How to Increase Indoor Air Quality

How to Increase Indoor Air Quality

Scientific American released an article today detailing some steps we can take to improve indoor air quality. This article is perfectly timed with the recent focus on improving indoor air quality - especially carbon dioxide due to its proxy risk of catching COVID-19.

The article opens by discussing the importance of indoor air quality. Despite spending 90% of our time indoors, we rarely consider indoor air quality. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more attention to the issue, it’s still an overlooked issue in most circumstances.

While the article is focused on improving air quality in all buildings, some of the steps directly relate to how we can improve our air quality at home. The first step is source control. You’ve probably heard this term regarding COVID-19 and masks, but it’s also important regarding indoor air pollution.

In this context, source control means managing the sources of pollutants in your home. For most people, this means replacing gas stoves with electric stoves, minimising the usage of fires and wood burners, and trying to remove other pollutant sources. If using high pollutant emitting products (such as nail polish), ensure to use these outside or in a well-ventilated room.

That leads perfectly to the second way we can minimise indoor air pollution - through ventilation. In this case, ventilation refers to the level of fresh air being brought indoors from outdoors. An increase in ventilation dilutes and cycles pollutants in the air, including expelled respiratory particles.

For most people, the easiest way to increase ventilation is to open windows and doors. However, some modern homes have HVAC systems or air conditioning capable of ventilating air. That said, you will want to ensure your ventilation system introduces new air and not simply cycles existing air.

A carbon dioxide monitor is a great way to monitor indoor ventilation levels. These monitors keep an eye on carbon dioxide levels. Since carbon dioxide can be used as a proxy for many pollutants (and COVID-19 risk), monitoring carbon dioxide can let you know when more ventilation is needed.

The third method through which we can reduce indoor air pollution is through filtration. This will mean using an HVAC system with a HEPA filter for some individuals. For other people, this means using an air purifier with a high filtration rate (HEPA should have > 99.97% filtration).

Scientific American then discusses air disinfection as another step for increasing indoor air quality. However, this is more applicable to future buildings and large spaces where UV disinfection can be justified (these systems aren’t cheap!).


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