Take a deep breath. How do you feel? Can you tell how clean your air is just by breathing it? Probably not. Your indoor air quality (IAQ) can affect your quality of life without you even knowing it. We can’t simply hold our breath and wait for better air to come along, and it’s impossible to breathe only some parts of the air around us. That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keeps a close eye on the air in an effort to keep us healthy. The EPA tracks and calculates five major air pollutants:
- Ground Level Ozone
- Particle Pollution/Matter
- Carbon Monoxide
- Sulfur Dioxide
- Nitrogen Dioxide
Each of these areas is measured on a daily basis. Ground level ozone and airborne particles are the two that post the most threat to human health. Every day, an air quality report is generated to inform the public. The air quality index (AQI) is the index for measuring and reporting air quality. The higher the AQI value, the more polluted the air is. Anything below 100 is considered satisfactory, anything above 100 can be problematic.
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AQI and the EPA: Our HVAC Experts Break it Down
There are six main levels of air quality according to the EPA:
- “Good” AQI is 0 to 50.
- “Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people, like those with respiratory problems.
- “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” AQI is 101 to 150. Although the general public is not likely to be affected, older adults and young children are at a greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.
- “Unhealthy” AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone, regardless of age, may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
- “Very Unhealthy” AQI is 201 to 300. This would trigger a government-issued health alert, signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.
- “Hazardous” AQI is greater than 300. This would trigger health warning emergency conditions. The entire population is more than likely to be affected.
The AQI measures how clean or polluted the air you breathe is. There’s not much we can do about the polluted air outside our homes, but learning how to improve your indoor air quality can make a huge difference for your home and family.
Home Air Quality
Just like pollution and irritants outside can harm us, our indoor air quality is just as important. Perhaps more so, if you tend to spend
more time indoors than out. Health effects from pollutants and dust in your indoor air can cause immediate problems like headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, skin rashes, and eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation. They may also cause long-term problems like asthma and even some life-threatening heart and lung diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) claims that inadequate HVAC maintenance is a major cause of poor indoor air quality.
Calculate Your Indoor Air Quality
Air enters your home in several ways. When you open a door or a window, air will make its way in. It also enters, seemingly unnoticed, through cracks and drafts. The air intake system in your HVAC system will also bring outdoor air inside.
The pollution outside can affect your indoor air quality, but it can also be affected by radon, carbon monoxide, bacteria, mold, and other indoor health hazards. It’s worth getting your air quality checked, especially if you or your children are in a high-risk group.
Your indoor air quality is measured with a tool called a VOC sensor. This measures organic compounds and can pick up even small levels of pollutants, chemicals, ketones and more. Because of the equipment required, this is usually done by a professional with the facilities to detect a wide range of pollutants. For more information on how to calculate the air inside your home, connect with a local HVAC professional.
How to Improve Air Quality in Your Home
Once you know more about your indoor air quality, you can take steps to improve it. There are three main strategies to improve indoor air quality:
- Source Control: The most effective way is to simply eliminate the source of pollution. This may include removing asbestos, mold, gas stoves, or other sources of common problems.
- Improved Ventilation: You can decrease the concentration of pollutants by increasing the ventilation in your home. This means using your HVAC system effectively, along with additional use of fans, opening doors, and windows, etc. All of this can make a big difference in helping to circulate and ventilate the air inside your home.
- Air Cleaners: There are several types of air cleaners on the market that are manufactured to clean the particles in the air. From a table-top model to a whole-house system, they can be effective but are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Finding what works best for your home and your family is critical when deciding to purchase an air cleaning system.
Indoor Air Quality and Your HVAC System
One of the best ways to ensure your own air quality is at its best is to have your HVAC system examined regularly. Your HVAC is responsible for the air quality and comfort of your home and those inside it. Maintaining your system on a regular basis offers an improved environment for you and your family. If it’s been more than six months since your last HVAC maintenance appointment, call one of our local HVAC experts to work for you. We can help to clean and clear out your system in order to provide you and your family with a nice, deep (and clean) breath of fresh air.