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San Diego Wildfires Affect Indoor Air Quality – Here’s What YOU Can Do

Why Clean Air Matters

Here at Airmaxx, we’re air people. We care deeply about making sure that the air around us is not only comfortably cooled and heated as the seasons wax and wane, but more importantly – that our air is safe and comfortable to breathe.

We care about air quality because we are people, with families and friends. We personally know and serve asthmatics and emphysema sufferers, people with COPD, people with compromised lungs and lung cancer AND thousands of people who don’t have any of these issues, and would like to stay that way. We use filters to be sure that dust particles and common allergens don’t harm your health but there’s something bigger to focus on here.

Clean air is more of a luxury now than ever before on planet Earth. City smog and car emissions have been an enemy of indoor air quality experts like us for years, but here in San Diego, there’s another nemesis nobody ever talks about: smoke.

Southern California has an air quality problem

Air quality is affected by the outdoor landscape in any region of our world. Cities get smog, open areas get dust storms and blowing sand, greener areas produce more pollen and here, where it is beautiful year-round and often dry, we get wildfires. It isn’t every year, and it isn’t always really bad. This year, we’ve been ravaged and the results are unfortunate. Even with the best case scenario in mind – fires that have been put out and kept away from homes and people – smoke is still inevitable and it lasts.

According to our government’s AirNow air quality website, the biggest health threat from smoke comes from fine particles. Fine particles can irritate your eyes and make you cough, cause bronchitis, and exacerbate the symptoms for those who have chronic heart or lung diseases. For these individuals, smoke inhalation can be fatal.

Airmaxx has indoor air quality solutions

Keep your air filters replaced.  One of the ways that your heating & cooling system protects the indoor air quality in your home is by actively filtering out dust and allergens. Especially advanced HEPA filters can reduce your intake of fine particles from smoke inside your home. Your filter cannot work to keep your home healthy if it is not replaced regularly. Homeowners in areas with poor air quality outdoors are encouraged to support their own indoor air quality by changing more often than usual.

Buy an air purifier. Air purifiers sit inside your home, not unlike a humidifier or dehumidifier, and they recirculate the air, filtering it for use. This is especially effective in taking the air that comes in from your open windows or doors and turning it into safer, more breathable air.

Keep your home tightly sealed. Cracks in door casings and window frames, as well as at the roof-level can cause unclean air to seep into your home, making your HVAC filters and your air purifier work harder and putting your family at risk. Have your home inspected for air leaks regularly to avoid this.

Pay attention to the AQI. You can check the air quality index for the San Diego area at the Air Pollution Control District website. This will tell you what to expect. If air quality is particularly bad, it is best to stay indoors as much as possible and to keep your windows closed. Note: If it is excessively hot outside when air quality is poor, and your home does not have air conditioning, you may want to seek alternate shelter to stay safe.

Contact us. At Airmaxx, we are especially passionate about clean air initiatives for our beautiful city. We will be happy to inspect your home and HVAC system and offer air quality solutions to keep you safe and comfortable no matter what happens outdoors. Contact us to schedule a visit from our air quality experts today!

Extreme Weather Can Affect the Air in Your Home

Did you know that extreme weather can have an impact on the quality of air in your home? Heat waves, floods and other severe weather conditions may affect indoor air quality (IAQ) and raise the risk of certain health conditions, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine.

It’s important to know this information because we spend so much of our time indoors. Inside your home is the one place where you are supposed to feel safe and at ease, yet it may be leading to future health problems that you don’t know of yet.

How Does Weather Affect Indoor Air Quality?

Extreme weather like excessive rain, snow or climate change can cause the home to be damp and moldy. Usually, the dampness occurs because there are leaks on the exterior of the home that let in water and moisture. The moisture then builds up and turns to mold. This can lead to a range of negative symptoms such as breathing problems and asthma.

Another issue that can occur is power outages. If a severe storm rips through the area and causes homes to lose power, homeowners can be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning from using portable power generators. These generators are not to be used in small spaces indoors.

Who’s Most at Risk?

The people most affected by poor indoor air quality are vulnerable populations such as seniors or those with compromised immune systems. However, we all need air to survive, so we are all affected by poor quality of the indoor air.

More Problems With Indoor Air Quality

Weatherization is a popular form of “weatherproofing” a home from wind, moisture, heat loss, etc. Unfortunately, some people think this will help with the quality of the air in your home. The purpose of weatherization is to seal air leaks and insulate homes so that heat doesn’t escape. While it can also prevent rain and moisture from getting into the home, it won’t necessarily improve air quality.

It’s also worth pointing out that even with a high efficiency AC system, you still run the risk of poor indoor air quality. As it gets warm and you run your AC more and more, moisture then has the chance to build up in the coils of the air conditioner, especially if you live in a high-humidity area. And if you don’t have a good filtration system, it can turn to mold.

Indoor Air Quality Experts

Concerned with your home’s air quality? If you would like to learn more about our innovative and beneficial air quality management tools, give the industry experts at AirMaxx a call today! Comfort and efficiency are our specialties!

Learn More About Our Innovative IAQ Services Now!

Is the Air You Breathe Making You Sick?

Imagine you’re sitting in a crowded room. You glance around at the people sitting next to you, when you realize you’re all sitting in a room with no windows. You take a deep breath that quickly turns into a yawn. After a few minutes, you notice your face feels flushed, and you suddenly wish you could take a nap. The Indoor Air Quality of the home or office may be the reason why, see how it effects us everyday and how we don’t realize it.

Yawning In A Meeting, at Work

While you might not fall asleep, you probably are feeling some effects of poor air quality. The air we breathe indoors often has a negative effect on our ability to pay attention and our overall health. In fact, a range of health and environmental experts note that poor indoor air quality can make us sleepier, sicker, and even dumber. Considering that the average person spends around 90% of their time indoors, we clearly need a better understanding of what we’re actually breathing.

What is Indoor Air Quality?

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, indoor air quality describes “how inside air can affect a person’s health, comfort, and ability to work.” Many of us probably take for granted that our homes, schools, workplaces, and other buildings are properly ventilated, and the air we’re breathing isn’t hurting us. The reality is that indoor air quality presents us with some significant health risks, including asthma, impaired judgment, and even cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air pollution among the top five environmental health risks in the United States. This leads us to two key questions. What are these risks and where do they come from?

There are two primary sources that contribute to poor indoor air quality – air pollution and improper ventilation. When it comes to air pollution, what we’re usually talking about are the harmful particles that are introduced into the air through smoke, dust, pollen, gases, and other chemicals. On the other hand, improper ventilation generally refers to the features of a room, home, or other building that limit good air circulation.

Sick at work

The term “pollution” tends to conjure images of giant smoke stacks with clouds of smoke billowing from the top, but some of the most common pollutants we encounter are in our own homes, schools, and workplaces. Indoor air pollution usually comes from sources like mold and pollen, tobacco smoke, household cleaning products, and building materials like asbestos. In the short term, common symptoms of exposure to these pollutants include itchy eyes, runny nose, and dizziness or fatigue at first, followed by other allergic reactions and asthma shortly after. When we look at the long term, the health risks become more severe, including respiratory diseases, heart disease, and in some cases cancer.

Most people must deal with indoor air pollution because buildings or homes either have not been properly maintained or properly upgraded. For example, poor maintenance of roofs and windows can prompt mold growth and water problems, just as cracks in a home’s foundation can lead to problems with radon. Also, as more and more buildings are designed and upgraded to be more energy efficient, air pollutants are sometimes trapped inside. Energy-efficient homes and buildings can be a tradeoff for those that allow more fresh air to circulate and structures to breathe. This means we must consider not only air pollution, but also improper ventilation.

AirMaxx Infographic

Many of us might wrongfully assume that the air we breathe indoors is fairly similar to the air we breathe outdoors. In some cases, however, indoor air quality is far worse than outdoor air. For example, office buildings in urban areas risk higher carbon monoxide rates, because their air intake also takes in fumes from car emissions. The differences when we walk through the door are sometimes so subtle, it’s no surprise we hardly notice. But improper ventilation can present some serious health concerns, especially when it comes to air circulation and carbon dioxide concentrations.

As far back as 1970, researchers and building designers have been tracking sick building syndrome, which often results from poor indoor air quality, circulation, and ventilation. Symptoms are tough to pin down, but they include everything from itchy and watery eyes, nose, and throat to headaches, nausea, dizziness, problems concentrating, and cold and flu-like symptoms. Sick building syndrome remains a bit controversial, in that it’s difficult to track down the specific causes and symptoms that can be attributed to it. At the same time, researchers have begun to pinpoint the sources and symptoms of other ventilation problems, like high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Think back to the crowded room scenario at the beginning of the article. Your flushed face and fatigue were most likely the result of improper ventilation and high concentrations of CO2. Gases like CO2 are measured in parts per million PPM. The typical measure of CO2 for outdoor air is 380 PPM, although some reports note that number is starting to climb toward 500. When we move indoors, that number is often much closer to 1000 PMM and can sometimes exceed 3000 PPM. The following table helps make sense of the important numbers on CO2:

 

What Should You Do About Indoor Air Quality?

Despite the increasing risks associated with both indoor air pollution and improper ventilation, consumers have many options when it comes to managing the effects of poor indoor air quality. The first and perhaps most obvious option is to develop a plan to improve the ventilation within your home. Homeowners should ensure that their heating and air conditioning system is properly maintained and that rooms are appropriately ventilated. Building managers and facilities operators should also measure particle levels and CO2 concentrations in workplaces and other spaces where people gather frequently, to keep those levels within an acceptable range.

Additionally, homeowners and building managers can also test for both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels. While carbon monoxide is often treated as the bigger danger, which for the most part it is, CO2 also poses its fair share of health risks. Consumers can Monitor both CO and CO2 levels as part of their strategy for improving indoor air.

Building designers and architects also have a part to play in the future of ensuring good indoor air quality. Right now, energy efficiency and air quality are sometimes seen as a trade-off. A home can either be “tight” and keep the heat/AC trapped inside, or it can allow more fresh air to circulate while letting energy escape. Green building techniques allow for innovation when it comes to perceived trade-offs like this. There is room for develop new technologies and techniques for managing energy while improving indoor air quality, and designers and contractors would be well served to engage in that conversation.

New AirConditioning Unit

Finally, if you’re not able to upgrade your HVAC unit or improve your indoor ventilation system, you still have some options for reducing your health risks. The EPA maintains that air filters and other air cleaners serve as an option for helping to remove harmful materials in the air. Additionally, new research has provided some early support for the idea that multivitamins can help reduce the negative health effects associated with poor indoor air quality. Your best option is to remove the pollutants from the air before you breathe it, but you can also help manage the negative health effects should you experience them.

The next time you’re sitting in that crowded room, remember not to take for granted the quality of the air you’re breathing. Bodies release a lot of CO2 when we breathe, which can make the rest of us tired and unfocused when we’re not getting enough oxygen. And you never know what sorts of pollutants are lurking in the air ducts. With some careful monitoring and a few simple solutions, however, most of us should be able to breathe a bit more easily.

 

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Indoor Air Quality Creates A Better Environment For Employees & Customers

 

When it comes to making a comfortable work environment or your employees can give their best, and your customers are at their most comfortable, you need to take a serious look at the quality of your indoor air. Commercial indoor air quality is overlooked way too often, however this is an extremely important part of creating a positive environment for both customers and employees. Just how much of a difference can clean-air versus polluted indoor air make? Read on to learn the answer!

The first thing understand is that the quality of air inside the building can directly affect the health of those who were there. There are many people who are extremely sensitive to certain allergies like mold, cat hair, cigarette smoke, and other smells that can cause runny nose, watery eyes, or even coughing and asthmatic attacks in severe situations. You don’t want these people to be hurting just because the air inside isn’t at its best. Even if you aren’t it naturally sensitive to that type of stuff, do you really want to be breathing in air that can have that type of an effect on people?

All of us have had that experience where the air was especially dry and so you had irritated eyes, a sore and dry throat that hurt and made a hard to talk, and the general unease that can come with that. If you’re not comfortable you’re not going to do your best work likewise, your customers are less likely to stick around and make a deal if they are having trouble breathing are talking.

The good news is there are many things you can do to improve the quality of air inside to your building. One of the most important steps is to look at the ventilation your building and make sure it is up to par. You may have to replace an old system, or at the very least make sure you practice regular filter changes to keep the moving air as fresh and clean as possible.

If you do not have a commercial HVAC system, that is another way to make investment that really pays off for you, your employees, and your customers. For more information on all manner of HVAC issues, make sure to follow our blog!

Use HVAC UV Lamps To Kill Mold And Bacteria

There is mold and bacterial growth in all air conditioning systems. These organisms thrive in warmth and humidity, exactly what exists in the moist environment of your air conditioning unit. One technology used to kill mold and bacteria on the indoor coils is the use of HVAC UV lamps.

Health Effects of Mold and Bacteria
Molds exist everywhere and grow naturally outdoors. They are easily brought into buildings through ventilation and air conditioning systems. The condensation created by air moving through the vents, inner coils and ducts of an air conditioner provides the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria.

If you can smell a musty odor or see mold growth, you know you have a serious problem. Adults and children with allergies are especially sensitive to airborne mold and bacteria. Some individuals may experience severe reactions that need immediate medical attention.

The more vulnerable populations include children and infants, asthmatics, and the elderly. People with a weakened immune system because of chemotherapy treatment or HIV/AIDS, or those with existing respiratory conditions will experience even more serious problems. Symptoms of sensitivity are non-specific, and can include:
• eye irritation
• nasal stuffiness
• skin irritation
• wheezing and shortness of breath
• asthmatic episodes
• fever
• possible lung mold infections
Those experiencing adverse health effects should consult with a doctor for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Using UV Lamps for Mold Control
The traditional way to control indoor mold and bacteria growth is to clean indoor coils and control moisture regularly. Totally eliminating moisture in an air conditioning unit is not possible, so another approach is used. Treating conditioned air with HVAC UV lamps has been found to reduce and even eliminate air borne contaminants like molds and bacteria, and produce a much healthier air for people to breathe.

This technology has been in use for over 70 years around the world, with installations in all types of buildings, from hospitals, offices, processing and manufacturing plants, and individual residences. With proper exposure times, UV radiation will inactivate and kill mold and bacteria microorganisms. There are other benefits as well:
• UV treatment reduces the need for constant cleaning of indoor coils on the air conditioning unit
• the HVAC system will operate more efficiently and last longer
• UV units are easy to maintain
• lamps are easy to install and replace
• energy and maintenance costs are reduced
Installing a UV lamp fixture to control bacteria and mold in an HVAC installation often pays for itself in months.

Tips To Improve The Air Quality Inside A Home

The majority of homes rely on heating and cooling systems to distribute cold or hot air. However, it is easy for dust, pollen, tobacco smoke, bacteria, dust mites, or mold to get into these systems compromising the quality of air indoors. Here are some of the most effective ways of ensuring this does not happen.

Installing Humidifiers

A humidifier is a device that produces steam to keep the level of moisture indoors high. One can opt to install an ultrasonic humidifier, central humidifier, evaporator, steam vaporizer, or impeller humidifier. According to the Mayo Clinic, the humidity level inside your home should range from 30 to 50%. Low humidity can cause problems such as irritation of nasal passages, dry skin, and itchy eyes. On the other hand, high humidity can make your home feel stuffy as well as enhancing growth of mold and bacteria. Humidifiers help you control air moisture.

 

Installing Energy Recovery Ventilators

Unlike a humidifier, an energy recover ventilator (ERV) is a mechanical device that removes stale polluted air from your home and replaces it with fresh air. To achieve this goal, an ERV passes air from your house through a heat exchanger. Inside this component, heat transfer occurs from the warm outgoing air to the cool incoming air. The aim is to ensure cold air from outside does not reduce the comfort levels inside a building. To conserve energy, you can use sensors or humidistats to turn on an ERV when humidity levels are too high. Take note that an ERV is quite different from a heat recovery ventilator. An HRV only transfers heat to incoming air while an ERV transfers both heat and some moisture.

Installing Air Filtration Systems

Air filtration systems vary depending on the nature of pollutants one would like to remove. Standard air filters come in handy if you would like to remove particles such as dust from the air inside your home. When it comes to removing pollutants in the form of gases, it is advisable to go for gas phase filters or Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) filters. The problem with PCOs is they are not quite effective in clearing gaseous pollutants.

To clear biological pollutants such as mold spores and bacteria, you need an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) air filter. Finally, you could install ozone generators to clear biological, gaseous, and particle pollutants. A major drawback associated with ozone generators is the gas they produce (ozone) can irritate the lungs.

All said, it is neither impossible nor difficult to improve the air quality inside your home and keep it free of pollutants such as pollen, mold spores, or dust mites. This is because you can use devices such as humidifiers, air filtration systems, and energy recovery ventilators to achieve this goal. What’s more, there are portable air cleaners on the market that you can actually move from one room to another in your home.