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How Candles Affect Indoor Air Quality

RiteWay Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing offers indoor air quality products and services for homeowners in Tucson and the surrounding areas. The first step is typically an in-home evaluation to measure indoor air quality and provide some guidance on steps to take to remove harmful airborne particles. Many homeowners are surprised when we recommend that they reduce the number of candles in their homes. Here is what you should know about how candles affect indoor air quality.

How Candles Reduce Indoor Air Quality

As with any type of combustion, your candles produce byproducts that are released into the air. Burning the wick of a candle results in soot and smoke particles that go into the air of your house. The problem is not limited to the room where you use the candle, either. These small particles are not only moved around by ceiling fans but also by your AC/Heat system. The air inside of your home that contains soot and smoke particles is pulled back into your heating and cooling system through intake vents. The air is then circulated through the heating and cooling unit and moved through the filters. While these filters are good at capturing most airborne particles, soot and smoke can clog the filters and even get through the fibrous material. Soot and smoke particles are then recirculated into every room of your house. Just as the aroma of a candle reaches every room, so do the soot and smoke particles.

Candle Wax and Wicks

All burning candles produce soot and smoke, but some candles release other harmful substances into the air as well. Most candles are made from paraffin, and this substance is a byproduct of petroleum processing. If you look at the barrels that are used for oil and gasoline products, the residue that you see left in the barrel is paraffin in a raw form. The sludge is put through a process using bleach and other chemicals before being used in your candles, which adds to the harmful nature of paraffin. The wicks of most candles contain metals that break down and release particles into the air leftover from the burning process, which your family then breathes. If you use scented candles, the fragrance adds even more harmful particles to the air that can trigger respiratory symptoms and other health problems.

Health Effects of Airborne Particles From Candles

Numerous studies have been done by scientists and researchers that show evidence of the direct link between poor indoor air quality and certain medical conditions, such as asthma, lung disease, and even heart disease. Soot and smoke particles in the air affect the entire respiratory system, and the problem is worse for children, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic medical condition. Soot can penetrate the most sensitive parts of your lungs, such as the lining and small sacs that hold air. It is also a carcinogen, much like smoke from cigarettes and wildfires. Even the Environmental Protection Agency agrees that burning candles in small indoor spaces may not be worth the potential health risks.

Healthy Alternatives for Candles

Fortunately, you do not have to completely eliminate candles from your residence to prevent poor indoor air quality. There are some products available that do not release the same level of harmful particles into the air. Beeswax is a much better option than petroleum-based paraffin. You can also try organic soy candles. Choose candles that have cellulose centers and cotton wicks to eliminate the risk of toxic metals being released. Even homeowners who love scented candles can find healthier alternatives, such as candles with organic essential oils and plant-based fragrances. The key is to avoid any chemically derived fragrances. You can also try wax warmers. These products do not release soot and smoke into the air. Just make sure to look for the same types of wax and fragrances.

Not All Soy Candles Are Alike

When you are shopping for soy candles, look for products that are made from soy that is grown without hormones (non-GMA) and pesticides. Be sure to read the label, and, if you aren’t sure, look for another product. An easy way to tell is by selecting soy candles that have a USDA-certified organic label. Remember that whatever is used in the process of growing the soy ends up in the candle and the air inside of your home.

How Much Is Too Much?

If you burn candles occasionally, such as during the holidays or other special events, the risk of poor indoor air quality is much less. The issue is more related to Tucson homeowners who burn candles on a regular basis. Not only do the candles contribute to poor indoor air quality, but they may actually mask other issues, such as smells that tell us that something in our houses needs attention. The fragrance of a scented candle in your bathroom, for example, may mask the odor of mold and mildew growing under the sink or in the shower area. Sometimes the smells we have in our homes are important to notice and address.

Best Practices for Candles in Your Home

You might be familiar with ways to prevent fires with candles in your house, but you can also take steps to reduce the effects on your indoor air quality.

  • Make sure that candles are used in rooms with good ventilation.
  • Keep the wicks to about a quarter-inch to reduce soot and smoke.
  • Avoid any type of scented candle or wax if someone in your home has respiratory issues, including allergies.
  • Do not put candles in rooms with children, the elderly, or those with medical conditions, including rooms that are shared with these members of your family.
  • Use candles only occasionally, such as a few times per week or only in the evenings
  • Only use candles that are made from all-natural, organic materials, and be sure to check for the USDA certification on the label
  • Open windows to circulate fresh air throughout your house.

Alternatives to Remedy Household Odors

If you use candles and other products to cover up odors in your home, there are better and safer alternatives. First, the presence of odors is an indication that the filters in your AC/Heat system are not adequate for your needs. The experts at RiteWay Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing can check to see if your filters need to be replaced. We can also recommend upgraded filters to trap smoke, odors, and other harmful airborne particles.

Second, many houses benefit from indoor air quality products and air purification systems. RiteWay Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing can recommend several options that fit your lifestyle and budget. Air cleaners can be placed inside the ducts of your AC/Heat system or near the outdoor unit to capture and destroy pollen, dust, pet dander, odors, soot, chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.

Expert AC/Heat and IAQ Services

RiteWay Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing is an award-winning, local plumbing company with certified technicians to help with your AC/Heat, plumbing, and indoor air quality needs. To learn more about improving air quality and comfort in your Tucson home, give us a call today. A member of our expert team will help you out and schedule an appointment with one of our technicians to come to your house. We look forward to serving all of your climate comfort needs.