With so much of our time spent indoors, It’s hard to underestimate the importance of indoor air quality in this day and age. Whether it’s time at home or the office, most of us will spend our days in an indoor environment that will ultimately inform how we live. For those surrounded by air pollutants, contaminants and chemical vapors each and every day, this exposure can show up immediately or even years later in harmful ways and affect the quality of life. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that these effects can be severely debilitating or even fatal. From respiratory illness to heart disease and cancer, indoor air quality can have a profound impact on our health.
By addressing these core issues, however, we can drastically reduce these negative implications and ultimately improve our lifestyles and well-being. At home, this means improved health and comfort, while at work, this translates to better performance and focus with fewer days missed due to illness. In order to achieve quality indoor air, there are a few components that need to be addressed. Thankfully, in combination with a high-efficiency, high-quality HVAC system or as a result of such a unit, they can all be controlled.
For those who live in warmer, damper climates, fighting humidity is a never ending battle. Not only does humidity provide a certain level of discomfort in the home, it also lends itself to bacteria and mold overgrowth. Ultimately, this poor indoor air quality results in the increased spread of allergens and respiratory disorders. In order to combat humidity in warm months, many choose to employ the use of their air conditioning system. But while air conditioners will naturally reduce moisture in the air, that isn’t their primary function, so it’s important to find one that is designed to maximize humidity control. Most variable speed blowers, for example, have enhanced dehumidification settings and can help balance the air quality. Using a humidifier in the colder months is also a solution for the opposite problem. When the air is dry, a humidifier can put moisture back in the air without compromising the temperature of the room.
One of the best ways to combat indoor air pollutants and improve its quality is to ensure proper ventilation so that fresh outdoor air is consistently replacing your indoor air. There are a few ways to do this, one of which is through mechanical ventilation through outdoor air intakes associated with your HVAC system. Many systems, including forced air heating systems, do not work this way, especially in older homes, in which case, natural ventilation is the best option. This means opening windows and doors when the outdoor temperature and weather permits it, and turning on ceiling fans to create adequate airflow. This will also naturally help to reduce humidity depending on the season. Modern home designs are beginning to address this ventilation issue by adding mechanicals features that work in tandem with an HVAC system, including high-efficiency heat recovery ventilators.
Air filtration is one of the most important aspects of indoor air quality and it can truly make a world of difference in the air you breathe. Filtration systems are designed to catch air particles, such as dust, mites, pet dander, and dirt, that have a negative impact on everything from your health to the discoloration of your walls and ceilings. The goal is to ultimately reduce these particles, allowing your to breathe fresh, odor-free air, and this is primarily done through the air filter in your HVAC system. Some will be more effective than others, however. For example, a variable speed furnace will do a much better job at cleaning the air than a single-stage furnace can simply because it runs continually. The constant air flow through the filter means it’s going to catch and trap more pollutants than if it were starting and stopping periodically, reducing the amount of air that passes through the filter. The type of air filter is also important and a high-quality one can drastically increase the amount of irritants that are trapped and filtered from your indoor air.
While proper filtration will work to remove pollutants from the home, it’s and even better idea to address the sources of such pollutants first. Without removing or addressing the sources, your HVAC system will never get a break and your filters will need to be changed more frequently, otherwise causing your unit to work overtime. These sources include known mold overgrowth or asbestos or even gas stoves that increase emissions. Eliminating established sources means that the air flowing through your home will be cleaner and less likely to cause odor while also being a more cost-effective solution than increasing ventilation which can ultimately increase costs.
While it may not directly affect your health, air temperature can certainly affect your well-being. Living in a home that is too cold or drafty can make living situations uncomfortable while being in a home that is too stuffy can do just the same. It’s all about balance and a high-quality HVAC system that is sized to fit your house can improve the indoor air quality extraordinarily. At work, an uncomfortable indoor temperature can also make doing your job more difficult. Clean, temperature controlled air increases productivity and allows workers to be comfortable and remain focused on the task at hand, not how they’re feeling as a result of air that is too hot or cold. In this case, HVAC systems designed for large commercial buildings can improve temperature as well as indoor air quality.
Once you break down the aspects that make up quality indoor air, it’s clear to see how easily it can go wrong. From improper air ventilation, humidity control and filtration, to indoor sources of contaminants and pollutants, there are many things that can affect the quality of your indoor air. In order to provide a proper solution rather than a band-aid fix, it’s important to consider them all equally. A quality HVAC system sized for your home will tackle many of these common issues while also providing adequate heating and cooling. Similarly, there are many things you can do to outfit your home in a way that promotes clean air, like opening windows and removing asbestos. When the two methods are combined, it’s a recipe for success and it will more than likely than not benefit your indoor air and allow you to live a happily and healthy when indoors and breathe freely.