Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How Fresh is the Air in There?

Posted: October 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Have you put much thought into the air quality in your home? If you have allergies, the answer is probably an emphatic yes. Sadly, many people simply do not realize that the air quality in their home is likely worse than the air outside their front door.

Many sources contribute to this. Volatile organic compounds are in many common materials, like paint, aerosols, glues and furniture.  The cleaning products we use can also detrimentally affect the quality of the air in your home (or business).  Regardless what your elders may tell you, the smell of bleach in a home is NOT a good thing. Using EcoLogo certified cleaning agents is a good first step, and better products are coming out all the time.

In extreme cases, sick building syndrome can result from poor air quality and contaminants in your home. For a worst case (commercial building) example, check out this 60 minutes clip:

The opposite is also true. I will give you an anecdote that has proved to me the value of good indoor air quality.  I used to work in primary steel manufacturing. My first two years out of engineering school were spent on the waterfront of Hamilton Harbour, the first 14 months in a blast furnace to-be, and the second year in a basic oxygen furnace.  Something like this:

Not the nicest place for air quality. I would usually be the recipient of at least one sinus infection every couple of months, which would cause me to take a day or two off. Imagine that cost in absenteeism in a company with 2,000 employees.

Fast forward four years, and I’m working in a green building. One with incredible amounts of fresh air delivery, and well maintained filters. My home has air filters and an HRV (heat recovery ventilator) that I clean every season change. I have not had a sinus infection in over 3 years, and I have two kids under 5, the oldest in the germ-sharing factory that is kindergarten.

This time of year, you can take some positive steps to improving the quality of the air in your home. Check the filters in your furnace before you turn it on. It may be already to late, as in my home we have now turned our heat on (yes I changed the filters first). If you have a newer home, you should also check your heat recovery ventilator. They typically have washable screens or replaceable filters that will keep that nice incoming fresh air clear of dust and other particulates like pollen. Don’t forget the grate on the outside of the building (mine was completely plugged).While you’re at it, check your carbon monoxide alarm. If you haven’t had your furnace serviced in a couple of years, now is a good time to make sure it is burning clean (assuming you are burning gas to heat).

Many building certifications, like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) have strict criteria that award points for Indoor Environmental Quality strategies, designs and product selections. Check out LEED for Homes, Greenguard certification, EcoLogo, Green Seal,  Design for Environment and the United States Green Building Council’s Greenhome guide for more information than I can possibly add here!

Start with changing your filters, and then pick away at anything you think might be a chemical, or off-gassing product. Your lungs (and kids) will thank you.