Indoor air quality is something that everyone should be aware of and trying to improve. Common things like dust, smoke, pet dander and viruses can all make your indoor air quality worse which can have a negative effect on everyone living in your home or working at your business. In this article we’ll cover some of the major topics regarding indoor air quality, how you can improve and what, if any, air purifiers work.
The goal of this guide is to explain what air quality is, why it’s important, and what you can do to improve your air quality.
Topics contained in this post:
- What is indoor air quality?
- Why is indoor air quality so important?
- Top sources of indoor air pollution
- What are the symptoms of bad air quality in the home?
- 10 ways to know if your indoor air quality is bad
- How to improve indoor air quality
- How do air purifiers work?
- Are air purifiers effective?
- Top air purifiers of 2020
- Air purifiers and COVID-19
- Take aways
What is Indoor Air Quality?
The EPA puts it this way, “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.” Indoor air quality can have an effect on the health, comfort, and well-being of building occupants and poor IAQ has been linked to sick building syndrome, reduced productivity, worse sleeping patterns and impaired learning in schools. Good indoor air quality, on the other hand, can help sleep patterns, increase productivity and increase attentiveness.
Why is Indoor Air Quality so Important?
When you think of pollutants, the first thing that might come to mind is outdoor types, like those you find in waterways, on the ground, or in the air like what we see from factories. But indoor air quality is just as important to our everyday lives and health.
Being able to breathe quality, clean air is critical for good health. Most Americans spend the majority of their day indoors whether it’s in the office, home, or other buildings. Poor air quality can cause headaches, eye irritation, allergies, and fatigue. Other serious pollutants can cause certain types of cancers and other long term health complications.
Since indoor air quality is so important, let’s look at some of the sources of indoor air pollution.
Top Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Dr. Paivi Salo, an allergy expert at the National Institute of Health states, “Currently, airborne allergies affect approximately 10-30% of adults and 40% of children.” This is a large portion of the population which just goes to show how important indoor air quality is.
Pollen is one of the most common forms of indoor air pollution that has a negative effect on more than 50 million Americans that suffer from allergies each year. There are 3 different types of pollens:
- Grass – Generally the worst offender and causes the most hay fever symptoms
- Tree – Pollen season begins late March and goes until mid-May but different types occur during different times of the year
- Weed – The biggest offender is Ragweed and generally affects people in late summer and the fall.
Dander is made up of small bits of dried off skin that flake off a body and become airborne. This is similar to dandruff but actually much smaller and is invisible to the human eye. Dander becomes the diet of dust mites. While airborne, dander can enter the nose and lungs, which affects people with allergies.
It’s estimated that the dust you can visibly see in a sunbeam only accounts for 1% of all the particles in the air. That leaves a whopping 99% that is too small to be seen with the naked eye. Dust is especially bad because it becomes a transport system for viruses and bacteria.
Mold spores range in size from 3 to 40 microns, which is less than half the width of a human hair. Mold spores cause the spread of mold by drifting through the air and then landing on a surface. If the conditions are right, mold is able to start growing.
What are the Symptoms of Bad Air Quality in the Home?
We briefly discussed some of the different types of indoor air pollutants, but what are the symptoms that these cause? Do you have any of these symptoms? If you do, perhaps you need to address the indoor air quality of your home.
Symptoms of bad air quality range from minor annoyances to serious and potentially life threatening issues:
- Dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin
- Shortness of breath
- Hypersensitivity to allergies
- Sinus congestion
- Coughing and sneezing
10 Ways to Know if Your Indoor Air Quality is Bad
Your home or body might be telling you that the indoor air quality in your Tempe, Gilbert, or Chandler home or business is less than optimal. Are you seeing any of these signs?
- Significant dust buildup around vents and on surfaces – If you’re noticing an excessive buildup of dust around the house, especially near the air vents, you probably have an air quality issue that needs to be addressed.
- Inconsistent air distribution – if you have cold or warm spots around your house then your HVAC system might not be helping out your indoor air quality like it should.
- Humidity problems – It’s important to maintain a good relative humidity in your home (between 35-50%). Too much can cause mold problems, too little humidity can cause dry/itchy skin and increases in upper respiratory infections.
- Mold/Mildew Growth – This ties in with the humidity problems listed above, a telltale sign is a musty smell that is usually apparent in houses with mold problems.
- Unpleasant Odors – Foul odors from mold/mildew, pests, chemicals, or dirt/dust/debris can all point to poor indoor air quality.
- Hypersensitive allergies – if you’re noticing your allergy symptoms are worse, it could be the changing weather or seasons, but could also be contaminants in your indoor environment.
- New or unusual symptoms – most health symptoms linked to air quality will be mild, but some contaminants like asbestos, toxic mold spores, and other hazardous chemicals can have a much more extreme effect on your health
- Lung issues – If you have a persistent cough that just won’t go away, it could be some other sickness or it could be poor indoor air quality.
- HVAC inefficiency – Inefficient HVAC systems can contribute to indoor air quality problems rather quickly, since they aren’t able to filter out particles from the air as well as newer, efficient systems.
- Odorless issues – High levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and many types of bacteria and fungi can all cause poor indoor air quality and serious health problems.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Now that you know what can cause poor indoor air quality, what the symptoms can be, and top warning signs, let’s talk about what can actually be done. There are many ways to help improve indoor air quality, we’ll look at some of the top ways to improve your air quality of your Phoenix home or business.
Change your AC filter
HVAC systems are always working to give your home the perfect temperature whether it’s your AC unit in the summer or furnace in the winter. Its job is to cycle air, while it’s cycling the air, it’s running it through an air filter. Over time, the AC filter fills up and can’t do its job properly. It’s important to change your AC filter regularly, or wash it if you have an electrostatic filter. Here in the Arizona desert we have a monsoon season that kicks up a lot of extra dust and dirt so changing your filter is important.
Check other appliance filters
You might not realize that there are more filters in your home than just your AC filter. Many appliances like your vacuum cleaner, clothes dryer and kitchen vents should all be checked regularly and cleaned or replaced as necessary.
Check air ducts
The air ducts are where cold and warm are distributed throughout your home. If your ducts aren’t installed properly or kept in good working order with maintenance, they can easily pass on contaminates from one room to the rest of the house. Dust, dander and mold can accumulate in your ducts over time which reduces the overall air quality. Simply the Best offers the top duct cleaning services in Tempe, Phoenix, Gilbert and the entire Valley area.
Keep your rugs and carpets clean
Carpets and rugs can act like their own air filter. They are good at trapping dust and other particles. But if you don’t clean them regularly, that build up can severely hurt your air quality. It’s important to vacuum carpets and rugs weekly to remove the buildup of dust. As mentioned above, in the Phoenix Valley area, dust is a real problem with our extended dry season.
Control Humidity in your home
As we mentioned before, having too low of humidity can have negative effects on dust and be worse for your lungs, eyes, and skin. Too much humidity can create a breeding ground for mold. Simply the Best Heating & Cooling can help you manage your home humidity levels.
Buy indoor plants to freshen the air
Did you know that plants are nature’s natural air filters. Even just a few indoor plants can make a big difference in your air quality, while also enhancing the look of your home. Smaller plants like ferns and lilies and larger palm trees are the best options if you are looking for an indoor air quality boost. Some of the best indoor plants to buy for your Tempe, AZ home or business are agave, bamboo, lantana, aloe vera, snake plants, and spider plants.
Install a Air Purifier
There are many different brands and varieties of air purifiers. We’ll cover different types a little later on, but to briefly note, the benefits of an air purifier added on to your HVAC system are astounding. Some are able to reduce airborne particles like dust, dander, pollen, and mold spores while also killing up to 99% of bacteria, mold, and viruses. Certain ones like the REME-HALO are able to kill 99% of viruses on surfaces as well.
How do air purifiers work?
There are a few different types of air purifiers on the market, we’ll take a look at a few to see what type of technology they use to clean the air.
Air purifiers are devices that consist of one or more filters and fan that sucks in and circulates air. As the air moves through the filters, various pollutants and particles are captured and clean air is pushed back in the living space. These filters can be made of paper, mesh, or fiber (sometimes fiberglass) and generally need to be replaced regularly in order to remain efficient.
HEPA filters meet a DoE (Department of Energy) standard for removing particulates from the air. HEPA filters can be made out of any material as long as they allow a penetration of less than .03 percent of particles 0.3 micrometers in size or larger.
ULPA (Ultra-Low Penetration Air) standards are stricter than that of standard HEPA filters. These are used a lot by the nuclear power industry.
Ionizing purifiers use a method called corona discharge to create charged up molecules known as ions. The corona discharge is a small electrical field that works by having molecules pass through it and gives it either a negative or positive charge.
Once the particle is charged it is attracted to anything with the opposite charge. Ionizing purifiers have 2 metal plates inside that are charged, one positive and one negative, that actively attract the particles. It has the added benefit of clumping together particles in the air which forces them to get heavier and settle out of the air.
Ozone generators work similarly to ionizing purifiers, but work with the molecules of oxygen. These devices generally claim that they both deodorize and disinfect the air. But, there is strong evidence that ozone does not accomplish air purification. Ozone is known to be a toxic gas and is fairly unstable. Simply the Best does not recommend ozone generators, especially when there are better options on the market.
Many of the air purifiers on the market incorporate some type of adsorbent material to remove odors, fumes, and chemicals in the air. Adsorption is the process of having one substance trapped on top of another substance. The most common substance used is activated charcoal.
Ultraviolet radiation renders certain micro-organisms sterile and thus, harmless. Some air purifiers like the Mini UV LED feature a UV light that shines over the air as it passes through the purifier, eliminating the potential harm of airborne bacteria and viruses.
Do air purifiers really work?
The short answer to this question is yes, air purifiers do work and can be effective. While they likely won’t remove all particles in your home, they can do a very good job of removing the vast majority. An air purifier is an excellent option to complement your furnace filter and other strategies mentioned above.
When considering if you think an air purifier is right for you, think about a few different questions.
- Do you suffer from allergies? If so an air purifier can help reduce the amount of allergens in the air in your home.
- Do you have high humidity issues? If so an air purifier can help reduce the amount of mold spores, which can lessen the spread and growth of mold.
- Do you want to remove bacteria and viruses? Some air purifiers can remove 99% of bacteria and viruses even on surfaces.
Top Air Purifiers in 2020 for Phoenix, AZ
Let’s now take a look at a few of the products that we at Simply the Best sell and install regularly. We have chosen the best products on the market to sell, if you’re in the Phoenix Valley area including the city of Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, or Gilbert, give us a call and we can help discuss what the best option for you is.
REME HALO Whole Home In-Duct Air Purifier
This is an award winning whole home in-duct air purifier. This next generation of indoor air quality technology is capable of purifying every cubic inch of air that your AC system reaches. This unit is designed to eliminate sick building syndrome risks by reducing odors and air pollutants and is one of the best solutions for your whole home or business building.
- Dual ionizers to reduce airborne particulates (dust, dander, pollen, mold spores)
- Kills up to 99% of bacteria, mold, and viruses
- REME reduces sneeze germs by 99% in the time a sneeze can reach 3 feet
- New zinc ion kills 99% of viruses on surfaces
- Unlike portable units that are limited to the room in which they are placed, the REME HALO provides whole home and building purification
- Easily integrated with your existing HVAC system. The unit doesn’t take away any living space and operates silently
- Two (2) quick release features for easy, no tool, cell replacement
iWave Air Purifier
The iWave is an air purifying device that installs in any duct air conditioning system. When air passes over the iWave, ions produced by the device reduce pathogens, allergens, particles, smoke, and odors in the air. This creates a healthy environment without producing any harmful byproducts.
iWave uses patented technology, called needle-point bi-polar ionization, to create equal amounts of positive and negative ions. See image below.
- Proven technology – over 100,000 installations
- Actively purify the whole house
- Kill mold, bacteria, and viruses
- Reduce allergens, odors, smoke, and particles
- Maintenance free
- No replacement parts
- Self-cleaning design
- Installs in any air conditioning or heating system
- UL and cUL approved
Fresh-Aire UV Mini UV LED
The Mini UV LED is the first-of-its-kind UV light LED system specifically for mini-splits and similar limited space applications. Like all AC systems, mini-splits are prone to internal mold growth and microbial contamination especially on and near the blower wheel. The LED light strip in Mini UV LED is designed to sterilize surfaces while having no impact on plastic materials.
- Maintains a clean mini-split system
- Fights mold on blower wheel
- Reduces maintenance costs
- Extends life of mini-split system
- Improves indoor air quality
- Fits mini-split & ceiling cassette AC systems
- UV LED spectrum is safe for eyes & plastics
- Adhesive LED strip is trimmed to length
- 120-277 VAC power supply
- 50,000 hour+ expected LED life
- 5 year warranty on all parts
Air Purifiers and COVID-19
During the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, we have been getting asked a lot of questions regarding air purification and COVID-19. Unfortunately, because this coronavirus strain is still fairly new, there hasn’t been a ton of testing on the effectiveness of air purification systems on it. Some studies that have been done do show that while not guaranteed to help, they may be worthwhile in a few circumstances.
If someone is sick in your home with COVID-19, having an air purifier will help protect other family members or caregivers. Similarly if healthcare workers are self-quarantining when they come home.
Lindsey Marr, and environmental engineer and professor at Virginia Tech who specializes in airborne disease transmission, air quality, and nanotechnology says that “In theory, if an air purifier removes viruses from the air, it reduces concentrations in the room and thus reduces the potential for exposure.”
While the novel coronavirus size is around 0.125 microns, the droplets it travels in, like when people cough, talk or breathe, initially are larger – around 1 micron. This size is easily captured by many air purification systems and HEPA filters alike.
Conclusion & Take Aways
In this article, we’ve covered a lot of ground, so for a quick recap we went over what indoor air quality was and why it’s so important. We said that indoor air quality can have a big impact on your health and that it’s important to know the sources of indoor air pollution.
We also learned some of the symptoms of bad air quality and determined 10 ways to know if the air in your home is bad. Fortunately we had information covering how to improve the air quality in your home or business.
Lastly we covered air purifiers; figured out how they work, and if they even do what they claim to do. We also showed some of the top brands and units that we sell here in the Phoenix area and if air purifiers do anything with the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’d like any more information about indoor air quality or any of the air purifiers we sell, give us a call. We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. If you’re in the Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale or Mesa area and interested in adding an air purifier to your own AC system, give us a call today!