INDOOR AIR QUALITY MONITORING: Breathe Healthier & Breathe Better in Your Home

When it comes to indoor air quality, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that the air in your home probably isn’t as good as it should be. In fact, the air in some homes wouldn’t even pass labor inspections if it existed in an industrial situation. Ever since home building strategies evolved to produce tighter structures for energy savings, beginning in the early 1970s, the recognition of indoor air quality as a legitimate issue has lagged behind the technical know-how needed to improve it. The good news is that there are effective ways to make the situation better. That’s what this article is all about. Start with the video below, and you’ll find additional information from the article that follows.

  • Reading time = 4 minutes
  • Video watch time = 8 1/2 minutes

Identifying Bad Indoor Air

It’s no surprise that low indoor air quality is most likely to occur in winter, when windows and doors are closed tightly against the weather, and fireplaces, heaters and furnaces are running full blast. Luckily, winter is also the best time to identify bad indoor air. If your windows sport at least two panes of glass, yet still develop enough condensation to form running droplets on the inside face of the glass during cold weather, then you’ve got an indoor air quality problem that goes beyond just moldy window sills. As troublesome as it is, window condensation is an excellent air quality yardstick.

Indoor Home Pollutants

People who live in places that get winter generally spend over 90% of their time indoors, and this means we’re exposed to pollutants that come from our homes. The most common include:

  • Formaldehyde gas from building products
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from paints and cleaners
  • Floor coverings
  • Cleaning products
  • Radon gas (not always an issue)

Now, before you sell your house and move into a tent, listen to some good news. It’s all about a three-phase ventilation strategy that improves indoor air quality while demanding the least amount of money to get the job done.

Step#1: Make a Start

  • In its simplest form, getting fresh air into your home isn’t complex.
  • Simply open a window or two during winter and operate existing exhaust fans more than before.
  • Although this strategy does vent out bad air, that’s not all that leaves. Loads of precious energy efficiency goes too.
  • If a few open windows reduce or eliminate telltale window condensation, then it’s money well wasted.

Step#2: Add Simple Things

  • If signs of poor air quality remain during the coldest depths of winter, despite opening windows and running existing exhaust fans, then consider adding more “the magic bullet” below.
  • There comes a point, however, when the economy of multiple exhaust fans is outweighed by the energy they blow outdoors.
  • Then there’s always the danger that many fans operating at the same time will create sufficient negative indoor air pressure to cause dangerous back drafting of combustion appliances like your furnace, gas water heater, or fireplace.
  • That’s why you might consider the next option, a once-and-for-all solution that costs little in energy inputs.

Step#3: HRV – The Magic Bullet

This is an HRV I helped a friend install in his house. It was a new home and the family lived in it for several years before we got the HRV hooked up. The kids were lying on the floor happily breathing the fresh air that came out of the furnace ducts right after we got things working. There was a huge difference, even just an hour after starting it up.
  • Every new or recently renovated home will be a better place to live with the installation of a ventilation appliance called a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). If you’re handy, you can even install an HVR yourself.
  • These fan-equipped devices are made by a handful of different companies, with all designs made for permanent installation in your home.
  • HRVs create two air streams: one pushes bad air out, while another pulls fresh air in. As these two streams travel within the unit, indoor energy (either warmth in the winter or coolness in the summer) is transferred to the incoming air stream.
  • The result is loads of fresh air in your home, with much less of the energy loss you’d experience with any other ventilation appliance.
  • The best HRVs capture more than 90% of the energy from the outgoing air stream and cost around $2500 installed.
  • HRVs are virtually noiseless, too, and use about the same amount of electricity as three 100-watt light bulbs. At current electricity prices that works out to about 3 cents per hour — a pretty good deal for fresh air year-round!

I hope you found this article helps you stay healthier and happier in your home. Please consider helping me cover the cost of producing and publishing content like this. Click the “buy me a coffee” button below and you’ll find a fast, safe and easy way to make a contribution. A big thank you to everyone who is helping out.

– Steve Maxwell