Indoor Air Quality: HVAC Solutions for Cleaner Air

Indoor Air Quality

Protecting Your Home with Improved Indoor Air Quality

Ventilation—the V in HVAC—is an often-forgotten function of this important, advanced building system. We are very familiar with the heating and cooling functions, but the ventilation function ensures indoor air is also clean and fresh. Good indoor air quality ensures indoor spaces are healthy and comfortable.

Ventilation is rather complex.

  • Indoor air will begin as polluted as outdoor air. But unless it is cleaned and freshened, the pollutants concentrate inside and make the air unhealthy.
  • Indoor air will begin at the same temperature and relative humidity as outdoor air. Unless this air is warmed, cooled, humidified, or dehumidified, it has an unhealthy effect on the surfaces of walls, floors, and furnishings. When it is conditioned, indoor air feels comfortable and is relatively healthy.
  • Ventilation and comfort are very subjective, dependent upon the comfort preferences of more than one occupant.
  • Health issues of occupants will also impact decisions concerning ventilation; breathing issues, such as allergies and asthma, may require special considerations.

Handling Pollutants

A home will encounter several categories of pollutants. An HVAC system will remove some of these pollutants and avoid others. The good news is that we have very good air quality in our region, and the pollutants we encounter are relatively easy to mitigate.

  • Organic solid particles. Most air particles originate from living organisms: pollen, mold, mildew, (most) dust, and dander are produced by living organisms. These particles are known to trigger allergies and asthma attacks. In addition, organic material is often the meal and vehicle for microscopic pests. Dust mites pose their own dangers since they trigger their own brand of allergic reactions.
  • Inorganic solid particles. These are typically windborne minerals and pose less of an allergy danger.
  • Mold and mildew spores are not only organic allergens but also can multiply and produce more spores in indoor spaces. High humidity is a necessary condition for mold/mildew growth—keep this in mind.
  • Various gases. Materials, finishes, and adhesives will off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs), especially when the products are new. Various exhaust gases, such as carbon monoxide, enter the home from the outdoors (and potentially a leaking gas-powered furnace).
  • Radon is a radioactive gas that enters the home from surrounding soil in basements or crawl spaces. It is relatively uncommon in our immediate vicinity. Testing for radon is readily available and inexpensive.

Indoor Air Quality Mitigation Tactics

  • Removing organic solids. These particles are all heavier than air, and gravity causes them to fall onto every surface in the home. We refer to them corporately as dust. Normal dusting and vacuuming collect most of these particles and remove them from the house forever. In addition, the HVAC system has an air filter that collects particles that remain airborne. Eventually, the filter collects enough particles that the filter is clogged, so the filter needs to be replaced about every three months.
  • Diluting indoor contaminants. Introducing outdoor air to indoor spaces releases some of the VOCs to outdoor spaces. This happens when shower or kitchen exhaust fans are used and by leaving a door or window open when the temperature is nice.
  • The ideal range for indoor relative humidity is between 30 and 50% humidity. When indoor air is more humid, it can promote mold and mildew growth. Maintaining the HVAC system year-round will help keep the humidity level within the prescribed range.
  • Additional equipment. When health issues demand extra measures, technicians can install auxiliary equipment to mitigate specific problems. Ultraviolet lights added to the ductwork will neutralize organic particles, making them inert and reducing the allergen threat. Portable dehumidifiers or room air purifiers can provide added benefits to specific rooms or spaces.

Call the Indoor Air Quality Experts at All Cool AC!

Schedule your indoor air quality consultation by calling All Cool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email and let our NATE-certified indoor air quality technicians put their experience to work for you.

Indoor Air Quality: How to Identify Pollutants in Your Home

Indoor Air Quality: How to Identify Pollutants in Your Home

 How is the indoor air quality in your home?

To be honest, clean air is relative, and there are many variables for you to consider. First are the health concerns of family members since people with severe allergies, breathing problems, and compromised immune systems can be extremely sensitive to airborne particles. Some health issues might be seasonal or short-term. Some health issues might require technology to remove airborne pollutants; we will discuss some options available for improving indoor air quality.

  • Minor problems that result from indoor air pollution might manifest with itchy eyes, runny nose, or a headache.
  • Moderate problems might trigger severe allergic reactions.
  • Stronger health problems might make breathing difficult, as pollutants irritate airways.

Another set of variables exists with individual homes.

  • New homes will have much more volatile organic compound (VOC) gases floating around; we associate these gases with a “new” smell. Newly manufactured building materials and furnishings contain fibers, adhesives, and finishes (paints and stains) that release organic chemicals. Over time, the amount of gas released decreases, but new items off-gas VOCs quickly.
  • Old homes might have more gaps and openings around doors, windows, walls, and ceilings. If you open the walls around windows and doors, you will notice the insulation has turned black since it is filtering particles out of the incoming air.
  • Homes located near dirt roads, major highways, industrial sites, or farmland may contain higher concentrations of airborne particles since the outdoor air also contains higher concentrations of these particles.

Each home will have individual characteristics that affect airborne pollutants and indoor air quality.

Common categories of airborne contaminants include:

  • Radon. An odorless, colorless, radioactive gas found in rocks, soils, and water. Radon migrates from the soil in a crawlspace or through cracks in basement foundations. Breathing radon in high concentrations over a period leads to lung cancer, so consider this a serious issue. The EPA also has guidelines to help homeowners test and mitigate problems with radon.1
  • Various Particles. Indoor air contains many particles, most of which are too small to see unaided. Organic particles from the outside include pollen, mold spores, bacteria, and viruses which tend to be seasonal. Organic particles that originate inside include dust (mostly human skin cells) and dander (pet skin cells)/pet hair. Inorganic particles include dirt disturbed by movement and various industrial/combustion gases. Different filters can remove various particles.
  • Various Gases. VOCs may originate inside or outside the house, resulting from household cleaners and cooking. Normal filters do not trap VOCs. Activated charcoal filters can trap them—the small spaces in the charcoal absorb and hold VOCs.

Care must be taken with natural gas-powered furnaces to ensure that the carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that result from combustion are safely exhausted outdoors and do not enter the home. These gases are odorless, colorless, and hazardous to human health.

Each air pollutant has a technological solution.

  • Radon detectors monitor indoor air and alert homeowners of the problem. Professional mitigation will vent radon outdoors and establish increased monitoring for further protection.
  • If a family member has health issues that require very clean air, consult with an HVAC professional to determine the most efficient air filter for your system. Filters with extremely small openings may overly restrict the airflow and stress the blower motor.

Supportive technology is available to assist with regular filtration. Some filters use static electricity to remove more airborne particles. Ultraviolet lights can be installed inside the supply vents to neutralize organic particles, making them inert. An air filter can easily remove these harmless particles.

  • Regular filters will not remove gaseous contaminants. Activated charcoal filters are commonly found in air purifiers (both room and whole-house-size purifiers). However, activated charcoal is neither a solution for radon, due to its radioactivity nor combustion gas, due to its volume.

Vital maintenance issues that affect indoor air quality include:

  • Complete regular household cleaning to remove dust from surfaces.
  • Changing the air filter regularly, at least every three months.
  • Cleaning the vents regularly, about every 3 to 5 years.
  • Maintain the HVAC system annually.
  • Open windows or doors occasionally to dilute air pollutants, even during winter months.

Need Help Identifying Airborne Pollutants to Improve Indoor Air Quality?

Schedule your indoor air quality standards consultation by calling All Cool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email and let our NATE-certified indoor air quality technicians put their experience to work for you.




How Ventilation Affects Indoor Air Quality Standards

Indoor Air Quality Standards

Raise Your Indoor Air Quality Standards with Proper Ventilation

Yep, it is time to button up and prepare for cold weather. Should someone leave the door open a little too long, they can expect to hear “Shut the door! Were you born in a barn!” We caulk, weatherstrip, and do everything we can to prevent cold drafts during the heating season in an attempt to improve Indoor Air Quality Standards.

One of the consequences of tightly closing the house is a reduction in fresh air and heavy concentrations of common airborne contaminants. Now, don’t panic since your HVAC system is prepared to clean some of these particles. Let’s look at what might be floating around inside your home.

  • Seasonal Organic Matter. During the spring, a lot of flower and tree pollen blows everywhere. They enter the home through every opening and ride inside on bodies, clothes, and shoes. During the summer the common pollen comes from grasses and during the fall, some particularly nasty wildflowers (red weeds) set us to sneezing and dripping. These airborne beauties congregate indoors until they are removed.
  • Local Environmental Particles. Whatever is floating around near your home will make its way into the home. If you live near a large construction or industrial site, they contribute. If you live on a gravel road or near a major highway, they contribute. If you live near livestock, well they contribute also.
  • Manufactured Products. Every flooring system, item of furniture, paint, and stain gives off small amounts of volatile organic gases (VOCs) in various amounts.
  • Living Processes. Everybody, both human and pet, releases skin cells, hair, and other organic material. Cutting and cooking food releases odors (particles), some pleasant and some rank. Even cleaning products contribute to the total number of particles present in indoor air.
  • In commercial and industrial spaces, these particles can be magnified by the products present and the processes unique to the facility.

For the most part, these airborne particles are all quite common and harmless in minute concentrations—the normal indoor situation. However, high concentrations can lead to subtle health and productivity issues, in both residential and commercial locations.

  • An obvious problem stems from seasonal allergies. Often, an airborne particle triggers an allergic reaction to pollen, spores, or dander. This can lead to itchy, watery eyes and runny noses. Mild responses include a sore throat, headache, and body aches.
  • Poor indoor air quality often contributes to breathing problems, such as asthma, heart disease, and breathing illnesses. Tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide are more dangerous examples of air pollutants.

The inventory of indoor air pollutants seems endless, but this is not a scary project. Just enough information has been shared to demonstrate indoor air quality is a serious subject.

The best solution for indoor air pollution has already been installed in homes with central HVAC systems. The V in HVAC stands for ventilation, a process that thoroughly cleans indoor air.

  • With every heating and cooling cycle, the entire air volume is pulled through an air filter five or six times.
  • For that reason, it is important to change the filter regularly. A clogged filter reduces the airflow and makes the system work hard. Plan to change the filter at least once every three months.
  • Servicing and cleaning the rest of the system, including the ductwork, contributes to a cleaner indoor environment.

Your HVAC provider can suggest and install HVAC modifications and stand-alone products that help improve indoor air quality.

  • They can recommend an air filter upgrade, when available. Extremely effective filters tend to reduce airflow, so a technician can recommend the right air filter for your system.
  • Ultraviolet lights are an available modification that can reduce illness due to organic particles, such as pollen and dust mites. The lights are installed inside the ductwork. UV light disrupts the cell walls of organic matter, much like a sunburn does. The life form is neutralized, becoming a dust particle to be collected by the filter.
  • Stand-alone room purifiers use several layers of filtration to remove a wider variety of particles. A layer of activated charcoal can even remove odors.

Let All Cool AC Help Improve Your Indoor Air Quality Standards

Schedule your indoor air quality standards consultation by calling All Cool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email and let our NATE-certified indoor air quality technicians put their experience to work for you.


A Healthy Home Has Great Indoor Air Quality

A Healthy Home Has Great Indoor Air Quality

A Healthy Home Has Great Indoor Air Quality

How to Achieve the Best Indoor Air Quality

With the coming of Fall, a new allergy season approaches; this time, it will be ragweed season. In the Winter, mold spores are prevalent because of the moisture (theoretically anyway). In the Spring, it is tree pollen, and, in the Summer, grass pollen takes over.

Most of us love being outdoors, which makes our homes and vehicles a “clean air” refuge. For that reason, maintaining indoor air quality is very important. Here are a few steps towards improving air quality in your home.


An important aspect of indoor air quality is recirculating the volume of air inside your home. Without circulation, pollutants generated by normal household materials and activities will accumulate. Outdoor air dilutes the amount of these pollutants trapped inside your home.

However, the outdoor air also contains large quantities of pollen, spores, and exhaust; some of these outdoor pollutants cause more severe allergic reactions than the pollutants indoors. This balance is individual with each home but balancing the indoor and outdoor air quality is very important.

Regular Cleaning

That might sound a little odd, but many of the airborne particles that float around in your indoor air end up falling to various surfaces—floors, furniture, bedding, and ceiling fans. Definitely ceiling fans!

Families understand the importance of regular house cleaning but might not associate it with indoor air quality. Every bit of dust, pollen, and dander removed from the floor with a mop or vacuum cleaner is removed from the air permanently. The same is true for grooming, laundry, and dusting.

Air Filters

Every HVAC system is equipped with an air filter; the air pulled from the home is filtered before it is cooled or heated and returned to the home. The filter faithfully removes air particles with each cycle, and, after a few months, the filter can become completely covered. A clogged filter interferes with airflow and the function of both the air conditioner and heater.

Therefore, an important step to improve air quality is to change the air filter regularly—at least every three months. Changing the filter removes a large amount of dust permanently from the home.

Air filters are manufactured to capture a percentage of airborne particles of a given size. It is tempting to purchase an air filter that captures the smallest particles. However, residential HVAC systems aren’t equipped to use those ultra-fine filters, since they create too much air resistance.

Clean Vents

All that dirty air moves through a network of air ducts, connecting the entire home with the central heating and air conditioning system. Some of the particles find a way to connect to the duct walls and cleaning the ducts removes the airborne particles from the home permanently. How often should you clean vents? It is recommended that vents be cleaned every three to five years.

Regular Maintenance

Another cleaning step is to schedule an annual maintenance cleaning by an HVAC technician. This includes cleaning harder-to-reach areas, including the evaporator chamber, drain line, and condenser coil. This inspection goes well beyond mere cleaning and improves the efficient function of your HVAC system.

Further Steps

If a family has specific health needs concerning air quality, further steps might include adding ultraviolet lights to the ductwork to neutralize organic air particles, such as dust mites and mold spores, or a room air purifier to remove pollutants, including odors, from a designated space.

Need Help Achieving Better Indoor Air Quality, We Can Help!

Schedule your free indoor air quality consultation by calling AllCool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email and let our NATE-certified HVAC Maintenance and indoor air quality technicians put their experience to work for you.

10 Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

10 Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

 Indoor Air Quality Tips for Homeowners

With warmer weather on the way, we have opportunities to spend more time in the great outdoors; we take walks and hikes, go to the beach or the mountains, and attend great outdoor events. Being outdoors is a very good escape when we can. We spend 90% of our time indoors and, while we feel quite comfortable, research tells us that the air quality in our workspaces and homes is 2 to 5 times more polluted than the outdoors.1

Common Pollutants

Each space is unique, so it is impossible to name the specific pollutants for your home, but we can begin with some common culprits and develop a plan to improve air quality.

  • Products of combustion. Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, along with other airborne particulates are found in our homes in larger quantities than we imagine. For some homes, tobacco smoke contributes to pollution. Some homes use natural gas for heat, cooking, and heating water. We so enjoy cooking outdoors and we bring a portion of the smoke indoors. All our homes are in close contact with the exhaust from planes, trains, and automobiles.
  • Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that “off gas” from manufactured materials; we often associate the smell with “new.” These chemicals are given off by flooring, paints, and furniture; the process will last for several years.
  • Organic Sources. Another source of airborne particles comes from the organisms that live all around us. Pollen from grass, trees, and wildflowers enters our homes on clothes and shoes. The air is full of other organic materials: mold and mildew spores, bacteria, and viruses are blowing in the wind. We make our own contributions—dust is primarily composed of skin cells we no longer need. Our pets can’t be left out; their “dust contribution is called dander.

What’s to Be Done?

The key to improving indoor air quality is dilution. That means reducing the number of particles that come into a home and giving plenty of means for them to escape.

  1. Don’t “warm up” the car in the garage. Allow some time for the exhaust to leave the garage before opening the door into the house.
  2. Be sure to maintain and use the exhaust systems for appliances that use natural gas or propane. This applies to furnaces, water heaters, and gas stoves.
  3. Keep the windows and doors closed while cooking outdoors or using a firepit.
  4. Your HVAC system is an advanced ventilation system, designed to remove particles with every heating or cooling cycle. To keep it functioning properly, the filter needs to be changed frequently—at least every three months.
  5. Examine your ductwork and clean the ducts as needed; approximately every 3 to 5 years is recommended.
  6. Use fans as needed. That includes bathroom fans during showers and the stovetop fan while cooking. This removes excess moisture, preventing the growth of mold and mildew.
  7. Dilute the indoor pollutants by opening a window approximately once per week for about 15 or 20 minutes. This allows the volume of the entire house to exchange with outside air. During the summer, the optimal time for ventilation is before 10 am or after 9 pm.2
  8. Work with the plants around you. Understand the predominate season for pollen in your immediate area. Remember that rain can increase mold spores. Take shoes off at the door to avoid tracking pollen throughout the home. Indoor plants remove some of the chemical particles but can contribute to organic particles; use houseplants wisely.
  9. Groom pets appropriately to reduce the amount of dander.
  10. Clean regularly. That goes without saying, but when you remove the accumulation of dust, you remove it forever.

Let us help with your Indoor Air Quality Questions!

Schedule your free Indoor Air Quality consultation by calling AllCool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email.

10 Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality




Breathing Better with Indoor Air Quality Tips for Spring

Indoor Air Quality

Spring Indoor Air Quality Tips

Ahhh . . . the welcomed change of season from winter to spring. Warmer spring temperatures mean a lot of outdoor activities and the beginning of the air conditioning season. It also brings the spring pollen season, as trees, flowers, and grass put on their glorious show. While we might love the display, people with asthma and allergies must be very careful.

Allergies can bring headaches, itchy eyes, running nose, coughing, and sneezing. As you might know, pollen follows you indoors, so it seems that the only relief comes at the end of pollen season. If you need to reduce the number of airborne irritants in your home, here are a few tips to help clean your indoor air.

Air pollution, whether indoors or outdoors, comes from many different sources. Dust, pollen, mold spores, secondhand smoke, and a host of other sources contribute to the problem. Eliminating the sources will be key to reducing the number of particles in the air.

Some particles are more hazardous than others; much of the hazard results from personal allergic reactions. We already mentioned pollen, but pet hair/dander, mold spores, and dust mites also are considered harmful allergens to humans. Neutralizing the harmful aspects of these allergens is the next important step to reducing the danger they pose.

Other particles, such as volatile organic compounds and cleanser fumes can pose a long-term health concern. After reducing the sources of allergens and their harmful aspects, removing the particles is the final solution.

Indoor Air Quality: Removing Particles at the Source

  • There are several reasons to seal around doors and windows; keeping particles out of indoor spaces is yet another reason.
  • Every time you enter the home, you carry particles in. A good practice is to remove shoes and outerwear (jackets and sweaters) immediately after entering to prevent spreading pollen and spores.
  • Mold grows well in dark and moist spaces. Keeping relative humidity lower than 50% will hinder a mold infestation. That means using your shower exhaust fans for several minutes after a shower and using your air conditioner during summer humidity.

Indoor Air Quality: Reducing the Hazards

  • The particles that present the greatest allergic reactions are organic in origin; they are still alive and the proteins they contain cause the allergies. Under the right circumstances, some of these organic particles will grow and produce more particles. Installing ultraviolet lights inside your ductwork will damage/burst the cell walls; the inert byproducts will collect on the air filter and can no longer grow.
  • If you keep pets and have allergies to hair and dander, it is important to groom your pet to reduce the volume of hair.

Indoor Air Quality: Rid Your Home of the Particles

  • Your HVAC system has an air filter, designed to remove airborne particles from your home forever. Change the filter regularly—at least every three months.
  • Dust, vacuum, and mop regularly; change bedding and remove unnecessary dust collectors. Good old-fashioned house cleaning removes the particles that have fallen onto surfaces.
  • Some dust will get around the air filter and get deposited in your duct network. Make sure to clean your ductwork every 3 to 5 years.

Indoor Air Quality: Removing Inorganic Particles

The two biggest sources of chemical particles from nonliving sources are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and household cleaners.

  • VOCs are released by most manufactured products: the odor is the “new car” or “new carpet” smell. Materials, paints, and adhesives release large molecules and some of them are hazardous to our health. These products will release very small amounts of VOCs for the life of the product, but the first 30 days are the worst. Make sure to ventilate the spaces with possible VOCs like new furniture, paint, or flooring installations.
  • Some cleansers also release hazardous chemicals, and the odor is often quite obnoxious. Oven cleaners or products with bleach or ammonia are contaminating the indoor air. Reach for more environmentally friendly cleaning solutions to improve the air quality in your home.

Let us help with your Indoor Air Quality questions!

Schedule your free Indoor Air Quality consultation by calling AllCool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email.


Indoor Air Quality: Pet Friendly HVAC System

Indoor Air Quality

Is Your HVAC System Pet Friendly and Provides Good Indoor Air Quality?

We Americans love our pets! Did you know there are approximately 140 million homes and approximately 148 million dogs and cats in the U.S.? For the most part, we take good care of our pets. However, our pets can put stress on the heating and cooling systems. Here are some things you can do to make pets and HVAC systems more compatible and provide good Indoor Air Quality.

Every day, family members lose hair and skin, the source of most of the dust in the home. Some pets shed less than others, but dogs and cats also contribute to the hair and dander in your home. These additional airborne particles move around, collect on surfaces, and get caught in the ventilation system in your home. This additional air pollution can irritate sinuses, trigger asthma or allergies, and cause respiratory problems.

The ventilation portion of your HVAC system, like human lungs, is designed to remove airborne particles and provide improved Indoor Air Quality. The number of airborne particles will need to be removed to reduce the threat of respiratory illnesses. The place to start is the air filter.

Air Filters

With every heating or cooling cycle, the filter is trapping dust and dander, preventing them from recirculating with the next cycle. When too many particles get trapped, the filter clogs and restricts airflow; the result is stress, as was mentioned earlier. Under normal circumstances, the recommendation is to change the filter every three months, but with shedding pets, you might need to change them more often—perhaps every 6 to 8 weeks.

The type of lifter can make a difference. Pleated filters have more surface area than regular flat filters. Filters are given a minimum efficiency reporting value or MERV rating. The rating measures the percentage of particles the filter can remove—higher numbers = more particles removed. A MERV rating between 8 and 11 will remove most hair and dander. Filters with electrostatic properties will also attract hair with ease.

Enhanced Household Cleaning

Does cleaning your house help your HVAC system? Certainly. All that dust, hair, and dander becomes airborne and then gravity takes over. Dust falls everywhere—on floors, furniture, and everything else. Carefully dusting, mopping, and vacuuming will remove a large amount of hair and dander before it gets to the air filter. Reducing clutter removes objects dust can cling to. Make sure to clean the supply vents on the floor and the cold air returns on the walls.

Clean Your Ductwork

Hair and dander that gets past your air filter collect inside of the supply and return ducts that network throughout the house. Since the amount of dust increases with pets, the amount that collects inside the ducts is also larger. Under normal conditions duct cleaning is recommended every 3 to 5 years; with pets, you should schedule a duct cleaning more often—say every three years.

Schedule HVAC Service

To ensure your entire system stays clean, it is important to complete preventative maintenance inspections regularly; an annual visit is recommended. Hair and dander that gets beyond the air filter can also enter the electrical control and the evaporator chamber. Dust decreases the energy efficiency of your system, so it is important to clean it away.

Speaking of schedules, remember your pet when you program your thermostat. A programmable or Smart thermostat is often used to save money by altering the temperature setting. While this might save some money, it will also put stress on pets.

Let us help with your Indoor Air Quality questions!

Schedule your free Indoor Air Quality consultation by calling AllCool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email.

Indoor Air Quality

3 Steps to Better Indoor Air Quality

3 Steps to Better Indoor Air Quality

One of the changes that resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic is a major interest in improving indoor air quality. If people were spending 90% of their time indoors, everyone would benefit from improved indoor air quality. If we face an unseen, airborne virus, how can we remove the virus to avoid the disease it causes? The sale of air quality monitoring and air cleaning technology has grown exponentially, up 800% since 2015.

Indoor Pollutant Sources. The building material of each home often contributes to indoor air quality. Older homes might contain harmful substances, such as asbestos or lead. Generally, these products are inert and do not become airborne unless disturbed during renovation. Newly manufactured items, including carpet and paint, release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), usually in the form of a gas.

Human activity also contributes pollutants to indoor air; just breathing adds CO2. The skin and hair of family members and pets add dust and dander. Cooking, smoking, cleaning, and lighting candles add gases to the indoor mixture of air. If you cook, heat water, and heat the air with natural gas or propane, the combustion contributes CO to the pollutant level.

Outdoor Pollutant Sources. The airborne particles in outdoor air are much more dilute since they move around a lot. The level of pollutants varies according to location and season. Organic particles include pollen, mold and mildew spores, and mites—microscopic insects that feed on organic dust particles. Pests, including both rodent and insect varieties, can contribute to indoor air pollution.

Let’s be clear; every home will contain some of these pollutants, but no home will contain all of these pollutants. It is important to first determine which pollutant category(categories) is the most troublesome in your living space.

Steps to Cleaner Indoor Air

1 Monitor Indoor Air Quality.

Do you have an indoor air quality (IAQ) problem? What type of pollutants contributes the most? Monitoring the air quality is the only way to define any IAQ issues. Most indoor spaces already utilize some IAQ monitors; smoke and CO detectors are examples. Examples of further monitoring devices include:

  • Single Pollutant Monitors. If a space is known or suspected of high concentrations of a particular pollutant, find a sensor that measures the known particulate and monitors its presence continuously.
  • Multi-pollutant Monitors. These sensors measure the concentration of several pollutants at once. They can be set to monitor particulates by size—10 microns to 2.5 microns, as well as monitor the presence of gases—VOCs or formaldehyde for example.
  • Monitors are available for both commercial and residential spaces.

2 Source Identification.

When a pollutant is identified, the next step is to find the source of the pollutant; does it originate from an outdoor or an indoor source? There might be a hidden problem that monitoring exposes.

3 Source control.

Identifying the pollutant type leads to finding steps to reduce or eliminate the source of the pollutant. If particulate size suggests a problem with pollen, possible sources include open windows, a leaky building envelope, or shoes/coats that carry pollen into a space.

IAQ Solutions. The type and concentration of pollutant determine the necessary step(s) needed to mitigate the situation.

  • Air Filters. Filters remove airborne particles, but cannot remove gaseous pollutants. Filters are semi-permeable barriers, with small holes that let air through but capture other items. They are rated by the size of the hole by a MERV rating—the larger the MERV number the smaller the hole. The best air filters are high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, that capture 99% of solid airborne particles.

Consult with your HVAC technician to determine the appropriate filter for your system. Most residential HVAC systems cannot utilize HEPA filters. Filters will need to be changed periodically, often every three months.

  • Ultraviolet Light(UV). When you are in direct sunlight it is in your best interest to apply sunblock to your skin. The UV light from the sun damages the cell walls of your exposed skin, a condition we call sunburn. The same principle is used by adding UV light to the HVAC ductwork; the light damages the cell walls of bacteria, viruses, pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. The inert cells are readily captured by the air filter or collected during vacuuming/dusting.
  • Air Purifiers. Both small, portable, and large-scale air purifiers are available for any size of space. Air purifiers draw indoor air through a multi-phase filtration system, including an activated charcoal filter. Charcoal contains small pockets that attract, collect, and keep gaseous odors and pollutants. Often, these filters can be manually cleaned, so maintenance is required. Neither air filters nor UV light can remove gases from the air.
  • Bipolar Ionization (BPI). BPI is installed inside the ductwork of an HVAC system. Ions are atoms or molecules that have at least one too many or one too few electrons compared to a more elemental form of the same substance. PBI creates both positive and negative oxygen molecules and releases them into an indoor space. The benefit is these ions readily attach to airborne particles and change their chemical formulas. Ions attach to VOCs and formaldehyde, creating inert organic compounds that become dust. They attach to organic material, such as bacteria and pollen, damaging cell walls. They also are attracted to other oxygen molecules, exchanging electrons and forming stable oxygen molecules.

Continuous follow-up air quality monitoring will help you keep apprised of the IAQ so that solution methods can be re-implemented in a timely manner.

Have questions about Indoor Air Quality? We can help!

Schedule your free Indoor Air Quality consultation by calling AllCool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email.

3 Steps to Better Indoor Air Quality

How VOCs Affect Indoor Air Quality

How VOCs Affect Indoor Air Quality

How VOCs Affect Indoor Air Quality

An indoor air quality issue that is hard to grasp and even harder to mitigate is the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. Some VOCs have known carcinogens. Many more have a negative effect on human health and well-being. Let’s uncover the Indoor Air Quality problems and some solutions.

What are VOCs?

Organic compounds include molecules that contain carbon. Life on earth is based on carbon, both flora, and fauna; organic compounds are related to or derived from living organisms. Volatile means that something will easily evaporate. Water is volatile, but not organic. Perfume is both volatile and organic, so is included in the list of VOCs. However, not all VOCs are as harmless to your Indoor Air Quality, such as perfume and cooking odor.

More harmful VOCs commonly found in your home result from:

  • Off-gassing from manufactured materials, such as carpet and furniture. The fabric fibers’ finishes, and adhesives give off residual gases for many years.
  • Common cleaners and disinfectants
  • Insect repellants and herbicides
  • Office equipment, such as markers and printer ink

Some VOCs are more serious than others; formaldehyde, for instance, is a known carcinogen and has off-gases from carpet and flooring for several years.

The Problem with VOCs and Your Indoor Air Quality

Volatile organic compounds can also be found in nature and not all VOCs are harmful. However, the problem arises in our homes when VOCs are concentrated indoors. We build our homes with products that off-gas, use cleaning products in our homes that are volatile, and close ourselves up inside for comfort and convenience. According to the EPA, the level of VOCs inside most homes is 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor air.

VOCs are at their highest concentration shortly after construction is completed; your house has a “new” smell, which is not very healthy. A major remodeling will also increase the level of VOCs. Perhaps your garage is a storage space for several compounds that are evaporating, and the VOCs enter your home every time the door opens.

VOCs tend to irritate tissue upon contact, but we rarely recognize the contact with the VOC gas, and our nose gets used to the odor. Potential health issues include:

  • Unexplained headaches, loss of balance, or nausea
  • Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat
  • VOCs can trigger asthma attacks or allergic reactions
  • In more serious cases, VOCs can damage the liver, and central nervous system, and cause cancer

Practical Steps to Reduce VOC exposure

Remember that we are surrounded by VOCs, both indoors and outdoors, so the goal is to reduce your exposure. Every building material, including unfinished wood, will produce VOCs. So here are a few steps toward reducing the concentration of VOCs in your home.

  • Research products with fewer VOCs. When you remodel, paint, or replace the flooring, do a little research. When you choose common cleaners and disinfectants, find products that give off fewer VOCs. When you need to use an adhesive, paint, or furniture finish, buy only the amount needed for a project to avoid a half-empty can being stored in the basement for years. Remove unused portions of solvents and dispose of them properly.
  • Open doors and windows regularly to reduce the concentration of VOCs inside your home. Turn off the HVAC (if necessary) and open up the house for 30 minutes or so. This vents the VOC outside and brings in the fresh air. Some homes have heat recovery air exchangers that bring in outside air for better ventilation without energy loss.
  • Consider an air purifier with an activated charcoal filter. Regular air filters cannot capture odors or gases, but the activated charcoal portion of the filter has tiny openings that trap gases. Research the available air purifiers and choose the product that is right for you. Place the air purifier(s) strategically to remove VOCs in high concentrations or in bedrooms as family members sleep.
  • Indoor Air Quality testing devices are available for home use if you are curious. If you suspect a problem or if family members have health issues that put them at greater risk, professional testing is available.

Have Indoor Air Quality Issues?

Schedule your Indoor Air Quality assessment by calling AllCool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email.

How VOCs Affect Indoor Air Quality

Cigarettes and Vaping Harm Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality

How Cigarettes and Vaping Harm Your Indoor Air Quality

One of the results of an international pandemic is an increase in concern about indoor air quality (IAQ), especially as it relates to indoor spaces in multi-unit residential spaces. People are concerned about how the Indoor Air Quality of adjacent units might affect their units.

A telltale indicator is the odor of tobacco smoke in a non-smoking unit. If tobacco smoke is migrating between apartments, what other airborne particles (including viruses) might also be migrating?

The request for environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) testing has increased tremendously over the last few years. ETS is an air quality test to determine the presence of indoor cigarette smoke; the greatest number of calls come from renters and condo owners, or from landlords of renters suspected of violating a no-smoking lease agreement. Why are people concerned with second-hand cigarette smoke?

  • The smoke that results from burning tobacco contains at least 4,000 chemical substances. According to the EPA, at least 40 of these substances are known to cause cancer in humans and many more substances are known to be strong irritants. Second-hand smoke also includes the smoke released from the lungs of smokers after it has been inhaled.
  • Second-hand smoke is a serious health issue (EPA). Approximately 3,000 nonsmokers die each year from lung cancer. “Passive smoking is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age annually, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year.”Second-hand smoke elevates the risk of asthma attacks in children with existing asthma conditions. “Between 200,000 and 1,000,000 asthmatic children have their condition made worse by exposure to secondhand smoke. Passive smoking may also cause thousands of non-asthmatic children to develop the condition each year.” EPA

ETS testing tests air samples for the presence of nicotine and other products that result from burning tobacco.

Mitigation of ETS

Landlords can determine their options when they discover the presence of tobacco smoke in no-smoking apartment units. Apartment or condo dwellers might consider measures to prevent the migration of smoke into their apartments.

  • Each apartment should have independent HVAC ducts; the smoke should not be migrating between apartment or condo units through the HVAC vents.
  • Examine electrical and plumbing penetrations between shared walls with other apartments; seal these penetrations to limit the amount of air migrating through openings. Don’t forget floor or ceiling penetrations.
  • Create positive air pressure (bringing outside air into the apartment) and use exhaust fans sparingly. Exhaust fans pull air into the apartment as it removes existing air. This can pull air from the apartments with shared walls.

What about vaping or e-cigarettes?

One thing is clear—e-cigarettes do not produce the same number of chemical byproducts as regular cigarettes. But that is about all that is clear.

  • E-cigarettes use a small electric charge to atomize nicotine instead of a flame and combustion.
  • Various brands use different flavoring additives—no two brands are alike. Some brands use additives for different effects, including erectile dysfunction and weight loss drugs.
  • The vapor that results from e-cigarette use contains chemical compounds, including carcinogens that are different from traditional cigarette smoke. Health professionals have been studying traditional cigarette smoke since 1920, measuring the various compounds and their effects on the human body. E-cigarettes were introduced in the mid-2000s; the measurement and study has only just begun.
  • Currently, e-cigarette manufacturing is poorly regulated; the health effects of inhaling various additives are far from being known.

If you smell the flavored vapor from e-cigarettes, you should take the same measures as with traditional cigarettes.

Have Problems with Indoor Air Quality?

Schedule your upcoming Indoor Air Quality assessment appointment by calling AllCool AC & Heating at 281-238-9292 or contact us via email.

Indoor Air Quality