Air quality has completely proliferated the discourse when it comes to talking about healthier spaces, and there are a lot of resources out there (like us!) that offer those interested more information about it. However, just as there is a ton of information out there, there is also a ton of misconceptions that have developed over time. So, today, we’re looking to debunk some myths on indoor air quality so you can better answer client questions and concerns the next time you’re on a project.
Myth 1: Outside air is always better.
While this is usually the case, it is not always so. It specific areas of the world where smog and wildfires are prevalent, the air quality outside can sometimes be just as bad, if not worse than indoor air quality. Considering indoor air quality can be up to 5 times more polluted than average outdoor air, that’s very bad.
Aside from those pollutants, however, outside air can contain excess humidity and allergens in certain seasons which also affect air quality. And during the winter in certain regions, outdoor air can also be exceedingly dry, leading to worsening air quality once again.
Even with a system that’s pulling outdoor air into the home, it’s still vital to have filtration technology in place to freshen the air and reduce particulates.
Myth 2: Air quality monitoring technology increases energy consumption.
The idea is that the “always on” aspect of monitoring consumes more energy than it saves. Not so. Efficient and connected building technology makes it easier for experts to help builders install eco-friendly HVAC systems. It also helps homeowners and building managers make more efficient decisions regarding their indoor air quality.
In fact, air quality monitoring is a major step in making a more energy efficient and sustainable building.
Myth 3: Air quality is only important because of the pandemic.
While people may be talking more about air quality because of the pandemic, air quality itself has always and will always be important. “Sick-building syndrome” has been an issue since the 70s, and there’s plenty that can be done to help mitigate it. Adequate ventilation and filtration are a must to keep harmful gases and particulates from proliferating the air.
Better quality air also means less sickness in general. By reducing irritants and pollutants in the air, people also reduce exposure to pathogens that can lead to illnesses separate from COVID-19. Less illness means less absenteeism from work or school, and fewer cases of extreme illnesses that can likewise put a strain on healthcare systems in the long run.
Myth 4: Vaccinated people have to worry less about air quality in a space.
Viral particles make up only a small number of pollutants faced within a modern building. The COVID-19 virus itself, makes up only a small portion of viral particles present within a building.
Ignoring the key elements of proper indoor air quality like ventilation, filtration and humidity control, leads to a higher risk of contaminants circulating indoors.
There’s plenty more than just COVID-19 to give building occupants a reason to want better indoor air quality on a regular basis.
Myth 5: It’s hard to see results when it comes to air quality control.
With the tremendous number of sensors on the market it is easier than ever to see the effects of an air quality control strategy come to fruition. What’s important, however, is ensuring that the information on air quality can be easily communicated with tenants, occupants, visitors and just about anyone entering a building.
Air quality sensors can monitor for dust, allergens, specific particulate sizes and even radon, with many of these sensors developing their own air quality reports in real time that can be accessed by just about anyone. By adding a sensor with a fresh filtration system, humidifier, etc., it’s easy to see just how effective air quality measures can be.
Myth 6: If it’s a comfortable temperature, everything should be fine.
While temperature does play a big role in air quality, humidity is just as important. It’s also a major factor in the comfort of a space. Ever hear people talk about the difference between a dry heat and wet heat? It’s the same principle.
If the humidity gets too high or low, there can be some serious problems that develop. Mildew, pathogens and mold growth can occur in the extremes of these conditions, not to mention worsening asthma, skin condition and other health issues that are likely to develop.
Ventilation, too, plays a key role. A room can be the perfect temperature, yet with poor ventilation and plenty of people inside it, can house high levels of carbon dioxide with can lead to drowsiness, headaches and a general loss of cognition.
Myth 7: Thermal comfort (how we feel) has nothing to do with air quality.
Thermal comfort is based on temperature and humidity, both of which factor heavily in air quality. For example, airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is found to be more transmissible in dry air. As a result, researchers recommend relative humidity of 40% to 60%.
Additionally, VOCs are likely to off gas far more in hot, humid environments, further contributing the overall pollution levels in an indoor space.