November 18, 2020
We know. It's difficult to believe the winter solstice and the holiday season are already here. Unfortunately, the cold season is one of the worst times of year for indoor air quality, either at home or at work. People huddle inside tightly-sealed buildings and trade ventilation for heating. This traps pollutants and moisture in, which is a recipe for bad air.
And that’s in normal times. COVID-19 numbers are staying stubbornly high, and second waves are occurring. People spend 90% of their time indoors as standard. This winter, people will be cooped up indoors even more than usual – and the risk of spreading the coronavirus is raised in enclosed environments
All the more reason to be as prepared as possible.
With the winter season looming and COVID-19 still a threat, it's crucial for people to know how to optimize their indoor air in a way that minimizes the risk of infection.
In an "Ask An Expert" column in Colorado University Boulder Today, Shelly Miller, a professor of mechanical engineering and expert in indoor air quality, urges people to adhere to state and county and city guidelines and public health orders. Households that plan to have gatherings during the winter season are encouraged to limit the frequency and the size of their gatherings. Social distancing and wearing of masks must be strictly observed when homeowners plan to have people over.
"If you’re having people over at your own home and talking, you’re going to be generating a ton of aerosol," Miller points out. "The only way to keep yourself safe in that space is to wear a mask. You have to wear a mask if you want to hang out and talk with other people and share their air."
Miller also advises to periodically open the window for 10 to 15 minutes to keep indoor air clean. "Yes, it will get cold, but you've now brought fresh air in and you've exhausted warm air," she adds.
You may also want to consider implementing added measures to keep indoor air clean. These measures could include adding air purifiers or upgrading air filters to a higher MERV rating. Incorporating these into a building's existing HVAC system increases the quality of air by removing particles, germs, viruses, and chemical gasses.
Knowledge is power. Until you know what issues you are having with your air, you can’t correct them. The most common driver of winter indoor air quality issues is too much moisture. However, before you can be sure that this is your issue, and decide how to improve indoor air quality in winter, you need the data. You need to be aware of what is affecting your IAQ. This is where tracking comes in.
Having a smart device that tracks the main factors of poor indoor air quality is a crucial first step. An effective IAQ monitoring system should at least (1) indicate if the level of moisture or other metrics reach unacceptable levels, (2) share insights as to which part of the house is contributing to this rise, and (3) offer recommendations to fix the issue.
A good IAQ monitoring system can track the factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality: Not only humidity, but temperature, levels of dust, VOCs, and CO2.
Once you start tracking your winter IAQ, you will know what your problems are. From here, you can start implementing solutions.
Before you know exactly what these solutions should be, you need to know your unique situation. However, the road to remediating your winter indoor air quality may well be easy and inexpensive. Some frequent actions that help include:
It may seem surprising that winter is almost here in full. However, the cold season is the worst season for indoor air, and it’s never too early to start getting prepared.
While it can be easy to view extreme weather events as only impacting the outdoor space, this is far from the truth. When natural disasters hit, they affect our indoor air quality (IAQ) and can increase the risk of health conditions. In fact, in 2020, “36 counties in Washington, Oregon, and California experienced very unhealthy air quality ratings due to particulate matter from wildfire season,” according to NPR’s analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
At Awair, we help you track the key factors that affect air quality: chemicals, dust, CO2, humidity, and temperature. The first on the list sounds a bit ambiguous--which “chemicals” are we even talking about? The chemicals in your air that we’re most interested in are commonly referred to as VOCs, and we have quite a bit to say about them...
Getting your family ready for the new school year can be bittersweet, and as you drop your child off for their first day of school, it’s easy to feel anxious about whether or not you’ve prepared them for success in the upcoming year. Even if you were able to get them everything on their back-to-school shopping list, you know your child’s ability to learn and grow depends on what happens once they enter the classroom--but what if it turned out their classroom was hindering their productivity and overall health?Unhealthy classrooms are much more common than we realize, and one of the main culprits is hiding in plain sight: the quality of air children are breathing in their classrooms. Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy and safe since it’s not something we can typically see–but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, our ability to concentrate, the quality of our sleep, and more. Particularly “unhealthy” or “bad” air can even cause a variety of health problems, including dry skin and eyes, coughing and sneezing, headaches, hives, and nausea.