Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) determines the quality of your air indoors.
While we’re inside, we’re all thinking the same, “we’re safe from all the pollution outside.”
That isn’t always true.
All internal heating and cooling systems have filtrations systems that help block pollutants and other contaminants. However, it can’t and won’t catch everything.
The indoor air quality will only be as good as how your air filters manage outdoor air.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Not many people are aware of Indoor Air Quality, sometimes known as IAQ.
After the industrial age, people paid more and more attention to the ill effects of pollution. Its importance has been recognized since the mid-eighteen hundreds (the 1800s).
However, it did not get the attention it deserved until a hundred years later, in the 1970s.
Today, it is a critical component in environmental statistics.
While concerns for bringing attention to indoor air pollution originated in Scandinavian parts of the world, it soon garnered prominence. It really took off in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Raising Awareness About the Importance of Indoor Air Quality
In the 1980s, the dialogue spread worldwide about the environmental effects of tobacco, volatile organic compounds, radon, chemical compounds, and regular house dust.
Initial studies shed light on how indoor air pollutants collect and lead to the deterioration of building materials and inhaling air carrying indoor air pollutants.
Topics included both how pollution from the outdoor air flows into homes and how it affects building occupants.
It also expresses how polluted indoor air can lead to hazardous health effects such as asthma, rashes, allergies, and more severe respiratory diseases.
Your home’s indoor air pollution might produce specific health problems and grave illnesses depending on indoor pollutant levels.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported ten to thirty percent of the indoor environment within homes, offices, and establishments in the Western Hemisphere encounter indoor air problems, coining the term Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) in 1986.
It attracted more attention when different regions began conducting their own studies regarding poor indoor air quality.
The UK established the House of Common Select Committee Enquiry of Indoor Pollution in 1991. Later on, it was appointed as the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) by the United Kingdom’s House of Commons.
The committee stated all governments should raise awareness about the repercussions of indoor air pollutants and the importance of fresh air by developing a system measuring acceptable indoor air quality.
The United States government, among others, soon enacted relevant laws and ordinances to uphold them.
What is Good Indoor Air Quality?
In 1993, the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released a book about Good Air Quality in Your Home.
The pamphlet about indoor air quality problems gained worldwide attention, with other governing bodies following suit.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched its own study and relevant guidelines for Americans to avoid subpar indoor air quality.
The EPA guidelines state the common causes behind poor indoor air quality and its effects on human health.
You will find how to track indoor air quality by measuring Carbon Monoxide emissions and other measurable components.
The EPA’s guidelines include the health effects of increased exposure.
It also warns Americans about immediate symptoms and how much attention they should pay when they occur and how long they stay.
The EPA indicates how Americans can prevent contaminated air from making its way indoors, expressly stating how important keeping outdoor air pollution is in avoiding health and comfort problems.
How Does Poor Outdoor Air Quality Affect Indoor Air Quality?
Americans spend 90% indoors on average, at home, at work, and social events.
Air handling systems are where outdoor air enters. They handle air movement in indoor spaces to regulate temperatures by utilizing newly conditioned outdoor air.
It can also produce an airflow that carries pollution and can make its way indoors.
There’s no way to prevent outdoor air from coming indoors and keep contaminants out just by closing doors, windows, and other natural indoor air sources.
The pollution outside can penetrate anything meant to protect you from it without competent and reliable filtration systems built into your artificial air sources.
Air conditioners have filtration systems that block outdoor pollutants and other contaminants from making their way indoors.
When air filters don’t do their job sufficiently, your indoor air quality is only as good as the one outdoors.
A polluted indoor environment will cause more problems than you think.
Indoor Air Pollution
According to the EPA, deficiencies in air quality aren’t only derived from outdoor pollution.
We can create pollution indoors as well. Second-hand smoke, a poorly adjusted gas stove, and improperly installed air handling systems can increase indoor pollutant levels.
Indoor air pollution can stem or worsen due to poor ventilation.
An inadequate ventilation system without reliable fan motors that continuously remove indoor air can hinder proper airflow. Too little outdoor air can lock contaminated air in enclosed spaces and suffocate building occupants.
While natural ventilation is imperative, so are mechanical ventilation systems.
Natural ventilation like doors, windows, and chimneys are more important and helpful, but a mechanical ventilation system doesn’t just remove indoor air.
Intelligent systems that only allow a one-way entry-point prevent outdoor air from getting indoors.
Natural and Mechanical Ventilation
Doors and windows, when opened, allow two-way air exchange. In Sandy, Utah, where there’s relative humidity and a hotter climate, the indoor temperature is often set to be lower than outside.
Through thermodynamics, we learn that air temperature differences dictate airflow, which means two things:
- Higher temperatures penetrate lower ones instead of the other way around.
- Outdoor air carrying pollutants makes its way in before indoor air makes its way out.
The argument behind the importance of mechanical ventilation systems is technical, and you might be inviting more trouble than you’re letting out in opting for only natural ventilation systems.
Before splurging on an expensive air conditioning or mechanical ventilation system, get to know your indoor environment first.
How Can You Tell the Quality of Your Indoor Air?
The concentration of harmful gasses is naturally denser indoors, with fewer avenues for its dissipation than in outdoor spaces. Some devices can help you measure them, like CO2 or Volatile Organic Compound sensors you can buy anywhere.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) isn’t an outright tangible measurement, but you can quantify it by measuring more significant contaminants like Carbon Monoxide. The most common method to measure indoor air quality is through CO2 emission in the form of Carbon Monoxide parts per million (ppm).
The higher the ppm levels present indoors, the poorer the air quality. While different methods gauge indoor air quality reliably, CO2 is currently the most tangible measurement.
The proper equipment can easily measure it, but the more technical and accurate ones aren’t easily accessible. They all measure the ambient gas concentrations present in an enclosed space, but not all of them are accurate or reliable.
You should call a professional to conduct an expert inspection if you really want to know.
What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Besides outdoor air pollution, there are plenty of underlying causes homeowners don’t know about, including the insufficient maintenance of mechanical ventilation and air handling systems.
Here are some of the more commonly known causes:
- Chemical Ignitions
- Organic Combustions
- Dust Particles
- Fuel Emission
- Tobacco Smoke
And below are some lesser-known causes:
- Insufficiently Maintained Air Handling Systems
- An Improperly Adjusted Gas Stove
- Poorly Maintained Spaces
- Abundant or Sustained Ambient Moisture
Reading them might make it feel more evident than it actually is, but it’s easy to bypass common sense when we’re comfortable.
Before evident symptoms arise, ill health effects might already be brewing on the down-low.
Building occupants in office environments or anywhere that utilizes central air conditioning benefits from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of the 1970s. OSHA regulates everything related to physical and mental health, including sufficient or acceptable indoor air quality.
Building owners who cater to more than one family are legally obligated to uphold national standards for indoor air quality.
If you live in a residential home, observing regulations is strongly advised for the health and safety of your family.
Carbon Monoxide in Your Home
Lung cancer caused by carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious problem in the U.S.
The United States government prioritizes raising awareness about lingering secondhand smoke, which leads to significantly more carbon monoxide in indoor environments.
Such indoor pollutants paired with inadequate ventilation can compound indoor air quality problems and lead to grave illnesses like lung cancer among others.
The national standards vary from different departments. Still, the consensus is any measurement that exceeds 25-35ppm is considered poor air quality.
Long or repeated periods of exposure to indoor environments with a higher ppm are considered unhealthy or dangerous.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality?
Manage both natural and mechanical ventilation systems within your home. Ensure you have a high air exchange rate to prevent locking yourself in with indoor pollutants and absorbing outdoor air contaminants.
You can also improve indoor air quality by only entrusting the installation and maintenance of your air handling systems to reliable contractors.
It’s prudent to find a reliable professional, especially in maintaining your current air handlers.
A criminally underrated cause behind an indoor air quality problem is the poor installation or maintenance of mechanical ventilation devices, air conditioners, and automatic air fresheners.
Don’t risk respiratory diseases down the line by pinching pennies on your HVAC contractor.
Who to Call for Indoor Air Quality Inquiries?
You can call a reliable HVAC specialist to measure your indoor air quality and find the necessary solutions to any problems you might be having with it.
They have access to tools that can accurately measure indoor air quality better than those accessible on the market.
The access professionals have to the appropriate tools, and their expertise can help you determine the state of your environment indoors and what factors can improve or dilute it.
While you might think it’s a waste of money to call a specialist, it might be part of your due diligence as a homeowner.
Whether installing or maintaining air handlers, they can help identify indoor sources and how they can deter or help improve your indoor air quality efficiently.
The Proper Maintenance of Cooling Systems
The proper maintenance of your heating and cooling devices involves their frequency.
A routine check-up and tune-up can prevent undue harm to your home and body. Tune-ups include cleaning and changing air filters, where dust and other contaminants often collect.
If your filters aren’t routinely inspected, you might be breathing in pollutants from all the smoke and smog outdoors.
However, it isn’t all about properly filtered air conditioning.
Fan motors and heat pumps that don’t function correctly can also dilute indoor air quality by preventing important components from playing their roles competently.
A reliable specialist can help you remedy issues without charging a surplus for labor and materials. Be careful of less than reliable professionals who utilize indoor air quality issues to scare you into paying out the nose.
If you’re looking for a more reliable partner with your indoor air quality problem, we can help you with that.
One Stop Heating and Air Conditioning
Our team of experts will conduct the necessary inspections and help you sort things out. We won’t charge you unless you are 100% satisfied with our services.
We can help you with the installation, replacement, inspection, repair, and maintenance of a broad range of heating and cooling systems.
We like to keep things transparent and cost-efficient for our customers.
We offer a full-service suite that involves everything relevant to your indoor environment and how it impacts your health and comfort.
You can reach out to our experts any time!
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