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Tips on How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Building

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Jason Pohl

In the past two years, monitoring indoor air quality has emerged as a top priority in building management. According to a 2020 study, 76% of U.S. consumers would feel more comfortable entering buildings in which air quality is being monitored. That sentiment can have a big impact on where people choose to live, work, and play. To maintain a healthy, safe, and appealing environment, you must start with knowing how to improve indoor air quality in buildings.

Critical Indoor Air Quality Variables

When it comes to indoor air quality standards, there is no one one-size-fits-all solution. However, organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agree that the following are critical variables:

  • Particulate matter (PM): PM2.5 are fine dust and tiny particles suspended in the air with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less. The EPA-recommended threshold for PM2.5 is 0-12 µg/m3. PM10 are coarse dust particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers and have a recommended threshold of 0-54 µg/m3. Both PM2.5 and PM10 can be generated by indoor activities and outdoor air conditions and can be inhaled deep into the lungs.
  • Carbon dioxide: Inadequate ventilation can lead to high carbon dioxide levels, which can cause fatigue, discomfort, and other health problems. Peak carbon dioxide concentrations above 1000 ppm in indoor air indicate ventilation problems.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): VOCs are chemical compounds released by solvents, furniture, liquid fuels, carpets, and other fabrics. Improper ventilation and poor standards of cleanliness result in higher levels of VOCs. The VOC concentration indoors should ideally be 0-15 ppm.
  • Temperature and humidity: Temperature is one of the most basic indicators of indoor air quality and has a strong influence on the spread and activity of pathogens causing respiratory infections. Indoor temperature can affect dampness and humidity, which contribute to the growth of mold, dust mites, bacteria, and other biological contaminants. 

With a better understanding of indoor air pollutants and their sources, facility managers can take appropriate actions to improve indoor air quality.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Buildings

Knowing how to improve indoor air quality in buildings can help you comply with indoor air quality standards and create safer environments for building occupants:

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Control Pollutant Sources

The most effective and cost-efficient way of improving indoor air quality is eliminating pollution sources or reducing their emissions. Some of the common indoor pollutant sources include:

  • Appliances: Ovens, gas stoves, space heaters, furnaces, and other appliances that burn fuels can produce toxic gasses such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and hazardous aldehydes. 
  • Carpet: Carpets serve as a trap for indoor pollutants and absorb particulates from smoke, mold spores, allergens, and other harmful contaminants.
  • Mold: Mold grows in damp areas in buildings and releases a range of toxins that cause respiratory problems and weaken the immune system.
  • Household products: Many paints, glues and solvents, air fresheners, personal care products, and cleaning agents emit VOCs and other harmful substances.

Identify potential pollutant sources and remove them or replace them with healthier alternatives.

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Improve Ventilation and Filtration

Increasing the amount of outdoor air coming in can lower the concentration of indoor air pollutants. Adjusting HVAC settings, running exhaust fans, opening doors and windows can all improve indoor air quality. Automating ventilation according to occupancy data is one of the best ways to ensure sufficient ventilation.

Air filters trap pollutants and pathogens (including coronaviruses) and prevent them from circulating. When air quality is a priority, a MERV13 filter or higher is recommended.

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Install Air Cleaners

Though air cleaners are not designed to remove gaseous pollutants, some are highly effective for removing particulate matter. The effectiveness of an air cleaner is determined by both its ability to collect pollutants from indoor air and how much air it draws through the filtering or cleaning element. The strength of the pollutant source also impacts effectiveness.

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Maintain HVAC Systems

HVAC systems play a key role in maintaining indoor air quality. Suboptimal performance of HVAC equipment can not only result in uncomfortable conditions, it can also compromise safety. Regular and proactive maintenance of HVAC systems, including cleaning or replacing air filters, air ducts, drain pans, and other components, is critical to improve indoor air quality.

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Install Indoor Air Quality Sensors

Continuous air quality monitoring of air quality via sensors is one of the most powerful ways to ensure safe indoor conditions. Air quality sensors are used to continuously measure carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, VOCs, formaldehyde, radon, and other pollutants inside buildings. The placement of sensors is critical for optimal monitoring and depends on both the type of pollutant and size of the area being monitored.

These steps can make a meaningful difference for everyone who enters your building.

Make Air Quality Monitoring Smart

Integrating building equipment, air quality sensors, and an intelligent building platform opens up extraordinary opportunities when you know how to improve indoor air quality in buildings. 

A platform like onPoint helps facility managers make sense of the complex air quality data and create data-driven strategies to maximize air quality. It can not only monitor variables like air-borne contaminants, HVAC performance, and occupancy, it can also make automatic adjustments based on custom inputs to make indoor spaces safer. Additionally, onPoint’s advanced fault detection and diagnostics allows you to implement preventive and predictive maintenance to support optimal equipment function.

Indoor air quality is a critical aspect of the built environment that directly affects building occupants. With smart technology, facility managers can protect both health and comfort with ease.  

 Want to learn more about indoor air quality in buildings? Download our Indoor Air Quality Sensor Readings eBook to learn additional need-to-know aspects and how to decipher common indoor air quality sensor readings.

 

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