What is IAQ?
Short for “indoor air quality,” IAQ is a reference to how the air inside your home will impact the comfort and health of your family. Sometimes IAQ issues are obvious and cause immediate problems, like when you burn dinner and your house fills with smoke. Other times, IAQ issues are invisible or it may take years before the consequences of not addressing them emerge.
In any case, ventilation plays a large role in IAQ, as it offers opportunity for pollutants to escape and fresh air to come in. Heat and humidity play a role too, as they can increase the concentration of specific pollutants as well.
IAQ is Primarily Influenced by Several Common Factors
By becoming familiar with the most common issues and taking steps to keep your home free of them, IAQ improves.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Even at low concentrations, the EPA cautions that carbon monoxide can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain for those with heart disease. As concentrations increase, vision and brain function may be impaired and angina, which is chest pain caused by reduced blood to the heart, can occur. Symptoms build from there and at higher concentrations, exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal. Common culprits include tobacco smoke, unvented gas and kerosene heaters, leaking furnaces and chimneys, poorly maintained furnaces, and more.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of combustion. However, measurements of it are often used to determine if a space has adequate ventilation since humans naturally release it while exhaling. If the ventilation is inadequate, carbon dioxide will build up. In fact, there’s a specialized term for buildings without good ventilation that wind up causing occupants health issues as a result. Sick building syndrome (SBS), as it’s called, can produce symptoms like headaches, irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat, cough, itchy skin, dizziness and nausea, concentration issues, fatigue, and more.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
VOCs include a wide variety of chemicals that are emitted as gasses from specific solids and liquids. They’re often found in things like paints, cleaners, and cosmetics. Per the EPA, common symptoms of exposure include irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, visual disorders, memory impairment, headaches, and dizziness. Life-altering issues like organ damage and cancer can occur too.
Also called “particulate matter,” particulates include any liquid or solid that’s suspended in the air. Dust and mold spores are prime examples. Research from the CDC indicates that the impact of exposure to particulates differs from one type to the next, though notes fine particles are of greatest concern because they can work their way into the lungs and blood. Particulates are responsible for everything from eye irritation to lung issues including irritation, difficulty breathing, and cancer. They’re linked to issues with babies at birth as well.
Per the EPA, common asthma triggers include secondhand smoke, dust mites, molds, cockroaches and pests, pets, nitrogen dioxide, outdoor air pollution, chemical irritants, and wood smoke. People experiencing an attack may have breathing problems, wheeze, cough, or experience chest tightness. Thankfully, the severity and frequency of asthma attacks can be reduced by eliminating triggers or reducing exposure to them.
Molds are concerning because they can produce allergens and irritants. Symptoms don’t always emerge immediately after exposure either. It’s common for people, even those who aren’t allergic to mold, to experience irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, or lungs. Those who are allergic and asthmatic may have attacks after exposure too. Humidity is a big culprit when it comes to mold. As a result, the EPA recommends ventilation and keeping indoor humidity at 30-60%.
Common Problems with IAQ
As you can see, many things can diminish the quality of your air. Some may simply be irritants, but others drastically impact your comfort and health. Moreover, a fair amount of IAQ problems aren’t easy to tie back to an air quality problem unless you have experience and training. Sick building syndrome is an extreme example of that, but even everyday things like mold, dust, and dander can be diminishing your quality of life or making you ill and you might not realize it’s the cause of your symptoms. A few examples include:
- Airborne Particles
- Dust Mites
- Carbon Monoxide
- Dry Air
- Hot and Cold Spots
- Humid Air
- Stuffy Air
Solutions to IAQ Issues
The best solution to an IAQ issue will depend on the type of problem you’re experiencing and individual factors. An experienced HVAC technician can perform a thorough assessment and walk you through all the available options that can help. Some of the most common include:
- Carbon Monoxide Detection
- Humidity Control
- Temperature Control
Get a Complete Assessment and Explore the Best Options for Your Needs
No two homes, families, or situations are ever exactly the same. Although certain solutions tend to work best for specific problems, we’ll help you get to the root of your IAQ problem and find the best solutions for your unique needs. Contact us to schedule a consultation.
We utilize commercial grade IAQ monitors specifically; the Air Advice M5200 series to get an accurate reading of the current air quality in your home. Based on the readings of the M5200 series monitors our technicians are able to recommend specific solutions custom to your home to improve your specific air quality issues.