AIR QUALITY DESIGN STRATEGIES
Those of us who spend the majority of our time indoors know that air quality can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of our families and ourselves.
When we spend time outdoors, we enjoy the positive effects that fresh air has on us but may pay little attention to the fact that it does. However, what happens when we move indoors? Can this affect our mood and health as a whole? Let’s examine the science behind indoor air quality. The air we breathe is made up of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Upon inhalation, oxygen enters the lungs and is absorbed into the bloodstream. Exhalation, on the other hand, involves carbon dioxide being expelled from the lungs.
This changes the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air that is available indoors. A decrease in oxygen accompanied by no change in the level of carbon dioxide affects people in such a way that they may have trouble staying alert and active. If you have ever been in a packed meeting room, you have surely experienced this for yourself.
On a larger scale, buildings that don’t have enough ventilation can cause carbon dioxide levels to rise, which can lead to tiredness, exhaustion, headaches, vertigo, and disorientation. To be healthy and productive, people need to have the right amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide available.
“Thermal Comfort” Is a Major Contributor to Well-Being
Thermal comfort is the state of mind that expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment and is assessed by subjective evaluation (ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55). The human body can be viewed as a heat engine where food is the fuel. The body will dispel excess heat into the environment, so it can continue to function.
The heat transfer is proportional to the temperature difference. In cold environments, the body loses heat, and in hot environments, the body exerts less energy. Both the hot and cold scenarios lead to discomfort.
One of the most important goals of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) design engineers is to make sure that people who live or work in buildings or other enclosed spaces remain comfortable. The challenge lies in the fact that each individual may experience this comfort level differently; what is deemed comfortable for some may be too hot or too cold for others.
The thermal comfort of our living and working environments has a significant impact on our motivation, alertness, concentration, and mood.
Some home systems may be imbalanced, sending air to the wrong places at the wrong temperatures. A technician can be hired to test and balance the HVAC system in your home.
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are typically found in gases in the air. Some VOCs are harmless, while others are classified as carcinogens. Harmful VOCs can be found in renovation materials like some paints, varnishes, sealants, particleboard, foam, cleaners, fuels, and pesticides.
Certain types of VOCs occur naturally and are released by food and fruit. When there isn’t enough fresh air to dilute the buildup and when temperatures and humidity are high, these compounds can build up to dangerous levels.
There are some ways for a homeowner to combat VOCs. Biological contaminants such as mould, dust, dust mites, and other pests can be kept at bay with routine cleaning and moisture control in the home.
When there is a lot of industrial activity and the air is still, particulate pollution (PM2.5) can build up outside and move indoors. Wildfires have also been on the rise worldwide and can sometimes produce unhealthy levels of PM2.5 pollution. Cooking, burning candles, and low-quality vacuums without HEPA filters are also potential sources of PM2.5.
Strategies to Enhance the Quality of Indoor Air
Regular ventilation is one of the most straightforward and cost-effective methods. The effort-to-reward ratio is quite favourable. It costs nothing to open windows three to four times per day for thirty minutes at a time, and doing so can help prevent the accumulation of indoor pollutants.
In some cases, the optimal combination of open doorways and windows can create a draft and improve ventilation. If outdoor air quality is a persistent issue, you may wish to restrict ventilation on days with poor air quality. When cooking, leave windows slightly open and range hoods and exhaust fans on.
Your furnace filter would benefit from an upgrade to one with a higher efficiency Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV13) in order to reduce indoor dust and pollen levels. Independent air purifiers are significantly more effective at cleaning the air.
Examine the clean air delivery rate (CADR rating) and technical specifications to ensure that the size is appropriate for the room. Filters work best in closed spaces, so keep interior doorways and windows closed as much as possible to help them work faster.
Air quality and circulation are important considerations for those who may be purchasing new homes. When considering a purchase, air circulation ranks high on the list of must-haves for many homeowners. And if remote work requires you to spend more time at home, it is more important than ever to provide a safe and healthy environment for the entire family.