In recent years the importance of IAQ has been underestimated, but this issue has come into sharper focus recently due to shelter in place orders. Many people are now spending far more time at home, and this has highlighted IAQ issues. Breathing air that’s stale and contaminated with a variety of airborne pollutants is very bad for our health. According to the EPA, many of us have indoor air that’s more polluted than outdoor city air! This is bad news for allergy sufferers and those with respiratory illnesses, but it can lead to health problems for others too. In this article, we will take a closer look at IAQ, the potential health consequences, and how you can improve the air in your home.
The Scale of the Problem
Although there are external factors that can affect the IAQ, such as nearby industrial or agricultural activity, the most common causes are located inside your home.
A buildup of dirt, dust, pollen, pet dander, mold growth, and other contaminants in your HVAC ductwork will degrade the IAQ significantly. It’s estimated that around 40 lbs of pollutants can be found in an average HVAC ductwork system each and every year! As you can imagine, without regular duct cleaning and sanitization, the ducts can get very dirty.
How Dirty Ducts Affect the IAQ
When the ducts are dirty, that material is transferred throughout the home along with the treated air. The air in the HVAC system is continuously recycled, and if the air is dirty, it will become stale and unhealthy to breathe. But, there is another problem, the accumulation of dirt in the ducts will inhibit the airflow. This will result in a lack of performance, but it can also affect the reliability and lifespan of your heating and cooling equipment. An HVAC system relies on a steady supply of air to work, and if that air is impeded, the equipment will work harder to compensate. This will lead to an increase in your energy bills, and the components may be overworked, leading to overheating. Eventually, this may lead to an expensive repair bill, and even an earlier than expected replacement of your entire HVAC system.
Regular Duct Cleaning
Experts recommend that the ducts are cleaned once or twice per year, and the best times are at the beginning of summer and fall. Although it is possible to carry out some light surface cleaning yourself, it will be harder to reach deeper into the ducts without specialized equipment and training. The growth of mold deeper in the ducts can release a large volume of toxic mold spores that will degrade the IAQ and trigger allergic reactions. Cleaning and sanitizing is best left to the professionals, and many people are surprised at the improvement in their IAQ after professional cleaning.
3 Key Systems to Improve IAQ
Some homeowners take steps to improve their IAQ, and there are a number of options available. The type of system that you choose will vary depending on the specific IAQ in your home. Before you invest in a system to improve your IAQ, it’s a good idea to contact a local HVAC specialist first. They can help you to identify the source of your IAQ problems and advise you on the best way to handle them efficiently. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best systems to improve the IAQ in your home.
- Positive Pressure Ventilation
This type of system is similar to those used in clinics, hospitals, and clean rooms used to manufacture certain sensitive components such as CPUs for computers. A positive pressure system uses a series of fans and ducts to force fresh filtered air into the home. At the same time, older and stale air is forced out to keep the air feeling fresh and cleaner. This type of system typically has some kind of humidity control feature that can also improve the indoor comfort levels in your home.
- Air Purification
An air purification system is a significant step up from a standard or even a HEPA air filter. Again, this technology was previously only found in hospitals, laboratories, and certain industries. But, now, the technology is less expensive and more widespread, making it a viable alternative for homeowners. Many air purification systems use germicidal ultraviolet (UV) lights that destroy the DNA of bacteria and mold, preventing replication. When the germs are killed, the air is much cleaner and healthier for everyone in the home. Another option is to install a carbon matrix system alongside the UV lights to improve the efficiency even further. The carbon matrix slows down the passage of the bacteria, which extends the exposure time to improve sanitation. Using these two systems together makes air purification far more effective than using UV germicidal lights alone.
- Humidity Control
If the air in your home is too dry, it can be hard to breathe easily, and you may have health issues related to your nose and throat. But, if the air is too moist, the growth of mold and mildew is promoted, and this can occur inside your ducts, where it’s hard to clean. When the humidity is at the extremes, it can also cause damage to your furniture and personal belongings. Controlling the humidity to a comfortable level will improve your indoor comfort levels and prevent the spread of bacteria and pathogens. The air conditioner acts as a dehumidifier during normal operations, but it’s not as effective as a dedicated unit. Experts recommend a humidity level in the 30-50% range for optimal health and comfort. If you’re not sure about the humidity level in your home, invest in a hygrometer and some of the latest smart thermostats this functionality too. If your home is too humid, you need a dehumidifier, and if it’s too dry, you need a humidifier. In areas where there are extremes at certain times of the year, you may need both types of systems to stay comfortable. These systems can be purchased as standalone models, but those are limited because they only work in one room at a time unless you buy multiple units. It’s a better idea to install these systems as part of your HVAC system.
If you want to learn more about how you can improve your IAQ, contact your local certified HVAC specialist today.