Between work, school, and home, most people spend quite a bit of time indoors. While you may not often consider the quality of the air in your home, it can affect you more than you might think. Poor indoor air quality presents a problem in a lot of buildings, but what are these problems and why are they important?
What is indoor air quality?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refers to indoor air quality (IAQ) as “the air within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.” With so much time spent indoors, people breathe indoor air for a long period of the day. If improperly handled, this can cause concern. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.”
If the quality of the air in the building remains poor, it can start to impact the health of building occupants. Depending on the type of emission or contaminant, and the length of exposure, individuals may notice health effects immediately or years after exposure. These effects can range from short term health issues, like eye, nose, and throat irritation, to long-term issues, such as respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancer.
What causes indoor air pollution?
Many factors can reduce the quality of indoor air, but ventilation holds a major influence over the air quality of a building. If too little air enters a building, contaminants can accumulate. This means a building with poor ventilation will have worse air quality than a building with adequate ventilation.
While ventilation remains a major influence, other factors can pollute indoor air, including:
- Tobacco products
- Furniture or cabinetry made of pressed wood products
- New flooring
- Cleaning products, aerosol sprays, chlorine bleach, oven cleaner
- Heating and cooling devices
- Fuel-burning combustion appliances
- Outdoor air pollutants
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality:
The EPA argues that the most effective way to improve indoor air is to “reduce or remove the sources of pollutants and to ventilate with clean outdoor air.” You can also keep the air in your building a little cleaner with a few additional changes.
If you own a business, adding a make-up air unit to the HVAC system can increase ventilation, ensure proper air pressure, and improve air quality.
If you own or rent a home or apartment, there are a few ways to improve indoor air quality without having to spend tons of money:
Keeping a clean home can reduce dirt, dust, and pet dander. Regularly clean bedding and drapes. Clean up clutter from the floor. Vacuum rugs and carpets at least once or twice a week and, if possible, invest in a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
Regularly changing filters in HVAC systems reduces the amount of particulates and dust circulated in the air. Change or check on filters every 30-60 days. If you live in a bigger city, consider changing out the filters more frequently.
Air purifiers can help reduce the amount of irritants in the air in a particular space. Because they can typically only filter the air in one room, place an air purifier in commonly used spaces.
Indoor air quality decreases without proper ventilation, so allow fresh air in whenever you get the chance. Open windows and doors when the weather permits and when painting, cleaning, remodeling, or working with other products that release VOCs. Certain appliances, like gas stoves, can release harmful contaminants so use the kitchen ventilation or open a window when cooking.
Keep control of the humidity to control the growth of mold and mildew, which can trigger allergies and asthma. Consider investing in a dehumidifier in particularly humid areas.
Looking for a way to improve air quality in commercial buildings? HomElectrical offers make-up air units for your commercial indoor air quality requirements.