3 Steps for better indoor air quality for your home
Photo via Shutterstock
While air pollution gets a lot of attention, the air inside homes may be more dangerous.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you're likely to experience up to 100 times greater exposure to air pollutants indoors than outdoors.
Unfortunately, most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors exposed to those potential sources of pollution than can lead to discomfort and illness.
That's why ventilation is critical to a healthy environment. People with asthma, allergies and other sensitivities breathe easier with clean air. Adequate ventilation can improve indoor air quality by removing airborne irritants, pollutants and lowering the likelihood of mold and mildew.
Only recently have new homes really taken into account the need for fresh air indoors. In older homes, windows and the rest of the home leaked so much air that mechanical ventilation wasn’t required. Also in the days before most homes had central air conditioning, people more often opened their windows and doors for cooling and ventilation, allowing airflow through the house.
Most homes, even older ones, have some sort of mechanical spot ventilation fan, usually in the bathroom areas. Spot ventilation is the use of exhaust fans (such as kitchen, bath, or utility fans) that quickly remove moisture and pollutants from the area. Depending on your home, spot ventilation is usually part of an overall strategy of either natural ventilation or whole house ventilation.
Daily activities like showering and bathing introduce moisture into the air, so it’s important to have ventilation to manage humidity. Humidity – moisture in the air – can get out of control and cause poor indoor air quality that can lead to adverse health effects and damage to the home. Ventilation is also vital for fresh air in the house when a gas furnace operates to avoid any problems with carbon monoxide.
Here's some things you can do to ensure better indoor air quality in a home.
Whole house mechanical ventilationmaintains the overall indoor air quality of the home by moving air continuously, compared to local exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms that remove high volume and intensity of pollutants from rooms where they are created.
The amount of whole house mechanical ventilation required is determined using a formula based on the size of the building and the potential number of occupants, resulting in a desired cubic feet per minute of air movement.
Whole house mechanical ventilation can be accomplished using a single ventilation fan, air exchanger or other method; or use a combination of these to achieve the required airflow.
A good quality bath ventilation fan can be a two-for-one solution for both spot and whole-house ventilation needs. Such a fan must be powerful enough to meet both the needs of the bathroom where it is located as well as provide the level of air movement for the whole house. The amount of cubic feet per minute (CFM) or air volume needed for the whole-house component will depend on the size and number of bedrooms in the home.
If you're building a new high-performance home or updating an existing home, you will likely encounter the need for whole-house ventilation. Homes built to tighter standards require balanced ventilation systems. That means intake of fresh air as well as exhausting of stale air. You want to build tight and then ventilate right.
With a balanced system, there's a continuous flow of fresh air to reduce humidity, odors, particulates, VOCs and other potentially harmful substances in the air. Plus the balanced air provides a much more even temperature and comfort level throughout the home. The alternatives are an exhaust- only or supply-only system. A balanced system will provide a better airflow and greater comfort compared to a one-sided system
Depending on the HVAC design and the climate where the house is located, a building professional may also include a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or an energy recovery ventilator (ERV).
Basically, HRVs exchange only heat between the airstreams, while ERVs exchange both heat and moisture.
Spot or local ventilation is necessary in most homes, even in those that have a whole- house ventilation system. Spot ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms will remove high volume and high intensity pollutants produced in those areas before they spread to the rest of the home. That helps control moisture and odors.
Building standards coves spot ventilation requirements for bathrooms and other areas. For bathrooms the fan must be capable of delivering a minimum of 50 CFM of exhaust ventilation when installed and for kitchens ventilation it is 100 CFM.
If you’re thinking about a high performance home, make sure ventilation is near the top of your list of things to talk about with your building professional.
VOC-Removing Paint Additives
Odors often alert us to indoor air quality conditions ranging from mildly unpleasant to dangerous. Unfortunately, not every problem announces itself with strong odors, and people become accustomed to conditions they’re exposed to regularly.
Musty odors often indicate mold or mildew. Smokers may be used to lingering tobacco odors, but others notice. Fido’s frequent accidents may be cleaned up, but still be acutely apparent to guests. A newly remodeled room may smell fresh and clean but carpeting, paints and materials can give off unacceptable levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde gas, which reacts with air to create harmful ozone.
That fresh paint smell is made up partly of VOCs floating through the air.
How can homeowners and property managers eliminate problems and the odors that often come with them?
Latex paints emit fewer VOCs than oil-based paints, and higher-quality paints often cover in just one coat. Check paint labels for VOC emissions levels required by the EPA, but note zero-VOC labeling is allowed under a threshold level.
Another painting tip is to use an air ionization paint additive like Ionic Paint Additive from Air-ReNu. The additive is known to remove odors resulting from pets, cooking, and tobacco while improving air quality through air ionization for up to twelve years.
Air ionization in nature occurs when strong air movement oxidizes airborne particles, changing their electrical charge and removing them from the air. Many of these particles hold odors, toxins and allergens.
Homeowners and property managers can reap the benefits of air ionization with a product from Air-ReNu. The Ionic Paint Additive is an all- natural paint additive that essentially turns the walls surface into an air purification system. The natural (convection current) air movement within the room is all that's required to activate the purification process.
Air Quality Detectors
A new air monitoring system for mobile devices allows you to test the quality of the air wherever you are.
Blueair, a developer of mobile indoor air purifying technologies launched the first "air sniffing" sensor technologies that connect wirelessly with WiFi-enabled air purifiers and an air monitoring app to battle air pollution at home and work.
By moving indoor air purification into the Cloud, Blueair's radical approach allows individuals to take charge of their wellbeing in their own spaces. The connected technology builds on customer feedback that 'user-friendly' nowadays means Cloud-based ease of use, technology and product enhancements.
Blueair's new technology centers around the Wi-Fi enabled Aware air quality sensor, which monitors indoor air quality 24/7 and sends data to both the remotely-sited Sense+ air purifier and the Blueair Friend app. Gathering data hourly from over 2,700 monitoring stations in 150 countries, the Blueair app rates city air on a scale of 0 to 500, from 'good' to 'hazardous'.
Blueair's Cloud technology allows people for the first time in human history to respond to previously invisible air threats. The Aware monitor detects levels of particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The Wi-Fi enabled Sense+ also offers a contemporary user experience. The user interface, controlled by a simple swipe of the hand over the Sense+'s tempered-glass surface, includes a Wi-Fi strength indicator and filter change indicator.
"The air we breathe can be pretty toxic because our world is filled with dust, pollen and chemicals. Now that Blueair has made the invisible 'visible', people can move through their day with a better understanding about their surrounding air quality, detect dangers, and do something about it," Bengt Rittri, founder and CEO of Blueair.
Read more about indoor air quality.
Companies: Ionic Paint Additive