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Indoor Air Quality

What is Indoor Air Quality? (Sometimes called IAQ.)
Why should we be concerned about it anyway?

Why should you be concerned if you have a vented crawl space
and you live in the South? click here

Below are excerpts from the EPA web site on indoor air quality:

Indoor Air Quality Concerns

All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-to-day lives. Driving in cars, flying in planes, engaging in recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants all pose varying degrees of risk. Some risks are simply unavoidable. Some we choose to accept because to do otherwise would restrict our ability to lead our lives the way we want. And some are risks we might decide to avoid if we had the opportunity to make informed choices. Indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about.

In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.

In addition, people who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. Such groups include the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

Why a Booklet on Indoor Air?

While pollutant levels from individual sources may not pose a significant health risk by themselves, most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air pollution. There can be a serious risk from the cumulative effects of these sources. Fortunately, there are steps that most people can take both to reduce the risk from existing sources and to prevent new problems from occurring.

What Causes Indoor Air Problems?

Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.

Indoor Air and Your Health

Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.

Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person's exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.

To read more of this article, click the link below:

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/insidest.html#Intro1

Air Quality Testing and Consulting

Tradewinds Appropriate Technologies utilizes an array of diagnostic tools and procedures to ascertain the indoor air quality of houses and suggests methods and strategies to remediate indoor air quality (IAQ) issues. Armed with the results from our testing and analysis, our consultants help you devise a Master Plan to make sure you resolve all the issues that meet your priorities and keep within the budget you set for your projects.

By drafting a Master Plan for your home, you can take advantage of the new building materials and Best Practices available today, such as spray foam insulation or Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV). Tradewinds can contract with you to accomplish the work, pass your project on to our preferred contractors, or supervise your own contractors in the remediation. One company, which we recommend, Tradesman Heating and Air Conditioning Services, is well qualified to perform HVAC projects to bring your systems into proper performance levels. Tradewinds will even test their work as part of the project.

Humidity Issues

One IAQ issue that crops up repeatedly is high humidity and moisture. This can lead to biological growth and rot. For people, that can translate into possible allergies, rashes or asthma from toxic mold and mildew.

Properly designed and properly performing air conditioning equipment goes a long way to taking care of the high humidity in a home. Sometimes, a stand-alone or whole house dehumidifier is the proper answer for humid conditions when the AC equipment isn't enough. You can only know if your systems are performing properly by testing. As stated elsewhere, the national average is only a dismal 57% of expected performance on new installations

Additionally, according to ASHRAE, modern, high-efficiency A/C equipment might not remove adequate amounts of humidity from the air in humid, hot-humid and mixed hot-humid climates in a tightly built house. That means that East Texas, Central Texas, Coastal Texas, South Central Texas and North Central Texas are at risk for high humidity in a tightly built house.

Another important issue to consider is low humidity. This can be caused from air conditioning systems that run too much due to poor performance. The very low humidity irritates nasal passages and can lead to health issues.

We test your HVAC systems to determine if they are performing properly and outline a series of corrections if they are not. Unfortunately, the average system is not able to function as designed by the manufacturer. Comfort and humidity issues are the norm rather than the exception.

The chart below shows the optimum zone for human health and comfort with some IAQ issues caused by high or low humidity. You will notice that most of the worst things happen outside the optimum human comfort zone.

Checking the Design of your Systems

By doing a thorough load calculation on the house under its present conditions and discovering how your AC is performing, you can discover if the AC is able to remove enough humidity from the house without using dedicated dehumidification or if the systems are properly installed for the correct design conditions for your location.

Test for Infiltration and Exfiltration

Following our philosophy of "Measuring and not guessing", we recommend testing your home for infiltration and exfiltration. Infiltration is defined as air leaking into your home through uncontrolled pathways, such as leaks around windows or through framing, walls, ceilings, etc. Exfiltration is defined as air leaking out of your home through uncontrolled pathways.

By testing the house, you can discern any problem with migration of moisture and particulates into the structure through problem areas.

Particular attention must be paid to crawl spaces and attics, if present. Some of the most promising new techniques are the sealed and conditioned attic and crawl spaces. Be sure to ask us about them.

You can read more about non-vented attics here Or download this pdf from our site.

You can read more about sealed crawlspaces here

To see what we often see under your houses, click here. This is not for the faint of heart.

Seal your crawl space—it never should have been vented if you live in the South!

Download Closed Crawl Spaces, an explanatory brochure about the science behind non-vented crawl spaces and detailed instructions how to seal them.
(This file is a 1.8mb pdf. You must have Acrobat Reader installed on your computer.)

My house is tight, what about fresh air?

As houses are tightened against air infiltration, the need for ventilation becomes more acute. Indoor pollutants and humidity begin to rise. There is a wide range of equipment and strategies for mechanical ventilation available today.

We design custom solutions for proper ventilation depending on actual testing. We don't just guess and shoot from the hip, we measure.

Air Purification and Filtration

Filtering of the air is now more promising than ever before. Today's HEPA-rated air filters can clean particulates from the air.

The biggest problem with adding whole-house air filtration is incorrect sizing of the filter media for the existing air conditioning systems. Often folks get good, filtered air but blow the performance of their air conditioning.

Sometimes the air conditioner is so stressed with the back pressure from the new filtration system that the equipment fails prematurely.

If your return-air ductwork is inadequate to add filter media, you might consider adding a stand-alone air purification unit. It is also possible to change out your return plenum for a larger one or to install multiple filter grilles.

Some people are asking for Ultra-violet light treatment of air and we are knowledgeable about those as well.

Our trained consultants can help you discover the best design for your equipment.

The Bottom Line—Tradewinds can help you

Tradewinds can help you discover a pathway to creating a dry, comfortable, healthy home. Whether you are building new or remodeling an older home, we can give you the data you need to make intelligent decisions.

Attention! Please note:

Our expertise lies in building science, Heating-Ventilation-and Air Conditioning,
energy efficiency testing and analysis and related fields of study.

We do not test indoor air for any contaminants, toxins or pollutants
except carbon monoxide.

There are other, very qualified companies that provide those services
for us when we need them.

We are not a licensed or certified Indoor Air Quality Inspection Company

We have chosen not to become licensed or certified
to test for or treat mold issues.

Please contact a licensed mold specialist for these issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tradewinds Appropriate Technologies

Energy, Comfort and Indoor Air Quality Solutions

Consulting, Testing, ENERGY STAR® Ratings,
Custom Load Calculations, HVAC System Design,
Spray Foam Insulation, Remediation and Training:

Call 254-799-1326

Click here to learn more about the low-level Carbon Monoxide Monitor

email: info@tradewinds-at.com

© 2009 Tradewinds Appropriate Technologies