In today’s busy world, so much of our time is spent in both public and private indoor spaces. These places include settings such as our homes, offices, gyms, schools, etc. According to research, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that on average, people spend more than ninety percent of their time in enclosed spaces. This includes traveling in a vehicle, grocery shopping, sleeping, working, and more. It’s important to understand the risks and impacts associated with prolonged exposure to poor indoor air quality. And the ways you can improve it in your surroundings. It may be surprising to learn, but current data shows that the health risks that come along with poor indoor air quality are sometimes more significant than those related to outdoor air pollution.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the measure of air purity inside, and directly outside, of a structure, such as a home, office, or even a vehicle. IAQ has become an increasingly important consideration for businesses and homeowners alike. As we have evolved to spend more time indoors, the IAQ of many places has decreased due to outdated air filtration systems.
To understand air quality, we must first understand what factors can affect the purity and breathability of indoor spaces; especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Poor indoor air quality almost always comes down to poor ventilation. Our homes and buildings are built with the general idea that they should be sealed as tightly as possible to reduce the energy needed to heat or cool them. While this makes a lot of sense, if a structure doesn’t have good ventilation it could cause a buildup of carbon dioxide, dust, bacteria, mold, or worse. Without being addressed, these toxins continue to stay inside your home or office and grow. This can have adverse effects on your health.
Some factors in poor ventilation include:
- Outdated HVAC systems. Newer systems, ten years old or less, are built to energy-efficient standards, meaning they can handle the most bang for your buck while using the least energy. Older systems will drain energy and need repairing more often.
- Dust and micro-debris build-up in filters is another common cause of underperforming ventilation setups. Regular preventative maintenance (PM), using the correct materials for your system, and cleaning the space with dust-catching products are necessary.
- A lack of preventative maintenance. As mentioned above, PM is imperative in a healthy HVAC system, but what is it? It’s a combination of seasonal checkups by a professional, proper cleaning of the inside ductwork and outer vents, and changing the air filter every thirty to sixty days.
The discomfort brought on by indoor pollutants can be an everyday struggle. If you don’t know how important your IAQ is, you might not notice the connection between your allergy discomfort this year, and your total home or office air system. According to the EPA, the effects of indoor air quality can be immediate or long-term. Immediate effects are symptoms that occur as soon as you enter a space, or only when you come in contact with a certain area. Immediate effects include (but are not limited to):
- Itchy eyes
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
These symptoms are just like allergic reactions to animals or fresh pollen, and sometimes they resemble symptoms of the common cold. Without addressing the root cause of these symptoms, they can grow to have long-term side effects. After repeated exposure to poor indoor air quality, you may begin to experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent sinus infections
- Frequent eye infections
- Chronic dry throat
Other side effects can include:
- Passing illness to other occupants more frequently or easily.
- The growth of mildew, mold, and bacteria.
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart disease
It is important to note that further research is needed to fully grasp the long-term effects of poor indoor air quality and that research is ongoing. But it is all the more reason to practice good air cleaning practices for the protection of everyone.
Although the environment in which we live plays a role in our indoor air quality, we actually have a good amount of control over the air we breathe every day. Here are the most important things to take away from this:
- Good, well-cared-for ventilation is the biggest factor in IAQ. HVAC systems today have the ability to measure, improve, and regulate indoor air quality by providing proper ventilation, cleaning the air as it circulates, and balancing the humidity. Support technology, such as germicidal UV lights, can assist your HVAC system by keeping the air around the filters cleaner.
- Circulate the air with fans to keep your A/C from overworking. While opening a window may seem like the easiest way to get rid of stale air and to allow fresh air to flow into your home, it’s actually a bad idea. Opened windows can’t filter the air or block micro-pollutants from outside. Using support items will protect your investment.
- Cool air isn’t always clean air. Instead of putting added stress on your A/C, you could consider installing a whole-home air cleaner or air purifier to be sure clean air is distributed to every room in your home. These systems remove pollutants that would normally recirculate through your home, or clog your HVAC filters. Air purifiers can trap up to 95% of particles and then uses an electrical charge to kill or inactivate them. Inactive bacteria and spores will end their cycle, ensuring that they are gone for good once the filter is changed.
- Make sure your filters are the right fit for your system. The efficiency rating of your filters will tell you that they can capture many micro-pollutants such as pollen, animal dander, smoke, bacteria, and much more. But knowing the right air filter to use for your system’s best performance, and that matches your home or office’s needs, will protect your heating and cooling equipment, allowing your investment to last for many years. Air filters aren’t exactly fragile, and with regular maintenance and support items, they’ll help trap large amounts of dust between changes.
- You can also consider adding air sterilization UV lamps to your HVAC equipment. They sterilize air as it passes through the HVAC system by killing bacteria, viruses, and molds. There are coil UV lights that shine directly on the coil where the air passes, and there are air sanitizing lights that are installed in the ductwork. Both ward off harmful pollutants and add an extra layer of air quality protection.
Knowing all of the best products and maintenance tips can be difficult. It helps to build a good relationship with a professional HVAC company. Scheduling your maintenance services seasonally with a trusted company can mean not encountering costly repairs down the line. The benefit of Allied’s experience, knowledge, and customer service will keep your HVAC system running at top notch.
Remove all the stress and confusion, and rely on us to answer all of your questions about indoor air quality and to provide long-term solutions that work for you and your budget. Professional quality doesn’t have to mean very expensive. Give us a call or visit our website to find out more information about air purifiers and other solutions we offer.