Your home should be the place where you can relax and breathe freely. For this reason, it is a good idea to regularly assess the quality of the air you and your family are breathing. Testing the air quality in your home is a great way to make sure you are not dealing with any problems, like mold, allergens or radon.
Use the following indoor air quality assessment guidelines to identify areas of improvement in your home:
What is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings, and its impact on the health and comfort of the building’s occupants. Indoor air quality can be affected by temperature, humidity, ventilation, and chemical or biological contaminants found within the building. Indoor air quality solutions can help address these issues head-on.
The air we breathe, both indoors and out, has a direct impact on our health. Indoor air pollution can sometimes cause unpleasant odors, but it goes completely unnoticed in many instances. Mildew and black mold are common symptoms of a musty odor. In addition, poor air quality allows spores to circulate and lower the air quality. Indoor air quality systems help keep these pollutants at bay and improve the air you breathe.
Why Is Indoor Air Quality Important?
Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the 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.
It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as possible while you are involved in short-term activities that can generate high levels of pollutants — for example, 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 health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure or repeated exposures to a pollutant. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person’s exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants, symptoms of some diseases such as asthma may show up, be aggravated or worsened.
Indoor air pollution can also cause serious health issues, including:
- Sore eyes
- Burning nose
- Worsening allergies
- Respiratory issues
- Flu-like symptoms
- Heart disease
- Other serious, long-term conditions
- Death, when carbon monoxide or other pollutants are present in high concentrations.
The good news? You don’t have to leave the quality of the air you breathe up to chance. Instead, contact your local Aire-Tech professional for indoor air quality services.
What We Test For
Testing the quality of a home or business’ indoor air is important because a lot of people live in spaces with poor air quality without knowing it. It is often commonplace to simply assume the air we breathe indoors is clean and healthy. In reality, homes, businesses and offices alike can have a plethora of indoor air pollutants.
Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed in the soil. It can enter indoors through cracks and openings in floors and walls that are in contact with the ground. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. Offering radon testing is important because a test is truly the only way to determine if radon exposure is occurring.
Molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. HVAC specialists should prioritize mold testing services, as mold loves to grow in air filters, evaporator coils, ductwork and drip pans in the HVAC systems.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are dangerous chemicals. They are often in customers’ homes and businesses, breathing them in on a daily basis, without even knowing. VOCs are complex–they can spread through contaminated water sources or as gases. VOCs originate from thousands of different sources. Some examples of more common ones that could potentially harm clients’ indoor spaces include:
- Solvents, paints and varnishes
- Household cleaning products
- Air fresheners
- Aerosol sprays, used for cleaning, cooking or cosmetics
- Gasoline and fuel oil
- Burning wood
- Building materials
Signs of Poor Indoor Air Quality
As you inspect your home from top to bottom, there are certain things you should be on the lookout for.
Follow this indoor air quality assessment checklist to identify possible signs of pollutants:
- Discoloration in your attic and wall insulation
- Accumulation of insects and other debris in your insulation, HVAC filters, or registers
- Dampness, dirt, or other debris at your air supply ducts and grills
- A detached or loose dryer vent that may be releasing exhaust into the attic or other interiors of your home
- Warped, blistered, or peeling wallpaper that may indicate moisture, mold, or fungi has destroyed the adhesive
- Respiratory or other health problems that develop after moving into a home and that subside after time spent away from home point toward an environmental issue in the home.
Any one of the above signs could indicate you have a potential indoor air quality problem, either due to the presence of pollutant-producing moisture or because your home’s interiors are not properly sealed against outdoor contaminants.
Common Causes of Poor IAQ
- Indoor Pollution Sources
Indoor air pollution is created by the release of harmful pollutants inside. These can include fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and various other toxins.
Examples of indoor sources of pollution include, but are not limited to, tobacco products, fuel-burning combustion appliances like space heaters, stoves, ovens, and fireplaces; building materials, household cleaning products, heating and cooling systems, humidifiers, high moisture levels, and incoming pollutants from outside like radon, pesticides, etc.
Once emitted into the air, each pollutant type can vary in how long it lingers in the air. Some can last for long periods even after the activity that produced them has stopped.
- Temperature and Humidity Levels
Many factors affect IAQ. These factors include problems controlling temperature, high or low humidity, recent remodeling, and other activities in or near a building that can affect the fresh air coming into the building. Sometimes, specific contaminants like dust from construction or renovation, mold, cleaning supplies, pesticides, or other airborne chemicals (including small amounts of chemicals released as a gas over time) may cause poor IAQ.
Concentrations of dangerous pollutants like ozone and formaldehyde change directly with a change in humidity. In regard to temperature and IAQ, higher temperatures are preferred by bacteria and viruses, and thus a higher pathogen count is found in spaces that are warmer. Furthermore, higher temps speed up chemical reactions, leading to higher production levels of ozone and other hazardous compounds. Warmer temperatures also increase emissions of VOCs, a group of compounds that can be particularly dangerous for human health.
- Inadequate Ventilation
Poor ventilation (lack of outside air) can cause indoor air pollutants like those mentioned in the above section to reach even higher concentration levels over time. Outdoor ventilation helps to diminish the concentrations of the pollutants in the air by adding additional air into the space, and without incoming air, the pollutant levels become more and more concentrated over time, making the space more hazardous for you.
Impact on Health
For many people, the health risks from exposure to indoor air pollution may be greater than those related to outdoor pollution. In particular, poor indoor air quality can be harmful to vulnerable groups such as children, young adults, the elderly, or those suffering chronic respiratory and/or cardiovascular diseases.
- Short-Term Effects on Health
Upon exposure to certain pollutants, health effects like irritation of the upper respiratory tract (eyes, nose, and throat) may frequently be observed. Other immediate effects include headaches, nausea, and tiredness. Oftentimes, these health effects are short-term and can be helped by treatment, which might include eliminating exposure to the pollution source. Sometimes health effects can worsen over time from continued exposure, like asthma.
- Long-Term Effects on Health
Aside from short-term health effects, poor IAQ can have a long-term impact on your health. In fact, you might not see any impact on your health until years after exposure has already occurred. These health effects may include certain respiratory diseases, heart diseases, cancer, and diseases affecting the nervous system. Some of these may cause severe debilitation or even death. Much is still unknown about what concentrations or time exposure is needed to produce these health issues. However, you can help to prevent these long-term health issues by employing strategies meant to help improve IAQ.
Reduce Pollutants—Get Professional Indoor Air Quality Testing
The more you know about the sources of indoor air pollution the better your chances are of managing and limiting the amount of harmful toxins and pollutants in your everyday living and working spaces. Increasing airflow in the kitchen, sealing gaps in doorways, windows and entryways, regularly cleaning, controlling humidity levels and installing purifiers that automatically purifies and humidifier for a healthier environment can all be valuable steps towards improving your indoor air quality.
If your system needs repair or inspection before winter, call us at 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.