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What is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality (IAQ, or also called “indoor environmental quality”) describes how inside air can affect a person’s health and comfort. It can include temperature, humidity, lack of outside air, poor ventilation, mold from water damage or exposure to gases or other pollutants or chemicals.

 

What is considered good IAQ?

The qualities of good IAQ should include comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate supply of fresh outdoor air, and control of pollutants from inside and outside of the building.

 

What are the most common causes of IAQ problems?

The most common causes of IAQ problems in buildings are:

  • Not enough ventilation, lack of fresh outdoor air or contaminated air being brought into the building
  • Poor upkeep of ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems
  • Dampness and moisture damage due to leaks, flooding or high humidity
  • Occupant activities such as construction or remodeling
  • Indoor and outdoor contaminated air

 

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, practically odorless, and tasteless, gas or liquid. It results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion.

What is carbon monoxide?
What is carbon monoxide?

At low concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, confusion and nausea. It can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. It is fatal at very high concentrations. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

 

What are VOCs?

Volatile organic compounds are compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility. Many VOCs are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals and refrigerants.

Certain solids or liquids emit gases which are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to 10 times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are many products. Examples include paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.

 

What is a HEPA filter?

HEPA is a type of pleated mechanical air filter. It is a high efficiency particulate air[filter. This type of air filter can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).

All air cleaners require periodic cleaning and filter replacement to function properly. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations on maintenance and replacement.

 

How much ventilation do I need in my home to improve indoor air quality?

Increasing the amount of outdoor air coming into a building helps control pollutant levels, odors, temperature, humidity and other factors that can impact the health and comfort of building occupants.

The air exchange rate is the rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air. ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) recommends homes receive 0.35 air changes per hour but not less than 15 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm) per person. This is the minimum ventilation rate for a residential building in order to provide IAQ that is acceptable to occupants and minimizes adverse health effects.

 

What are biological pollutants, how do they affect indoor air quality?

Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, animal dander and cat saliva, house dust, mites, cockroaches and pollen. There are many sources of these pollutants. Pollens originate from plants. People and animals transmit viruses. People, animals, soil and plants carry bacteria. Household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander. The protein in urine from rats and mice is a potent allergen. When it dries, it can become airborne. Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mold, mildew and other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute these contaminants through the home.

By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth of some sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of 30-50 percent is generally recommended for homes. Standing water, water-damaged materials or wet surfaces are breeding grounds for molds, mildews, bacteria and insects. House dust mites, the source of one of the most powerful biological allergens, grow in damp, warm environments.

 

What can I do to protect indoor air quality if I live in an apartment?

Apartments can have the same indoor air problems as single-family homes because many of the pollution sources, such as the interior building materials, furnishings and household products, are similar. Indoor air problems similar to those in offices may be caused by sources such as contaminated ventilation systems, improperly placed outdoor air intakes or maintenance activities.

Solutions to air quality problems in apartments, as in homes and offices, involve eliminating or controlling the sources of pollution, increasing ventilation and installing air cleaning devices. Often a resident can improve indoor air quality by removing a source, altering an activity, unblocking an air supply vent or opening a window to temporarily increase the ventilation. In other cases, however, only the building owner or manager can remedy the problem.

 

How do I protect indoor air quality if I am remodeling my home?

You can take precautions and steps to minimize pollution from sources inside the home, either from new materials, or from disturbing materials already in the home. In addition, residents should be alert to signs of inadequate ventilation, such as stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces, or mold and mildew growth.

 

Will air cleaners reduce health risks?

Air cleaners may reduce the health effects from some particles – small solid or liquid substances suspended in air, such as dust or light spray mists. Some air cleaners, under the right conditions, can effectively remove certain respirable-size particles (for example, tobacco smoke particles). These invisible particles are harmful because they can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Removing such particles may reduce associated health effects in exposed people. These effects may range from eye and lung irritation to more serious effects such as cancer and decreased lung function.

Air cleaners that do not contain special media, such as activated carbon or alumina, will not remove gaseous pollutants, including radon, or reduce their associated health effects.

 

At South End Heating and Air we specialize in HVAC and air conditioning repair, call us for a free consult. We’ll evaluate your system and help make recommendations for optimum value. After all, we want to keep you cool all summer long and warm in the winter. Just schedule a visit with one of our technicians to talk about how we can help with your heating needs. Would you like to learn more options our techs can help you with? Give us a call 704-684-5339.