Indoor Air Quality: Pollution, Testing and Solutions



Indoor air pollution can make you sick, feel lethargic, dizzy, experience headaches and suffer from a host of other things. Air fresheners, cleaning solutions, secondhand smoke, off-gassing paints, glues, dust mite feces and other things can contribute to unhealthy air conditions in your home.

A personal example of how bad air can affect someone reminds me of an apartment my wife and I lived in about a year ago. Our heating system in that house was a gas furnace located in our closet. Whenever it would turn on, my wife would start sneezing and sometimes I would get dizzy. We had it checked for carbon monoxide but came out with acceptable levels. Then I had a friend of mine remove the air-conditioning coil. It was filthy, and our drain pan was full of a blackish mold in the pan. We cleaned everything out, leveled the drain pan, sealed the ventilation system the best we could and then put everything back together again. After that my wife stopped sneezing and I felt fine.

You say, why didn't you install a high-quality filtration system? I did, but the filtration was BEFORE the dirty coil, drain pan, and leaky air ducts so its cleaning ability was just mediocre at best.
Toxic air can come from the outside air, toxic items inside your home and your home's central heating and cooling system.

Air Quality Testing
Air Quality Testing for your home will reveal some of the dangers that are present and can be affecting your health.

Ever wonder if the air you breathe in your own home could be polluted with mold, contaminants, gases, or debris that makes you sick? Well, it is getting easier than ever to check what you are being exposed to in your house.

Why treat the symptoms when you can find and eliminate the cure?

There are different types of equipment that you can use ranging from fairly inexpensive Petri dishes to elaborate devices that use fans to pull in and analyze for pollutants in your indoor air.
While more expensive, the mechanical devices are used more predominately by professional testers as the first step. Cost of the mechanical devices start in the thousands of dollars and can easily get to be $5,000 US to $10,000. You may initially want to contact a local Indoor Air Specialist for an analysis.

There are also many screening devices that can help you detect radon levels, fiberglass in the air, formaldehyde, ozone and other harmful debris that can be floating around in the air you breathe.
Many of these tests can be completed quickly and can let you know which type of indoor air cleaner you might want to use. The results you get can also tell you about possible leaks in ductwork and even items in your home that may need to be removed.

One thing to check out especially if you live in a humid climate is for the presence of mold. Many people are allergic to the spores released by relatively harmless mold and even more are affected by toxic molds.

Indoor Air Quality Solutions
MERV Ratings
MERV ratings demonstrate the ability of a filter to remove dust from the air as it passes through the filter. It is a standard used to measure the overall efficiency of a filter. Higher ratings mean fewer particles and other airborne contaminants pass through the filter. 

This term stands for, Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and was designed in 1987 by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to determine the effectiveness of air filters. It represents the worst case performance when filtering particles from 0.3 to 10 microns in size. The scale goes from 1 to 16, with the best rating being the highest.

One thing not taken into account is the arrestance factor. Arrestance is the term used to describe how easily air flows through a filter. The higher the arrestance, the more strain put on your blower. So ideally you want a high ability to remove particles from the air with a low air restriction. Your air quality professional should be able to help you with this.

Portable Air Cleaners
Portable Air Cleaners and Purifiers are a great solution to cleaning a small space. They treat only up to about a maximum of fifteen feet around the unit. 

Ductwork
Ductwork in your home can have a huge impact on the quality of the air you breathe. Your central heating and air system should be a closed system with no leaks, but in my personal experience with ducts, I have found anywhere from about 6% leakage to as high as over 60% leakage. What this means to your health is that you are breathing the dirty, stale air in your attic or crawl space. When your central heating/cooling system is turned off the dirty air in your attic or crawl space enters and is circulated inside your home when the system cycles on. I think you'll agree that none of us wants to breathe fiberglass, dust, mold....you get it.


Air purifiers
The best air purifiers are able to treat for the three danger levels of indoor air pollution. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are three danger levels: 1) Danger Level One can be treated with filtration. 2) Danger Level Two is treated with UV Lights 3) Danger Level Three is treated with UVV Lights.

My all-around favorite air cleaner is the MicroPower Guard Air Cleaner for your entire home. It is not a portable unit but is installed right into the return air duct and connected to your furnace or air handler with low voltage. 

Humidifiers
Humidifiers can greatly enhance the air quality in your home. I first found out about how important they can be to health especially in the winter when the air gets really dry. My 8-year-old son would get nosebleeds at night and during the day. Even though my doctor said it was harmless I still felt very bad for my son. After doing some research I found that having even a small unit in my son's room gave him the moisture he needed and the nosebleeds stopped.

Besides nosebleeds, you can experience dry sinuses, cracked lips, scratchy throats, dry skin and itchy eyes. Dust mites proliferate over fifty percent humidity. Also, the air can become stuffy and can cause mold and mildew to grow.

I recommend that if you own a home to install a central unit so that the entire living space has a healthy level of moisture that is regulated. I set these central units to forty-five percent. This is healthy for nasal passages and for breathing.




Comments

  1. Thanks for the information and links you shared this is so should be a useful and quite informative about this HVAC contractors topic.

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