Many home and business owners don’t know this, but according to the EPA, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Since many of us spend the majority of our time indoors, we should do what we can to reverse this. The duty is even greater when we have family members, clients, or employees to think about.
That’s where new technology comes in. All kinds of indoor air quality products are available, some of which trap indoor pollutants and others of which keep them out to begin with, and most are within the average property owner’s budget. The following is a brief summary of what the most prominent IAQ products do to improve indoor air and, in particular, prevent sickness.
Consequences of Poor IAQ
First, let’s think about the types of indoor pollutants that your home or commercial property might harbor. They include:
• Mold and mildew
• Pet hair and dander
• Dust and dust mites
• Feces from mites and other insects
• Tobacco smoke
You might also be harming yourself and other occupants by using products with toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOC. Products with high VOC levels include scented cleaning products, air fresheners, candles, and opened cans of paint. Prolonged exposure to all of these pollutants and chemicals can lead to:
• Cold-like symptoms (coughing, sore throat, watery eyes, etc.)
• Shortness of breath, especially in the case of mold exposure
• Respiratory conditions, including pneumonia
• Dry skin and rashes, again from mold exposure
• Sinus infections, especially from bacteria and viruses
• All-around feelings of fatigue
High-Quality Air Filters
We begin with air filters because, though they’re not what one would call “high-tech,” they’re essential for any home or business with a central heating and AC unit. Filters are normally located over the return air vents or in the blower compartment of the air handler.
Property owners who are intent on averting sickness should, first of all, ignore the cheapest filters, which are fiberglass filters. These last about 30 days and only trap large particles of dust and dirt; they won’t trap allergens. Pleated filters are more advanced as they trap smaller particles like:
• Pet dander
• Mold spores
• Dust mite feces
They last 60 to 90 days since the pleats give the filters greater surface area to trap pollutants in. Most homes can make do with pleated filters, but commercial and industrial properties like office buildings, warehouses, schools, and medical centers may require rigid cell filters. These can trap:
• Cigarette smoke
• Lead dust
• Humidifier dust
Consider the Filter’s MERV Rating
The MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating measures, on a scale from 1 to 16, the effectiveness of a filter in trapping pollutants. This is what you’ll be going by when deciding which filters fit your property best.
To give you an idea of where different filters fall on the scale: Fiberglass filters are rated between 1 and 4 while pleated filters usually have a 5 to 8 rating. The rating for rigid cell filters tends to be 9 to 12.
Air Purification Systems
Air purifiers, or portable air cleaners, come highly recommended for both home and business owners. At its most basic level, an air purifier is a system with a fan and filters. The fan sucks the polluted air in and lets out clean air. The portable kind are only intended for a single room, but there are whole-home solutions out there. At HB McClure, we offer:
• Media Air Cleaners
• UV-Aire purifiers
• The Healthy Home Duo
Such devices are usually installed in the return air ducts or over the evaporator coil. We want to emphasize that the UV-Aire purifiers and Healthy Home Duo come with germicidal lights to disinfect the air of bacteria and viruses. The light is not released into the room, so you won’t see it nor will you be exposed to it. It quietly kills those harmful pollutants from the air so it is clean and pure for you to breathe it again.
The Healthy Home Duo even boasts an exclusive Photo-Reactive Oxidation process that can take VOCs and their odors and convert them into carbon dioxide and water vapor. This is a great benefit since VOCs are, after all, gaseous pollutants and cannot be caught by even the most high-end filters.
We want to say a little more about germicidal lights. If you want these by themselves, then know that there are a variety of UV lamps out there. Ultraviolet light is germicidal as its short-wave radiation kills mold, mildew, and fungus. There are limitations, though. Some spores are UV-resistant, and even dead mold spores can cause health problems.
It’s not just pollutants that can harm your health. Low humidity can make you and other occupants more susceptible to the flu during winter. It also leads to dry skin, itchy throats, and aggravation for those with respiratory conditions like asthma.
This is where humidifiers come into play. The most convenient and inexpensive are portable humidifiers, which you can wheel around from room to room. Of course, you’ll need to keep refilling them with water and cleaning out the mineral deposits that form on them. Among whole-house humidifiers, the two main types are:
• Bypass humidifiers
• Fan-powered humidifiers
Bypass humidifiers need to be hooked up to the central heating and air conditioning unit and require additional ductwork, called bypass ducts, to be installed. Fan-powered humidifiers are also installed on a central heating/cooling unit, but since they come with their own motor, they can run independently of it. No additional ductwork is necessary.
There are various pros and cons, then, that you’ll need to weigh. Fan-powered humidifiers are water-efficient and humidify faster. Bypass humidifiers are cheaper, even when including the cost of ductwork, and run more quietly.
High humidity is a potential health hazard, too, as it encourages mold and mildew growth and attracts dust mites. If humidity levels exceed 60%, you can be sure that dust mites will be inviting themselves in. Continual exposure to these pests can spell trouble for asthma and allergy sufferers, and we mentioned the effects of mold exposure. To prevent all of this, you might want to consider a dehumidifier. There’s the:
• Refrigerant dehumidifier
• Desiccant dehumidifier
The first uses the familiar combination of refrigerant, an evaporator coil, and a condenser coil to do its job. The second uses a moisture-adsorbent desiccant and then collects the moisture in a desiccant wheel. Refrigeration-based dehumidifiers are efficient but might be too much for your purposes as they’re often used in flood restoration. They’re louder but also cheaper to operate.
Serving Harrisburg Since 1914
HB McClure wants to ensure your comfort and, to the best of our ability, your health here in Harrisburg, PA. Thousands of home and business owners have relied on us ever since we opened our doors in 1914. We carry numerous high-quality filtration systems and other indoor air quality products. In addition, we have electricians and plumbers on staff and can install water softeners, generators, boilers, smart thermostats, and more. Call today for more information.