Health is a top concern for all of us. Some much more with the pandemic in our midst. As we are cradled in the comforts of our homes, anxiety still gets the best of us. We are anxious more than ever when we report to the office. Our comfort comes from knowing that the air quality in the building that we are in is equipped with the best ventilation system and monitoring solutions. That negates any anxious moments of possibly getting exposure to any diseases.
While health effects are an indicator of indoor air quality, that would be too much of a stretch if we wait for someone to show symptoms. Temperature and humidity levels can easily surmise indoor air quality. There are sure signs one should be on the lookout to check if your homes or buildings are not getting enough ventilation. This includes:
- presence of moisture, especially in windows
- stuffy air (worse if it has some foul odor)
- air cooling vents are dirty
- molds in your indoor items
Causes of Air Problems
Indoor air quality can diminish through the presence of air pollutants. There are pollution sources that release gas that causes “bad air.” And because of the indoor setting, there is not much circulation going on. The need to circulate outdoor air is necessary. The air from the outdoor source can dilute the gases emitted by the air pollutants indoors. The outdoor air can also whiff the indoor pollutants outside whereby diluting it more in the open space.
- Air Pollutants
Many air pollutants cause bad air quality. Some of which are:
- fuel combustion
- tobacco/ cigarette smoke
- by-products of cleaning materials, cosmetics, and personal care
- biological pollutants
The burning of fuels produces particulate matter in the air and some particulates are so big. These are hazardous once inhaled. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the by-product of many household cleaning items. VOCs’ complex makeup of chemicals can be very toxic once exposed to the air. Asbestos is a mineral fiber. It is a primary ingredient in construction, specifically in roofing and paints. When asbestos particles are released into the air, they can cause severe respiratory ailments.
- Carbon Dioxide Levels
Any combustion indoor will release CO2 into the air. This is when fire uses the oxygen in the air and replaces it with CO2. Since carbon dioxide is odorless and colorless, it is hard to measure without the proper tools. Indoor environments are prone to a higher concentration of CO2 levels. Couple that with combustion activities, then this may spur the CO2 levels even more. It is said that a high concentration of CO2 levels at 5,000 ppm can cause severe health risks. However, recent studies suggest that exposure to as low as 1,000 ppm CO2 levels can cause health problems already. The risk can further escalate if there is a long exposure.
- Other Sources
Outdoor air is typically helpful to increase ventilation in an enclosed space. But there are outdoor pollutants that one should be wary of.
Radon is a radioactive gas! This type of gas emits radiation in particle form that is toxic to humans. Radon can be traced from uranium present in rocks and soil. Once they break, the element forms radium which then converts into radon gas. In gas form, it can easily seep through cracks in your walls or floors.
Pest control is a cause of concern in homes and buildings alike. Pesticides have a high concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are industrial solvents containing organic chemicals that are very toxic.
Improving Air Quality
There are several ways to improve air quality. In an indoor setting, there are a few checkpoints that can limit pollution.
- Source Check
Probably the most logical approach to improve air quality is to check the root of pollution. Source checks are done to look for possible emissions. You may need to limit the usage of your heavy-duty gas range. Proper maintenance and use of gas can be the first step to reduce combustion. Are there any cracks in the wall? These openings are accessible entrances for asbestos. Sealing it is vital to reduce air pollutants.
- Ventilation is Key
Good air quality is a good balance of indoor and outdoor air circulation. Introducing more fresh air indoor lowers the concentration of pollutants. Integrating proper exhausts and vents can accommodate airflow from outside. There are particular ways to increase ventilation indoors:
- natural ventilation through the use of adequate windows and doors
- mechanical ventilation incorporating HVAC system that outdoor air intake mechanism
- infiltration through open-air access in openings and joints
It is good to note that infiltration is common in many indoor spaces. Opening (whether cracks or purposely designed vents) can facilitate outdoor air inflow. It may be a costly investment, but advanced HVAC systems can be worth the price. New features bringing in air from the outdoors provide a better ventilation process. This ventilation mechanism provides a good balance of air circulation in an enclosed area.
- Air Cleaners
The primary purpose of air cleaners is to reduce the accumulation of pollutants in the air. There is an array of air cleaners available in the market. These air cleaners collect pollutant particles in the air. However, there is a natural air cleaner. PLANTS. While it is debatable, certain plants can remove indoor pollutants present in the air.
Air filters go hand in hand with air cleaners. They are effective in filtering particles from air sources. While air cleaners may be limited to cleaning the air in a particular area, air filters can do a more extensive cleaning job. Specifically, HVAC filters are a primary commodity to achieve good indoor air quality. HVAC filters’ main job is to reduce air pollution. Because an HVAC system covers a broader area, then the filters can purify more indoor air.
Air handling units (AHU) affect a building’s energy use. It involves several air quality elements. This includes temperature, humidity, and filtration. Monitoring air units are typical “source checks.” Additional sensors can also measure other detailed analyses of the AHU.
One of the features of AKCP HVAC Monitoring Solutions is diagnosing common faults. As common as checking dirty air filters can be covered by Wireless Differential Air Pressure. During indoor air quality assessments, a dirty air filter can essentially produce more particles in the air. Wireless Air Quality Sensors can identify particle number concentration in the PM0.5 to PM10 range.
Air Quality Monitoring
There are fundamental indicators to “good air quality.” The criteria are simple and straightforward:
- adequate ventilation
- controlled air pollutants
- stable temperature and humidity level
Once we know what are the air quality indicators, the next action step is to monitor them. Monitoring Solutions usually come in two facets: testing and measuring.
- What is Air Quality Sensor?
Sensors are also capable of measuring pollutants in the air. Sensors are monitoring devices that can read data and relay it to software for easy access. Granular and visual reports are provided in real-time as well.
Specifically, temperature and humidity levels are the best monitoring indicators in gauging air quality. This is because temperature and humidity affect air composition in an enclosed space. When humidity is high, expect molds to form instantaneously. Temperature also affects the release of particulate matter into the air. With high heat, a chemical change is faster. The breakdown of chemicals releases specific pollutants into the air. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that humidity levels should be within the 30%RH – 60% range.
It is also essential to place sensors at strategic locations. It is not recommended to directly install a sensor to sources such as induction stoves or heaters. The best site is to mount it on the walls. This is why strategic location can be best achieved through the use of wireless sensors. It gives a more flexible installation capacity to your monitoring set-up.
This wireless sensor combines the many reading air particles’ capabilities, metal oxide gasses, and temperature and humidity levels. The best part? All these reading features in a single wireless sensor. The sensor detects metal oxide gasses providing a VOC index reading relative to the indoor gas composition. The sensor can also measure particle mass concentration. This way, air pollutants are detected at specific, quantifiable composition.
There is also a stand-alone temperature and humidity sensor. They serve as data loggers reading the two specific environmental parameters. The wireless sensor can send real-time warnings when humidity levels exceed a threshold.
This type of sensor is installed on the Air Handling Unit Filter (AHU). This sensor will indicate if the filter needs cleaning or maintenance. The sensor will send a notification if it detected any drop in the pressure of the AHU. Using HEPA Filters requires power to operate since this type of filter fibers are so tight it would seem impossible for air to pass through without a high pressured machine. It will need constant cleaning and maintenance since dirt will block the way of air and will make it difficult for the machine to suck an adequate amount of air.
Having good indoor air quality is an iterative process. It is a continuous set of activities to ensure proper airflow in your space. Because health priorities are of utmost importance, the air we breathe is crucial. Air pollution issues are now gaining traction. The awareness from such an issue identifies the exposure risks for all of us.
As more and more efforts are made to a healthy and comfortable living space, air quality is the primary qualification. More than investing in the state-of-the-art HVAC system, allotting adequate air quality monitoring solutions will soon be the norm. Who’s to say that a simple wireless sensor can ensure clean air for all of us? These IoT sensors are our handy tool to live healthy lives.