electric stoves and induction cooktops have venting systems. In addition to being only partially effective at extracting emissions and other byproducts of cooking, these venting systems are prone to becoming excessively dirty. This is especially true in households that do a lot of stove-top grilling and frying. Grease spatters and other accumulations gradually lower the effectiveness of mechanical venting systems by getting trapped in their filters and blocking the flow of air.
Keep your range hood vent or another type of mechanical venting system clean. If this exit for exhaust gases and other cooking-related particulates isn’t covered in congealed grease, it can do its job more effectively. Your range hood vent filter should be removed and cleaned monthly. If you cook at home every day, you should check this filter once each week. Vinegar is an excellent and all-natural degreasing agent for removing accumulated grime from this fixture. You can also use a soft scrub brush and a mild abrasive like baking soda to eliminate stubborn buildups.
Cooking and Humidity Regulation
Certain cooking projects can also exceed your HVAC system’s ability to regulate indoor humidity. This can leave you with condensation-covered windows and a higher risk of developing indoor mold. Boiling noodles, cooking soup, and creating sweet or savory reductions are all things that can leave your living environment feeling muggy. Even when your range hood fan is on, excess steam will permeate your living space. Although a little extra indoor moisture won’t necessarily leave you wheezing, any mold or mildew problems that it causes will.
The Key to Eating Well and Breathing Well
Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that cooking at home isn’t having a negative impact on your IAQ or your respiratory health. If you are smoking food outside, try to position the smoker where the prevailing breezes blow the smoke away from your house rather than toward it. You don’t want the smoke and cooking odors to enter the home from the outdoors.
Consider investing in an air fryer rather than using a traditional deep fryer or a pot of oil on the stove. Air frying your food takes less time, releases fewer airborne particulates, and spares you the inflammation and general health risks that come from cooking with high-temperature oils. If you’re able, you should also consider switching from a gas stove to an electric range or an induction cooktop. Moving away from combustion heating to electric heating will limit your exposure to harmful exhaust gases.
You can avoid flooding your home with VOCs by investing in whole-house air filtration that’s capable of removing these airborne contaminants. If necessary, whole-house dehumidification can additionally be installed to assist your HVAC system with ongoing humidity regulation. These and other integrated HVAC accessories can keep your IAQ at an acceptable level even when your stove is on.
At Protek Roofing, Heating, Air & Solar, we’re proud to serve residents of Tampa, Florida and the surrounding area. We offer heating, cooling, and roofing installation, maintenance, and repair services. We also provide ductwork, insulation, and indoor air quality solutions. Call Protek Roofing, Heating, Air & Solar today to schedule an appointment.