Understanding and calculating your indoor air quality is important. It’s becoming more of a concern for people than the air quality index outside and is actually very understandable. After all, we usually spend more time inside than outside. Bad indoor air quality can affect health and can even cause a number of illnesses.
#1-What Is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor air quality, also known as IAQ, can be affected by a number of things. Mold is a great offender, along with other allergens and bacteria, but it’s only one of several potential health hazards . Carbon monoxide, which can be deadly, usually occurs indoors. Radon, as well as volatile organic compounds, is a gas emitted by some of the chemicals often stored in a house or building. Asbestos, too, is an important factor in indoor air quality.
IAQ levels have become worse over the last 30 years, mainly due to increase in pollutants, and also because we’ve made our houses tighter in order to save energy. This has meant less ventilation so there is actually less air coming in and less opportunity for bad gases to escape.
#2-Measuring Indoor Air Quality
To measure indoor air quality you need a special tool called a VOC sensor which measures volatile organic compounds. It can pick up the formaldehyde that’s present in new carpets as well as the ketones that come from people filling a space.
However, you can also use a carbon dioxide meter. These were first made for greenhouses but can also used in buildings. The problem with these is that although they track the CO2 put out by people, they don’t detect any dangerous chemicals. Ideally, you should have a radon detector and a carbon monoxide detector in your home as well.
Most IAQ testing is carried out by professional labs which have the facilities to detect a wide range of pollutants. Generally, people will resort to this measure when someone in the house or office is having health problems that might be associated with the air quality of the building.
#3-Interpreting the Results
It’s not always easy to interpret the results of an indoor air quality survey. If there’s an illness within a household, it could be due to a combination of two or more pollutants. There are actually no set IAQ standards. The results often have to be referred to health agencies in order to discover the cause of an illness.
#4-Improving Indoor Air Quality
It’s relatively easy to improve indoor air quality. The simplest way is to improve the ventilation in a building. Do this by opening windows and using fans. Creating a cross-breeze is very effective. Use bathroom and kitchen ventilation fans to eliminate fumes and to let fresh air in. Good ventilation also cuts down on the problem of mold. Newer houses have air-to-air heat exchangers that bring fresh air into the home.
You can also use air cleaners that remove particle from the air indoors. There are many models available, ranging from those that fit on a table top to much bigger versions. Note, however, that they don’t remove all the pollutants.
It’s also important to remove the source of pollutants by keeping chemicals separately, removing asbestos or reducing emissions from gas appliances. This is probably the simplest and cheapest method of improving indoor air quality.