Apartment Living

You’ve landed in your first apartment. The ink of your signature is fresh on the lease, and you’ve moved in your boxes and furniture. While you’re busy arranging and rearranging your belongings, take a break to read that lease of yours again. Sure, it covers when rent is due and in what amount, what should happen in the event of emergency, whether or not you can sublet—but does your lease stipulate who takes care of furnace maintenance? This may sound a little absurd to you, but maintaining a furnace has huge ramifications on your indoor air quality, the very air you breathe every day and every night.

If your lease doesn’t talk about furnace filters and maintenance: don’t worry. A lot of landlords neglect to cover this information, and, frankly, a lot of tenants forget or don’t know to ask. Swapping out furnace filters regularly goes a long way to improving indoor air quality and increasing the lifespan of a heating and cooling system. After all, a clogged filter means the system has to work that much harder to do its job. Let’s talk about your apartment building or complex and how you can do more for the air you breathe.

Furnaces and Their Filters

Now that you know or have been reminded of the importance of changing your furnace filters regularly, talk to your landlord. Find out how often they change the furnace filter or if that’s even their responsibility. If the landlord isn’t obligated to update the filter, do your homework to learn what kind of filter you need and assess how often you need to change it. If you’re living alone and are conscientious about your system’s use, you probably don’t need to change the filter more than every three to five months. Remember, too, that filters are rated by how many particulates they capture from the air. Lower-rated filters will be cheaper but won’t clean the air as thoroughly. It’s up to you to decide which is right for you.


You’ve installed your new filter and settled in after dinner to read or watch some TV. But soon your relaxation is interrupted by the smell of cigarette smoke or strong cooking odors. Opening your windows either isn’t an option, or it does nothing to alleviate the smell. If you smell cigarette smoke, reread the terms of your lease to find out if your building or complex is designated as smoke-free. If so, try to find the smoker, politely remind them of the smoke-free policy, and ask them to stub their cigarette out. If not, try to negotiate with the smoker to determine a specific, preferably outdoor, area for them to smoke.

Cooking smells are a little tougher to deal with. Sure, most of us love the scent of a home-cooked meal, but sometimes there are certain smells that put us off—I can’t stand beets—or we’re just not in the mood to smell someone else’s meal. Especially if the scent lingers and turns stale afterward. Again, try to find the source of the cooking smells, and ask your neighbors to turn on the fan in their range hood while they cook. That should whisk away a lot of the cooking smells. And it’s healthy for their apartment, too! If they don’t have a fan in their range hood, ask if they could at least crack a window or use a window fan. If that doesn’t work, you can always turn to air fresheners, whether store-bought or homemade.

What to Do on Your Own to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate ( Your Home as Lungs). In an apartment, your options for ventilation are fewer, but opening the windows in temperate weather will always help remove staleness and undesirable smells from your rooms. Run exhaust fans when you’re showering and when you’re cooking. If, for whatever reason, you do not have exhaust fans, crack a window and invest in a small window fan to move air out of your apartment. Besides ventilation, invest in some houseplants. Certain houseplants are known to purify the air, and, besides that, a little greenery brings the outdoors in, important when you’re living in a big building. Just make sure to water your plants properly to avoid creating too much moisture in the air.

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