Indoor Air Quality Myths Debunked

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Today’s buildings, whether it is a home, office, manufacturing plant, hospital, etc., are more energy efficient; however, they also foster a potentially harmful environment. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has become a rising concern in the HVAC industry.

Poor IAQ can cause a number of health issues such as, allergies, dryness and irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. It can also cause headaches, shortness of breath, hypersensitivity, sinus congestion, coughing, sneezing, nausea, and dizziness. Depending on the type of building, the main factors of poor IAQ are different. For residential homes, carbon monoxide, pet dander, dust mites and mold spores are the common factors. For parking garages, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and propane are the common factors. By educating ourselves about poor IAQ, we can be proactive to install systems, such as gas detectors, air purifiers, etc., in the building for a healthier living environment.

Below are IAQ myths about gas detection systems that have been debunked:

 

MYTH:        Permanent gas detectors are effective.

FACT:         True. Gas detectors are effective in detecting the gas that’s in the air. Regular maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer is important in keeping these gas detectors up to date. Whether it is a simple calibration process, replacement sensor or parts, or even a firmware upgrade, it is highly recommended.

 

MYTH:        Sensors do not need to be replaced once they’re in the field.

FACT:         False. Every sensor has a different life expectancy depending on the gas type and manufacturer. The life expectancy of sensors range from a year to ten years; therefore, it is advisable to contact the manufacturer for details.

 

MYTH:        Ozone is safe for our health.

FACT:         False. It is effective in fighting a number of pollutants including odors, chemicals, bacteria, etc. However, ozone generators are known to emit harmful substances into the air. When ozone is used for treating asthma, it is done in clinics that are under strict medical surveillance.

 

MYTH:        Air pollution is only an outdoor problem.

FACT:         False. Indoor air can be 12 times more polluted than the air outside.

 

MYTH:        There is no real need to worry about IAQ.

FACT:         False. People can spend up to 90% of their time indoors so maintaining the highest quality of indoor air is critical. Some pollutants can be easily identified as it can cause bad odors, such as smoke, dust, paint, and animal dander. However, some are more difficult to identify with our senses, such as bacteria, fungi, mold spores, pollen, influenza viruses, or even off gassing from the walls, furniture and appliances.

 

MYTH:        It is too difficult to improve IAQ.

FACT:         False. To improve air quality, it is not difficult but can be expensive especially when more than one system needs to be in place. However, spending more on the system can be cheaper in the long run in terms of operating cost.

 

MYTH:        All gas detectors are the same.

FACT:         False. There are many different types of gas detectors in the market and not all operate the same way. Research is necessary!

 

MYTH:        You should choose gas detector according to the square footage of the room.

FACT:         False. Gas detectors should not be chosen based on the square footage of the room. Coverage is dependant upon the type of gas as every gas behaves differently.

 

MYTH:        Gas detectors help reduce energy consumption in commercial and industrial buildings.

FACT:         True. Gas detectors can trigger the ventilation system to turn on or off according to the level of gas it detects. For example, in a parkade, if the level of carbon monoxide increases, the gas detector will switch the ventilation fans on automatically to circulate the air and diffuse it from one central location and push it outside. Once the level of carbon monoxide drops, the ventilation fan is turned off.

 

MYTH:        Gas detectors should be placed near the source of the gas.

FACT:         True. If a gas leak were to occur, the sensor(s) will detect it right away and alert the personnel in charge and / or start the ventilations fans automatically before the gas leak gets circulated throughout the premise.

Gas detectors should not be placed near ventilation fans or openings to the outside. They should be placed in areas where there is good air circulation, but not in the path of rapidly moving air. Pay particular attention to dead air spots where there is little or no air movement.

Depending on the properties of the gas, mounting height matters. For a list of mounting heights for common gases, visit http://www.critical-environment.com/technicallibrary/sensor-mounting.html.

 

MYTH:        Green buildings do not improve health.

FACT:         False. Green buildings improve health through safer materials and products and by circulating cleaner air.

 

 

References:

Angela. “5-Myths Debunked About the Home’s Heating and Cooling System.” Hoffmann Brothers: St. Louis Geothermal Heating & Cooling Company. 31 August 2010. Web. 10 May 2012. .

Hudson, Adam. “Indoor Air Quality: Myth or Money Generator.” www.co2meter.com. 01 December 2008. Web. 10 May 2012. .

“Top 8 Air Cleaner Myths You Are Not Supposed to Know About.” Air Cleaners, Air Purifiers – Air Cleaner Systems. 2010. Web. 26 September 2011. .

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