How do I know if I have good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

There are some simple action steps to assess and improve your indoor air quality (IAQ). Start by checking your local Air Quality Index (AQI) for an understanding of air quality in your area. Then by simply using your own sense of smell, see if you detect foreign odors, such as those from plastics or chemicals. This would indicate potential off-gassing. Musty smells may suggest mold growth due to dampness, condensation, or inadequate ventilation. Ensure good ventilation throughout your home, especially in confined spaces like bathrooms and closets, as ventilation is crucial for quality IAQ. 

Consider hiring SENERGY360, an environmental consulting company specializing in building and creating healthy homes, for an assessment.

You can also purchase a multi-function IAQ monitor that measures real-time IAQ data, such as:

Air Particulate 2.5-10: Air particulates that are between 2.5 to 10 microns in size are commonly known as coarse particles. They include dust, pollen, mold, and other fragments that are larger than the more talked about PM2.5 (fine particles), but smaller than what can be generally seen with the naked eye. In construction and home environments, these particles can originate from a variety of sources such as construction materials, disturbed soil, and organic matter. Managing these particulates is important in maintaining a healthy indoor air quality, as they can still be small enough to be inhaled, potentially causing respiratory issues. Regular air quality assessments, use of high-efficiency air filters, and maintaining clean work and living areas are effective ways to control these particulates.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): is a pollutant found in indoor and outdoor air. Carbon dioxide also known as CO2 is also odorless and colorless, however unlike carbon monoxide it can produce a faint acid-like taste. It is non-flammable at room temperature, and mostly non-poisonous. CO2 is produced whenever a material burns. Fuel burning appliances in the home create more household CO2. Homes with the garage attached can also create high levels of CO2 in your home. Carbon dioxide is also created every time we breathe! So if you have ever felt dizzy or tired in a crowded room, it is a sign that the carbon dioxide may be high. 

Some of the most common causes of high levels of CO2:

  • Closed rooms or crowded spaces (lack of fresh oxygen)
  • Spaces without windows or doors
  • Stovetops (use your range-top fan/ventilation and or open windows)
  • Fireplace (needs to be properly ventilated to avoid toxic gas build up)
  • Laundry 
  • Smoking (up to 200 times more CO2 produced than breathing)

Carbon Monoxide (CO): is an odorless, colorless gas formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels. When people are exposed to CO gas, the CO molecules will displace the oxygen in their bodies and lead to poisoning. CO is produced whenever a carbon fuel doesn’t burn completely. Common sources of CO in our homes include fuel-burning appliances and devices such as:

  • Clothes dryers
  • Water heaters
  • Furnaces or boilers
  • Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Motor vehicles
  • Grills, generators, power tools, lawn equipment
  • Wood stoves
  • Tobacco smoke

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): monitoring VOCs is an important aspect of ensuring a healthy indoor environment. VOCs are gasses emitted from various materials and products like paints, cleaning supplies, and building materials.

To measure VOC levels, you can use various methods:

  • VOC Sensors and Monitors provide real-time readings of VOC levels. They are useful for ongoing monitoring, especially in areas where VOC-emitting materials are frequently used.
  • Air Quality Testing Kits: these kits can be used to collect air samples, which are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. This method provides detailed information about the types and concentrations of VOCs present.

Formaldehyde: is a colorless chemical with a strong pickle-like odor that is commonly used in many manufacturing processes. It easily becomes a gas at room temperature, which makes it part of a larger group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), aforementioned. When an item gives off formaldehyde, it is released into the air through a process called off-gassing.

Formaldehyde is a chemical used in the production of adhesives, bonding agents and solvents. For this reason, it is commonly found in a variety of consumer products including:

  • Pressed-wood products  (plywood, particle board, paneling)
  • Foam insulation
  • Wallpaper and paints
  • Some synthetic fabrics (example: permanent press)
  • Some cosmetics and personal products