Indoor air quality (IAQ) is among the most current and relevant HVAC topics. Beyond the potential of killing airborne viruses, IAQ is essential to your everyday health. After all, we need quality air to breathe whenever we’re indoors. Whether you’re hard at work or relaxing in your home, the following holds true: IAQ matters.
According to federal scientists, indoor air pollution is one of the most important environmental problems in the United States. Poor air quality and dangerous pollutants can cause a variety of short-term and long-term effects, including:
- Coughing and sneezing
- Worsened allergy symptoms
- Eye and throat irritation
- Respiratory diseases
- Increased cancer risk
IAQ ranges from standard filtration to adding air purifiers and HEPA filtration for people with any health issues, such as a compromised immune system or respiratory illness. A modern home typically includes advanced air filtration, constant airflow, and a level of contaminant removal or control that includes components that neutralize mold and viruses, while also eliminating odor.
Location often plays a role in what IAQ features you install. For instance, residences in fire-prone areas need systems that deal with smoke effectively. Likewise, if you live in a windy area, installing an air scrubber in your living room can help control silty dust that would otherwise take over your home.
In recent years, IAQ has gotten “smart.” These smart-systems come on automatically when they sense that the air quality is low. They also turn on less often when the air quality is good, saving you money on energy costs. Lennox’s allergy defender even checks in with the National Weather Service. When the allergy count in your ZIP code is high, it turns on your furnace to filter the air in your home without you having to do anything.
With so many options and new, innovative technologies, implementing features for IAQ can get quite complicated. In particular, treating the air to bring about desired results is tricky. Darrow technicians are especially equipped to talk to you about IAQ features and fulfill all your IAQ needs.
All About Filtration
The filter in your HVAC system is directly responsible for IAQ, and upgrading or changing your air filters is an easy way to improve the IAQ in your home or office. The standard method for comparing air filter efficiency is called MERV, which stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The higher the MERV rating a filter has, the better it is at removing particles from the air.
The MERV scale ranges from 1 (least efficient) to 16 (most efficient) and measures a filter’s ability to remove particles from 3 to 10 microns. Filters with higher ratings not only remove more particles but also remove smaller ones from the air.
A typical fiberglass furnace filter is on the lower end of the MERV scale, with a rating from 1 to 4. On the higher end, a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter would be rated a 16. However, the HEPA requirements are substantially more stringent than a MERV rating of 16. Therefore, filters with a MERV rating of 16 are not necessarily HEPA-compliant.
While this rating system is clear enough, it does not address that the higher the MERV rating, the harder it is for the air handling unit to pull the air through the filter. Most of the new, variable speed furnaces are capable of MERV ratings up to 16, but older systems will usually not operate properly with filters with a MERV rating over 8.
All About MERV
Air Treatment and Purification
In addition to being filtered, the air that passes through your HVAC system can be treated in various ways. For example, charcoal filters are quite effective at removing all of the odors that pass through your system.
In years past, charcoal filters were “bypass” filters, allowing some of the air to pass over them and some to pass through the carbon. This minimized the static resistance resulting from 100% air filtration each pass. Today, there are air filters that combine charcoal in them to filter all of the air with each pass through the filter.
Air purification systems include ultraviolet bulbs (UV), high-efficiency filters, and controls that tell your system to come on several times a day to clean the air. UV bulbs can kill a lot of organic spores, such as mold and mildew.
The Evolution Of IAC
When talking about better air filtration, we used to ask our customers one straightforward question, “Do you have allergies?” Their answer would give us all the direction we needed.
Today, there’s a whole set of different, more targeted questions regarding IAQ. From addressing viral infections to the smoke from nearby fires, modern air filtration and air treatment products can do much more to improve the air we breathe inside our offices and homes.
Since the “energy crisis” of the 1970s, Californians have been moving to reduce the amount of energy they consume in their homes. Consequently, our homes have become much more energy efficient with weather-stripping, increased insulation levels, vapor barriers, double and triple pane windows, “cool roofs,” and reflective paints. Such inventions have contributed to a dramatic improvement in our home’s energy efficiency.
At the same time, these measures have had the side effect of degrading our indoor environment by trapping contaminants inside. Thus, an IAQ-conscious home will include advanced air filtration, a system capable of constant airflow, and a high level of contaminant removal or control. Many new systems also include components that neutralize mold and viruses and eliminate odor.
Modern innovations have added features that cater to convenience and substantially improve the control a homeowner has over IAQ. With some “smart” thermostats, the system monitors the weather and automatically activates air filtration on days with high pollen content. Variable speed fans allow a system to operate silently. By moving the air slowly across the air filtration system, airborne contaminants, viruses, molds, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and odors can also be neutralized or eliminated (depending on the filtration options you choose).
For example, the Lennox PureAir module is capable of removing or destroying:
- 99.9% of mold spores, pollen, dust, and pet dander.
- More than 95% of fine particles absorbed by the lungs—down to 0.3 microns.
- 90% of flu and cold viruses.
- Infectious bacteria like MRSA and other living microorganisms down to 0.01 micron.
- Household odors and VOCs from sources like cooking fumes, pets, cleaning supplies, paints and solvents, and carpeting and upholstery.
For more information, Wikileaks has some very informative facts regarding indoor air quality worth taking the time to explore.
Maintaining A High Level Of IAQ
For maximum IAQ, you need access to outside air to circulate through your furnace and ensure proper filtration. Crack a window or door in the early morning or late evening and let your fan run for a bit to introduce fresh, clean air into your home.
Your filtration system also needs to be regularly maintained. Dirt that is sucked up by your system gets stuck in the duct and on blower components and circuit boards. Changing your filters regularly is vital. When a filter is dirty, it can’t properly collect particles and perform its job. For instance, since activated charcoal absorbs odors, it must be replaced anywhere from every 30 days to once per year, depending on the type of filter.
Take advantage of our preventative maintenance plans and have a technician come to your home or worksite to ensure that:
- Your system and components are clean.
- Everything is connected correctly.
- Pressures are appropriate.
- The electrical isn’t fried, burnt, or brittle.
Contact us today to discuss how we can help improve your IAQ!