Indoor Air Quality

We breathe it – it gives us life – it is crucial to our health, good or bad – and it is invisible. The quality of the air in our homes and businesses has an enormous impact on our lives, and yet it often receives little of our attention. Indoor air pollution is now considered a major area of public health concern by the EPA.

Though some air quality characteristics are more easily monitored and receive more of our attention, like temperature and air flow, we don't always think about moisture and humidity, which can have a much greater effect on our comfort and health. And while we're conscious of some of the obvious potential pollutants in our homes (dust, mold, odors, pet fur, wood smoke, tobacco products), we can't easily control all of them without a little help.

 

Facts

Making informed decisions about improving the air quality in your home starts with knowledge. Armed with relevant information, we can move forward much more decisively to solve indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. With that in mind, a few factors to consider, as well as questions to answer:

Most of us spend up to 90% of our time indoors

Common household activities and products can adversely affect indoor air quality: cooking, cleaning, furniture, paint and pets are just a few

Tightly sealed and energy-efficient homes can actually have negative effects on the air quality if they're not properly equipped to filter and purify the constantly re-circulated air. Without adequate indoor air circulation, pollutants can build up over time, leading to poor indoor air quality

Pollutants aren't the only contributors to poor IAQ. Temperature and humidity need to be balanced to create a comfortable and healthy home environment.

 

Questions

Are you too warm or cold at times?
Are bedrooms not comfortable enough for sleeping?
Do you find your home humid in the summer or dry in the winter?
Does your home generally feel cool and clammy?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your indoor air quality needs to be improved, and that starts with testing it. Let us help you. Have a simple indoor air quality test done today in your home.

Tests for such items as particle allergens (dust, pet dander, pollen), carbon dioxide (can cause stuffy rooms), chemical pollutants (harmful gasses), temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide and radon.

Some Indoor Air Quality Basics

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Indoor Environments Division provides hotlines, publications, outreach and other initiatives to improve the quality of air in our homes, schools and offices.

There are three basic strategies to improve indoor air quality:

Reduction or elimination of pollutant sources

Ventilation improvement

Air cleaning


Reduction or elimination of pollutant sources

Home indoor air quality problems should first be addressed by reducing or eliminating as many sources of pollutants as possible, or reducing their emissions.

Some more pervasive sources, like asbestos, can be sealed, enclosed or removed by professionals; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease emissions. Reduction or elimination of sources is an essential part of the process, and makes all solutions more cost-efficient, as it reduces the degree to which air must be cleaned or ventilated, since both of those can increase energy costs.

Ventilation Improvement

Another way to lower the concentrations of indoor air pollutants is to increase the flow of outdoor air entering your home. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house, so opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans (when weather permits), or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.

Ventilate as much as possible when painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in maintenance and hobby activities such as welding, soldering, or sanding. You might also choose to do some of these activities outdoors, if you can and if weather permits.

Some newer home designs also include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air-to-air heat exchangers).

Air Cleaning

There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated whole-house systems. Some are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants. Air filtration systems are rated using the "MERV" scale. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and describes the filter's ability to capture particles. It ranges from 1 to 16 (a typical fiberglass filter is rated MERV 1).The higher the MERV rating, the better the filtration.

The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air and how much air is drawn through the cleaning or filtering element. A very efficient collector with a low air-circulation rate will not be effective, nor will a cleaner with a high air-circulation rate but a less efficient collector. The long-term performance of any air cleaner depends on maintaining it properly.

Table-top air cleaners may not remove significant amounts of pollutants from strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source.

Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.

At present, EPA does not recommend using air cleaners to reduce levels of radon and its decay products. The effectiveness of these devices is uncertain because they only partially remove the radon decay products and do not diminish the amount of radon entering the home. EPA plans to do additional research on whether air cleaners are, or could become, a reliable means of reducing the health risk from radon.

Minimum efficiency reporting value, commonly known as MERV rating to rate the effectiveness of air filters

MERV

Min. Particle Size

Typical Controlled Contaminant

Typical Application

1–4

> 10.0 μm

Pollen, dust mites, cockroach debris, sanding dust, spray paint dust, textile fibers, carpet fibers

Residential window AC units

5–8

10.0–3.0 μm

Mold, spores, dust mite debris, cat and dog dander, hair spray, fabric protector, dusting aids, pudding mix

Better residential, general commercial, industrial workspaces

9–12

3.0–1.0 μm

Legionella, Humidifier dust, Lead dust, Milled flour, Auto emission particulates, Nebulizer droplets

Superior residential, better commercial, hospital laboratories

13–16

1.0–0.3 μm

Bacteria, droplet nuclei (sneeze), cooking oil, most smoke and insecticide dust, most face powder, most paint pigments

hospital & general surgery

17–20

< 0.3 μm

Virus, carbon dust, sea salt, smoke

Electronics & pharmaceutical manufacturing cleanroom

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_efficiency_reporting_value

Clean and Decontaminate Air Ducts

before and after

The inside of your air ducts will actually be cleaned and decontaminated with NIKRO high powered HEPA air duct cleaning equipment. Your air duct cleaner will attach a large HEPA vacuum to one vent and close off the other openings in the system in order to create negative pressure. Then the ducts will be cleaned with an air powered tool (compressed air). This is called negative air cleaning or push-pull cleaning.

 

Additional Resources