Article by Peter Dyment, Energy Consultant, Camfil Farr
There are many different ways our indoor air quality can become a problem. The basic properties of air that can easily vary are temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure. Relatively small changes of temperature or humidity can make us feel uncomfortable.
Lastly but not least, air composition includes what we term air pollution. As we have become a crowded industrial nation this pollution has increased sharply over the last few decades. Here are some frequently asked questions on Indoor Air Quality problems.
What is Indoor Air Pollution made of?
Air pollution can be in the form of airborne solid particles, liquid aerosols or noxious gases.
The common types are Fine combustion particles from traffic and power station exhaust known as PM2.5, Volcanic dust, Pollen, Bacteria, Virus, Fungal spores, tobacco smoke, Asbestos and Silica dust. Gases include Carbon Monoxide CO, Carbon Dioxide CO2,Nitrous Oxide NO, NOx and SOx gases Ozone O3, Radon, Molecular chemical compounds such as volatile organic compounds VOC’s.
Why should I care about Indoor Air Quality and Air Pollution?
We all need air to breathe to live and if the air carries pollution we take it into our lungs where it can cross over into our bloodstream. Fine particles and noxious gases tend to be chemically active and can damage our health and bodies and poison us on the inside.
Different types of air pollution have varying risks attached but fine combustion particles for example are 3X more damaging to health than passive smoking and cause 5X more loss of life than road accidents. A dangerous gas like Carbon Monoxide CO can block oxygen getting into our bloodstream and cause death by oxygen starvation.
How can we improve Indoor Air Quality and stop this air pollution?
Some pollutants such as PM2.5 particles can be filtered out of the air in buildings some have to be displaced or diluted like Carbon Monoxide or Carbon Dioxide. Ideally it is best if pollution can be stopped at source but we all like to drive our cars and enjoy a good (carbon hungry) standard of living.
Air Filtration can provide an effective solution in buildings with heating ventilating and air conditioning systems. If a building does not have a inbuilt system then a freestanding air-cleaner like the Camcleaner with Hepa filtration and optional gas filtration can provide a solution.
Do the buildings where I live and work have poor Indoor Air Quality?
We all spend up to 90% of our lives in buildings and according to the World Health Organisation WHO about 30% of commercial buildings have a significant problem with indoor air quality. Residential buildings in urban areas would be at least likely to have similar levels of problems with external air pollution which could contribute to IAQ problems.
What is Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick Building Syndrome is attributed to a building where a significant number of the occupants are suffering respiratory illness symptoms and or nausea. Typically 1 in 5 or greater. These symptoms are more usually associated with larger buildings where there is an air conditioning system that is not properly maintained. The most important contributory factors in order of descending magnitude are found to be:
A neglected AHU air filter system delivers poor air quality
1. Dirt obstructions and blockages in the air intake and grilles
2. Poor drainage and water in the AHU and ducting
3. Ductwork needs cleaning
4. Coils need cleaning
5. Air Filters not correctly selected and mounted
6. Air Filters not changed when required
7. Air recirculation from extract or pollution source near intake
These factors as you can see are nearly all associated with the air filtration or can be alleviated with proper design application and maintenance of air filter systems.
If you are in a large commercial building or offices, the air should be cleaned by air filters in the air conditioning system. You would need to ask the facilities manager or maintenance engineer is the air filters are F7 class or better as advised by the standard EN 13779:2007.
As the market leading Air Filtration company in UK and the rest of Europe, we have been making surveys and inspections of complex HVAC and process plant filter systems for many years. Here you will find a range of useful AC Inspection information and covers: AC Legislation, Low Energy Air Filters, Energy Performance In Buildings and looks at energy saving options in UK buildings.