Air quality affects the very air that we breathe. Whether it’s inside your home or outside, air quality is important because air quality issues can affect your health.
What Causes Unhealthy Air Quality?
There are many different factors that often contribute to poor or unhealthy air quality. The two most common are elevated levels of ground-level ozone and particulate matter, but there are many others. The Environmental Protection Agency has six categories of common air pollutions. These are:
Ground-level ozone. Bad ozone results from nitrogen oxide. It forms when vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions combine and react with organic compounds.
Particulate matter. Particulate matter results when solid particles such as dust, soot, smoke, and dirt mix with liquid particles in the air. The result is particle pollution, which is both visible and invisible.
Carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a gas produced when fuels burn. It is odorless, colorless, and can be extremely dangerous.
Lead. Lead is a toxic metal that is sometimes released into the air during ore or metal processing. Some aircraft still use leaded fuels, which also contributes to finding it in the atmosphere.
Nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide forms when fossil fuels are burned. It is a gas that is part of both ozone pollution and particle pollution.
Sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is found in many fuels such as diesel, coal, and oil. When people burn these, the fuels release sulfur dioxide into the air.
The weather also has a significant impact on air quality. Sunshine can cause some pollutants to have a chemical reaction, which results in smog. Higher air temperatures can also speed up these chemical reactions. Rain can reduce pollutants because it washes particulate matter away, while wind and air turbulence can cause pollutants to spread from one area to another.
Image via Flickr by Home Air Quality Guides
How To Measure Air Quality
The EPA established a system for monitoring and measuring air quality called the Air Quality Index, or AQI. There are many stations across the country, and even the world, with monitoring systems that continuously measure the air for pollutants. These stations use highly sensitive equipment and provide the EPA with vitally important data.
The EPA takes the raw numbers from the stations and converts them into the Air Quality Index score. You can even look up the AQI score in the Valparaiso, Indiana, area to find out what the air quality is each day by checking the map that the EPA makes available to the public. The scores run from 0 to 500 and have color-coding to make it easy to read.
The AQI scale includes:
- 0-50: Green. Satisfactory air quality.
- 51-100: Yellow. Acceptable air quality, but there may be some risk for people with sensitivity to air pollution.
- 101-200: Orange. Unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups.
- 201-250: Red. Unhealthy for the general public.
- 251-300: Purple. Very unhealthy. There is an increased risk of health effects for everyone.
- 301-500: Maroon. Hazardous. There are emergency conditions and health warnings for everyone.
How To Test Air Quality in Your Home
Outdoor air quality is a big problem around the world, and we can all do our part to help reduce it. It is also important to know the air quality inside our homes and businesses. Since we spend the majority of our time inside, we need to be sure we have the cleanest possible air in our homes.
It’s easy to get an idea of how clean the air in your home is. You can get a personal pollution sensor and measure it on your own. The device will give you a reading of the air quality inside your home.
If you find you are experiencing health symptoms that might be the result of poor air quality, you should get a more accurate reading from a professional diagnostics company that provides air quality service. Certified technicians can come to your home or business and measure the air quality and efficiency of the space. At Energy Diagnostics, staff are certified by virtually every energy rating organization: HERS, ICC, BPI, NGBS, and LEED. Reliable technicians have experience with commerical and residential properties alike. Indeed, over 60 thousand homes have already been successfully rated and inspected by Energy Diagnostic’s trained staff.
How To Improve Air Quality in Your Home
While Energy Diagnostics staff can inform you of the air quality that you are working with, you can also take the next step and do your part to help reduce air pollution. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve the air quality in your home. The best place to start is by reducing or eliminating the sources of pollution. You can do this in several ways:
- Reduce use of fireplaces and wood stoves.
- Stop smoking to eliminate tobacco smoke.
- Stop burning candles and avoid burning leaves, rubber, and plastic.
- Use standalone HEPA filtration systems and higher MERV-rated air filters in your HVAC system.
- Use air cleaners made to reduce air particles.
- Use low-VOC cleaning products, and when done, seal them and then store them away so they don’t evaporate.
- Replace appliances with energy-saving ones.
- Turn off lights and electronics in your home when you are not using them.
- Turn the heat down in the winter, and keep the thermostat higher in the summer.
Additional methods of reducing pollutants and improving the air quality in your home include air ventilation and increasing the amount of fresh air that’s brought into your home when the weather permits. If the air quality outside is good, open windows and doors or run your air conditioner with the vent control open. You should also change the filters on your heaters and air conditioners regularly. The filters trap dust particles, so you want to make sure you have clean filters.
Adjusting the humidity can also help. High humidity keeps the air moist, which increases the chances of developing mold. Keep the humidity between 30% and 50% for the best possible air quality.
Here at Energy Diagnostics, we want to help you improve the efficiency of your homes. With our expertise, you can lower your environmental impact and save some money on your energy bill in the process. The first step is understanding air quality and air ventilation. Give us a call to set up a time, and we can come to your home or business to get you started.