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Factors Affecting Indoor Air Quality and How to Resolve Them

How much time do you spend indoors on a daily basis? A majority of Americans stay indoors for a significant amount of time every day. Whether it’s at home, at work, or in school. All of these places are sources of indoor pollutants that cause certain health issues. If you suffer from allergies, this scenario sounds all too familiar to you. Perhaps you have complained frequently about allergy attacks, headaches, and irritation. All these are possibly due to poor indoor air quality. In some cases, indoor air pollutants may even cause serious health problems like cancer.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, asthma affects around 25 million people, including 7 million children. While asthma may appear like a common health condition, it is further aggravated by poor indoor air quality. Some of the most common airborne pollutants are:

Pollutants from combustion. Harmful gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen can come from improper indoor ventilation while using space heating appliances, stoves, and fireplaces.

Second-hand smoke. Second-hand cigarette smoke seriously affects indoor air quality and worsen the condition of asthmatic patients.

Indoor allergens. Allergic reactions often come about when there is a high concentration of dust, dust mites, and pet dander in the air.

Other pollutants from chemical and organic compounds. Even household chemicals and cleaning products emit chemicals that affect indoor air quality. These chemicals are also hazardous to health and may cause certain respiratory issues.

Aside from indoor air pollutants, there are other factors that affect indoor air quality. Humidity levels, for example, is crucial in keeping you comfortable. If humidity is too low, the air becomes dry and it will be hard to breathe. On the other hand, high levels of humidity could encourage bacteria, mold, and mildew to grow.

Another vital component in ensuring good indoor quality is your HVAC system. Poorly maintained HVAC systems are primary contributors to indoor air quality. A number of things can go wrong with your HVAC system. Filters get clogged and dirty, the refrigerant may leak, and microorganisms can build up because of moisture collecting in coils and drip pans.

How do HVAC systems contribute to indoor air pollution?

When you have central heating and cooling, the last thing you worry about is indoor air quality. You only begin to notice its effect when you start complaining about discomfort and health problems. While it is common to assume that if your HVAC system is working properly you will consistently enjoy good air quality, your HVAC system still has a major contribution in reducing indoor air quality.

If your HVAC system is poorly maintained, debris collected in the air filters and ductwork will start contaminating air which circulates around the home. In addition to this, if there are any leaks in your doors and windows, outdoor air pollutants will also start to mix into indoor air and further affect its quality. To ensure that your HVAC system’s air quality is up to par, you need to do the following:

• Regularly check air ducts and remove debris and dirt accumulated outside and within the system.

• You need to replace your HVAC air filters according to the recommended frequency. If the HVAC system is in heavy use, replace filters at least once a month. When it is off-season, you still need to replace your HVAC air filters at least once every 90 days.

• Check your home for any leaks which allow outdoor air to get in. Seal these leaks to keep indoor air clean and free from air pollutants.

By doing these simple steps on a regular basis, you can help maintain good indoor air quality. However, depending on the needs of your family, you may need to increase the level of air quality. This is true for those from suffering frequently from allergies and asthma attacks. Before making any adjustments to your HVAC systems to further enhance indoor air quality, ask an HVAC technician about air quality testing.

What is indoor air quality testing?

Indoor air quality testing helps pinpoint exactly what type of pollutants and compounds are present in the air you breathe indoors. You can hire a professional to conduct the test and then proceed with enforcing some solutions according to the test results.

Bear in mind however that there are several air quality tests conducted to check the presence of certain harmful chemicals. Here are some of the most common air quality tests conducted by professionals:

• Radon test. Radon is a radioactive gas that is difficult to detect because it is odorless and tasteless. It is also linked to thousands of cancer cases, according to the EPA. Unfortunately, it is present in soil and slowly seeps from the ground contaminating the air. If radon gets into the home through foundation cracks, it becomes a significant health risk. You can test radon through continuous monitors, electric ion chambers, and charcoal canisters. If any test comes back with high radon results, you need to contact a specialist right away.

• Carbon monoxide test. There are many possible household sources of carbon monoxide leaks such as leaking chimneys and gas stoves. In very high concentrations, carbon monoxide can be fatal. The presence of carbon monoxide in the air needs monitoring by installing detectors in different areas of the home.

• Tests for organic volatile compounds. Volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde contaminate indoor air quality as it may come from ordinary household cleaning chemicals. There are home kits and handheld devices used in detecting the presence of these compounds in indoor air. Another way to mitigate the presence of these compounds is to check cleaning products, air fresheners, and even candles to make sure that they don’t contain any harmful chemicals that affect indoor air quality.

• Airborne lead. Microscopic lead particles can come from different sources like paint. However, this is no longer as common today as in the past because only older houses still have lead-based paint. If you are living in an older house, you can easily check for lead by using a swab kit.

For more reliable testing, you can hire a professional air quality testing company. The cost may vary according to different factors. For example, testing for a specific chemical may be slightly more expensive than a generic test for a large variety of contaminants. Nevertheless, you need to consider testing indoor air quality according to the needs of your family.

Choosing indoor air quality testing companies

If you want to proceed with a comprehensive test of indoor air quality in your home, you need to look for an indoor air quality testing company with the following qualifications:

• Every testing company should have proper accreditation, training, and experience. By securing such certifications and accreditations from nationally recognized regulatory organizations, each testing company can guarantee consistent service quality. There may also be some state-specific federal requirements if a company is testing for asbestos, radon, and lead. You need to be aware of these requirements before hiring a testing company.

• You need to clearly define the scope of the project. The indoor air quality company can help you with this by asking specific questions. Through a process of elimination, they should be able to identify the exact specifics. Nevertheless, this may still change during testing and inspection because they may identify certain needs not covered during an initial consultation.

• If you have enough time, you may conduct interviews or request project proposals from each testing company. Consider how the company approaches the problem as well as their current methodologies. You need to be on the same page and agree to how the company wishes to conduct the testing process, with as little interruption to your home and your family as much as possible.

• Request for a contract with detailed information about the terms and conditions. A good air quality testing company must be willing and eager to work with you in a transparent and helpful manner.

Once you’ve settled with an air quality testing company, the project may proceed and conclude as agreed upon. Depending on the results, they may recommend some actions to resolve certain issues identified. A common resolution for improving indoor air quality is to install air purifiers. Aside from the air filters in your HVAC system, an air purifier capable of removing allergens, airborne pollutants, and volatile organic compounds should significantly help improve indoor air quality.

Are you thinking about getting whole-house air purifiers for your HVAC system? Fischer Heating can help you choose the right solution for better indoor air quality.

Image Copyright: Kheng Guan Toh / 123RF Stock Photo



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