Indoor Air Quality

People spend a large portion of their time inside homes and offices. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most people spend 90 to 95 percent of their time indoors. This makes indoor air quality very important to health. Harmful gasses and particles can compromise indoor air quality. Ensuring that combustion sources and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment are working properly is a great place to start. Ensuring that new furnishings, carpets, and cabinetry contain safe, low-emitting materials helps protect the quality of air in homes and commercial buildings. Taking a careful look at cleaning and maintenance products also helps reduce the likelihood of unintentionally compromising indoor air quality.

Improving ventilation (increasing the amount of outdoor air coming in) can significantly reduce the concentration of indoor air pollutants. Air cleaners can remove particles from air, but may not be equipped to reduce the amount of gaseous pollutants in air. Another method for improving the quality of indoor air is source control, removing individual sources of pollutants. There are a variety of means to help improve indoor air quality.

Estimated Cost Savings & Benefits:
Typically the most cost-effective option for improving indoor air quality is source control. Any new combustion sources, materials, furnishings, or cleaning products in the home or in a building are potential sources of indoor air pollution. Careful analysis of products prior to purchase can help. The operating myth is that improving home and/or building ventilation systems can actually increase energy costs. Proper sizing and cleaning of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can actually save money on energy costs and improve indoor air quality. Even simple filter cleaning and/or replacement helps HVAC systems operate more efficiently and improves indoor air quality.

The benefits of protecting indoor air quality are significant. Improved indoor air quality can have positive effects on human health, productivity, and comfort. Canadian researchers have measured the relationships between employee productivity and indoor air quality and found that reduced indoor pollutant levels resulted in reductions in absenteeism.

Improving indoor air quality in an apartment building can be more challenging if the building owner or manager is the only person who can address sources of indoor air pollution. The first step is to alert management, in written form, of any potential issues with indoor air quality and encourage building management to follow EPA's IAQ Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM). It is sometimes possible to help building owners and their managers see the financial benefits of improving indoor air quality in the form of increased tenant retention and lease rates, reduced liabilities, and improved resale value.

As people spend a significant portion of their day in office buildings, IAQ is an issue in these environments as well. Office buildings can have significant air quality issues. If you or others in your office are experiencing problems with health and/or comfort and you suspect poor indoor air quality is the cause, EPA recommends that you talk to your supervisor, your personal physician, and/or the state or local health department.

The good news is that sometimes solving indoor air quality problems is possible and not always unreasonably expensive. With proper analysis of HVAC systems and other sources of indoor pollutants, building managers can sometimes turn "sick" buildings into relatively healthier environments.

Regional Issues:
In cooler climates, outdoor temperatures can make it more challenging to improve ventilation by simply opening a few windows in your home or in commercial buildings. Mechanical ventilation systems, proper cleaning, source control, and air cleaners may be good options.

In warmer, humid climates, high temperatures and humidity levels can increase the concentration of some pollutants. There are some additional climate-related challenges with respect to windows and mechanical systems.

Installation (Getting It Done):
A range of professionals address indoor air quality issues. Selected HVAC contractors are capable of helping homeowners and building owners make decisions that can result in improved indoor air quality. Selected interior designers are now more cognizant of the types of design decisions that contribute to indoor air pollution or to healthier homes and buildings. As with any design, construction, and/or maintenance decision, it is a good idea to get two or three bids from different contractors. Even though this may be a bit more time-consuming, the end result is usually a more cost-effective and informed decision. There are no guarantees with indoor air quality, but informed decision-making can result in substantial improvements to health and productivity.

More Information On This Topic:

U.S. Department of Energy's Building Technologies Program: Indoor Air Quality Research and Development

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Indoor Air Quality in Large Buildings

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality

Comment balloon 1 commentRalph Gorgoglione • April 05 2009 10:45AM
Indoor Air Quality
People spend a large portion of their time inside homes and offices. In fact, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most people spend 90 to 95 percent of their time indoors. This makes indoor air quality very important to health… more
Seasonality of Home Sales - were coming into that time again…
Regardless of market statistics, good, bad, indifferent, residential home sales always follow a seasonal trend. And we are coming into the beginning of that trend. Typically, the number of home sales and active buyers hitting the streets… more
The escrow process in a nutshell - What is it?
It is not uncommon at all for buyers to not have an understanding as to what the escrow process is during a transaction or how it all works, so I decided to post this blog to help clarify. Escrow is a neutral third party that controls the flow… more
Bubbles within the Bubble? What's happening in the So Cal Market? The…
There seems to be some emerging markets that are heating up in the Southern California market. More precisely, the $400, 000 and below market for single family homes seems to be firing up. This is more than likely attributed to a combination… more
What is a short sale? What are the keys to a successful short sale?
Since I get asked this so many times, I thought I would post this blog explaining short sales. A short sale is when the owner on title to the property is attempting to sell the property for below what they owe on the mortgage, or below what… more
Working with more than one agent? - Procuring Cause - What buyers and…
Some buyers in the current market think that having more than one agent working for you is a good thing. The more the merrier, right? WRONG!! This is a recipe for disaster. There is a legal element in real estate called Procuring Cause… more
Selecting the Best Offer for your Sellers - How Much Weight to put on…
It isn't always as simple as taking the highest offer when accepting the "best" offer for your seller. You want to make sure the accepted offer is a successful escrow all the way to the end, so consider some of the following when… more
When representing a buyer on REO properties, always make sure you read the bank addendum that is generated with an offer acceptance AT LEAST 3 TIMES. There are terms and conditions in there that can be very costly to your buyers if you… more
$10, 0000 Tax Credit for New Construction - State of California
Tax Credit for New Home Purchase In addition to the updated items identified on this page, we have updated Form 3528-A and the instructions for line 6 and Part III. If you have already faxed a completed application, you DO NOT need to resubmit… more
Energy Efficient Windows
Energy-Efficient Windows Technology Snapshot & Benefits: Significant economic savings can come from modern windows. Unless recently upgraded, your windows are likely a major source of heat loss. In cold climates, windows transfer heating… more