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How to improve the air you breathe inside, at home

We're spending a lot of time indoors right now. Here's how to keep your new workspace — and living space — as healthy as possible.

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With most of us spending more time indoors, mostly at home, it's important to make sure the air we are breathing is as healthy as possible.

Certainly most people know that carbon dioxide can be a problem. But there are a lot of different elements that can impact the air inside our home from VOCs to dust, and even humidity. A combination can even make us feel tired and impact our ability to concentrate.

Sometimes the solution is as simple as opening a window, which is something you can do now without having to purchase anything extra in your home. You can also consider smart devices to help automate these concerns, some of which can be purchased online or picked up later when social distancing rules has lessened.

Here are ways to clean up some common issues, and make sure the air inside is as fresh as possible.

uHoo air monitorThe uHoo air monitor can work with IFTTT to turn on air conditioning if temperature readings indicate it's too warmGearBrain

No. 1 — Temperature

If we're feeling too cold or too hot, it can be difficult to concentrate. Adjusting the temperature is one way to bring more comfort into your space.

Do now: Opening a window can help cool down a space. You can also add a simple fan to help the air flow more evenly inside, which can also cool a room.

Do later: A smart thermostat is a great way to regulate the temperature in a space, and these can be ordered online or picked up at a local hardware store.

You can also link certain air monitors to a smart thermostat as well, including uHoo and Awair. UHoo, which we've tested, even has an IFTTT Nest thermostat recipe which triggers the heat to come on or air conditioning if the monitor detects the temperature is not to your liking. Be aware, though, that certain IFTTT recipes with Nest may not work if you've migrated your account to Google.

Awair, which GearBrain has tested, can link to both the Ecobee Thermostat and the Sensi Smart Thermostat, which is easily handled in the Awair mobile app. You just need to click on either option, and then follow the instruction to connect to one of the devices.

uHoo Indoor Air Quality Sensor - 9 in 1 Smart Air Monitor to Boost Productivity & Health - Breathe Easy Climate Control Meter with CO2 Monitor, Thermometer, Humidity Gauge, Dust, VOC & Allergen Sensor

Air humidifier during work.A smart humidifier can help increase humidity levels Getty Images/iStockphoto

No. 2 — Humidity

The humidity in a room can rise and fall with the weather as well as heating and cooling. Air conditioners and heaters can help make the air feel more comfortable in terms of temperature, but they can also draw out moisture.

Humidity, basically the level of water in the air, is an important metric. Too high, and It's hard for the skin to cool self down. Too low, and we can start to feel truly uncomfortable in our skin, developing chapped lips and even bloody noses.

Do now: Plug in a simple air humidifier to add some moisture into a room. You can also just run the shower for a few minutes to add some steam into a space as well. Even better, leave the door open while you're taking a shower so you're not wasting the water. A fan can also help remove humidity from a room.

Do later: Consider picking up a smart home humidifier, one that connects to an air monitor. For example, you can use an IFTTT recipe that activates a Wemo humidifier connected to a uHoo air monitor, if the room is read as too dry.

Do remember, though, it's very important with humidifiers to clean filters regularly.

Awair air monitorLink an Awair air monitor to IFTTT to get fans to start circulating through a smart thermostatGearBrain

No. 3 — VOCs

VOC stands for volatile air compounds, which can come from paints, dry-cleaned clothes and even air fresheners, according to the EPA. Running a humidifier or the heater is likely not going to affect the level of VOCs in the air.

One of the first suggestions on the EPA's own web site on how to reduce VOC exposure is to increase the ventilation in a space, especially if you're using anything that can release these into the air.

Do now: You can help increase ventilation by just opening a window. Turning on a fan — one that ventilates outside ideally — is also a good option. Typically many homes have heating systems or just air conditioning units that can also tap into a fan.

Do later: A smart thermostat can also help mitigate VOCs. There are also IFTTT recipes that will work to just turn the fan on via a smart thermostat. There's even one that will start circulating the air through an ecobee smart thermostat, if an Awair air monitor specifically picks up that VOC levels are too high, if you own both of these devices.

Awair Element Indoor Air Quality Monitor, 6.06 x 1.8 x 3.33 inches, White/Gray

Coway air purifierThe Coway air purifier can help remove some elements from the air inside a spaceGearBrain

No. 4 — Particulates and dust

Particles in the air from dust to smoke can certainly affect the quality of the air we breathe. Inside our home they can come from cooking on a stove top, to the dust that comes in from opening a window. Here's a situation where relieving one concern may create another.

Do now: One of the best ways to clean the air inside a space is through an air purifier. You can also vacuum a space more regularly to try and keep dust, dirt and particles more at bay.

Do later: There are a number of smart air purifiers, designed to clean and then recirculate the air in your space. Some on the market include options from Molekule and Coway, a brand which GearBrain recently reviewed, as well as Blueair, which we've also tested as well.

You can also ask a smart thermostat, like ecobee, to turn on a fan if particulates are detected at a high level, or connect Awair to a Samsung air purifier through IFTTT. And the Blueair Classic air purifier also has a nice IFTTT option which works the uHoo air monitor.

Buy - $206.99

Hand opening window with flower decorationOpening the window may be the best way to lower CO2 levels Getty Images/iStockphoto

No. 5 — Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide — not carbon monoxide — is part of what we breathe out through normal respiration. But there are other ways CO2 can collect inside, including through dry ice — a little fact I discovered after testing an Awair air monitor when I had a frozen box of food delivered to my home, and left the package sitting under the device.

CO2 is heavier than oxygen, and can collect inside a space. We know plants can actually take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, which they use with sunlight to turn into food they need to grow.

Having plants in your home is great — but that's not going to likely help immediately lower a CO2 level that's spiking in your space.

Do now: Really, one of the best ways to release CO2 is, again, to just bring in some outside air. Yes, we know you may be letting other elements we've mentioned above in too. Plus, if it's winter, you could be lowering or raising the humidity in your home depending on where you live, and the same in the summer months. But sometimes the smartest thing you can do is just walk over and open a window.

Do later: Think of getting an air monitor, which can keep an eye on levels that fluctuate in your home during the day. That way you can know if carbon dioxide levels increase or lower, and when — and good times to keep some windows open.

While these tips may help air quality in your home, please remember that these are not intended to serve as medical or health advice. Anyone experiencing medical and health problems should consult a medical and health professional.

Kaiterra Laser Egg+ CO2: Indoor Air Quality Monitor (Tracks PM2.5, Fine Dust, CO2, Temperature, and Humidity)

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