Air filter for improving indoor air quality (C) Daniel Friedman Key Strategies for Improving Indoor Air Quality in Homes

  • INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT, KEY STEPS - CONTENTS: Key steps in improving indoor air quality - What are the Best Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality ?Removing or keeping out indoor contaminants - Source Control Strategy to Reduce Indoor Contaminants. Whole-House Ventilation Strategy to Improve Indoor Air Quality. Spot Ventilation Strategy to Reduce Indoor Contaminant. Home ventilation strategies - Air Cleaning Strategy for Improving Indoor Air Quality: Minimum fresh air requirements & standards for buildings, and Best methods for cleaning & filtering indoor air
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How to improve indoor air quality in buildings: this article explains the key strategies used to improve indoor air quality in homes.

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What are the Best Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality ?

Radon test kit from RTCA (C) Daniel FriedmanThis article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons. As described in Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction:

The key principles for creating and maintaining a clean indoor environment are straightforward and can be summarized in order of effectiveness as follows:

1. Source control: Keep contaminants and pollutants out of the building.
See RADON REMOVAL INDOORS, HOW-TO for a helpful example.

2. Spot ventilation: Remove indoor airborne contaminants by venting them to outdoors.


3. Whole-house ventilation: Dilute indoor contaminants by bringing fresh air into the building

4. Air cleaning: Filter indoor contaminants out of the air using filters and air handling equipment

Source Control Strategy to Reduce Indoor Contaminants

The most effective way to avoid a household hazard is not to bring it into the house in the first place. In the case of building materials, this typically requires a material substitution.

For example, one of the most common indoor air pollutants is formaldehyde, widely used in wood composites such as particleboard, hardwood plywood, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). If acceptable substitutions can be found at an affordable price, the problem is solved. Another example is fiberglass duct board, which releases small amounts of fiberglass, a lung irritant, into the air stream. Use rigid metal ducts or flexible metal-lined duct instead.

In cases where there is no acceptable alternative, look for ways to seal the chemicals in. For example, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) that is sealed on all six sides by plastic laminate, as is the case on some laminated cabinets, emits only low levels of formaldehyde. In general, a material that is impervious to water vapor can effectively block formaldehyde emissions.

Combustion devices are another major source of both gases and particulates. To keep emissions to a minimum, avoid the use of fireplaces, woodstoves, and unvented combustion appliances, including gas stoves and heaters.

If gas cooking is desired, select a unit with a pilot-less ignition. Also, substitute sealed-combustion appliances for atmospherically vented heating, ventilating, and air- conditioning (HVAC) equipment. This eliminates the possibility of flue-gas spillage and usually has higher efficiency ratings as well.

Other steps that can have a big impact on indoor air involve lifestyle changes that are decidedly low-tech, including the following:

Spot Ventilation Strategy to Reduce Indoor Contaminants

Some pollutants are created by our daily living patterns. It is far more effective to exhaust these directly at the source than to try to remove them after they are distributed throughout the household air.

The most common examples are kitchens and bathrooms. Both produce large amounts of water vapor, not a pollutant in itself, but a contributor to other problems. Too much moisture in the air significantly increases formaldehyde emissions and can lead to mold and mildew growth.

An effective range hood also removes atomized grease, particulates, and, in the case of gas ranges and cooktops, combustion by-products. For details, see “Kitchen and Bath Ventilation,” page 260.

Spot ventilation is also important for darkrooms and other hobby areas that can produce high concentrations of chemical fumes. Home offices with high-capacity laser printers or photocopiers can also generate enough pollutants to justify spot ventilation.

Whole-House Ventilation Strategy to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Whole-house ventilation is designed to provide a low level of fresh air to all habitable spaces, particularly bedrooms and main living areas, and to help flush out the low levels of pollutants generated by occupants, pets, and building materials.

Occupants and pets produce moisture, carbon dioxide, and odors. In addition, most homes have a certain amount of chemical and biological pollutants from pets, cleaning, and hobbies and from outgassing from paints, plastics, pressed wood products, fabrics, and other household materials.

Whole-house ventilation is not meant to take the place of spot ventilation, which is still required to exhaust concentrated pollutants from cooking, bathing, and hobby areas.

Although not yet required in most current building codes, whole-house ventilation is being incorporated into more and more new homes, and is recommended by model energy codes and standards organizations, such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air- Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Different approaches to whole-house ventilation are discussed

Air Cleaning Strategy for Improving Indoor Air Quality

Air cleaning is the least effective strategy for maintaining a healthy indoor environment, but it can play a role along with source control and ventilation. There are many different types and sizes of air filters on the market, both portable units and filters integrated into the home’s HVAC system. Situations that may call for air cleaning equipment are:

Different approaches to filtering pollutants from indoor air are discussed under Air Cleaning Strategies.

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

Building Fresh Air Requirements - 15 cfm per person

The U.S. EPA recommends an outdoor fresh air supply of at least 15 cfm per person.

In occupied buildings, especially offices and other locations with multiple occupants, we like to take a look at the carbon dioxide level as one means to check for inadequate fresh air intake for the building.

See COMBUSTION AIR REQUIREMENTS for additional details about the requirement for combustion air.

See COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ for the relationship between fuel burning appliances and building indoor air quality.

More about carbon monoxide - CO - is


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