Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): 7 Minutes of BS

October 18, 2017

 

Three-pronged solution to indoor pollution: Isolate, eliminate, and ventilate.

 

For today's topic, we have Jim Shelton, North America Vice President, #PanasonicIAQ,  as he breaks down the nuts and bolts of cleaning the air inside a building and keeping that way.

 

What it is:

Indoor Air Quality
ˈindôr​ | ​er​ |ˈkwälədē​

"Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants."

—EPA, Introduction to IAQ

"A lot of people refer to it as IAQ, but indoor air quality, it's really referring to undesirable air in a home or in a building. And that undesirable air could be made up of particles, particulate matter, moisture, high humidity levels that are gonna end up causing mold, and mildew, and it could be made up of off-gassing from the different materials that we put into a home or a building.”

 

How it works:

Things that contain volatile organic compounds produce off-gassing.

Volatile organic compounds sound like angry little farts, but really, they are farty little farts. They release gas steadily until they have no more gas to release.

“We get into things that we bring into the house, whether it be new carpeting, new furniture, new drapes, paint, cleaners, hairspray.”

VOCs, moisture, particles, and dust can combine to pollute the air inside a building.

"The EPA considers poor indoor air quality as the fourth biggest environmental threat in the United States.

A lot of it has to do with us being the occupant. Dust, as you mentioned, is a contaminant, and they've done studies that a six-room home, in a single year, can have up to 40 pounds of dust that gets generated with 45 different chemicals inside the dust. ”

 

Why it matters:

OK, let’s just ponder that for a minute, but not too long because when you realize how much forty pounds of dust must be, 

[retching sound]

And you know what’s inside that dust, tight? It is not dust bunnies and unicorns, it is dust mites, and other creepy critters.

“Why it matters, is really from an industry point of view, our customers, our homeowners really need healthy homes. “

It’s not good to kill your customers—that’s like rule number 1 of business management—but it’s also not good to make them sick.

“You look at the different reports that's out there, pointing out that asthma rates are increasing, the leading serious chronic illness of children,”

IAQ isn’t some green building conspiracy; it is merely the result of fine-tuning the process of improving buildings. Building tight was followed quickly by ventilating right. 

Because tight houses without ventilation have bad air inside.

“And in fact, the air outside can be five to 10 times healthier than the air that's actually in the homes, and then it gets even worse than that. 

There are studies that show that women who work in the home have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than women that work outside the home, because the air outside the home is much better than the air that's in the residential homes…"

 

How to do it right:

Moisture in the air, particles you can’t see and farty little compounds may seem difficult to build a battle plan against, but fortunately, a lot of engineers have already done the math for the rest of us. 

They target individual problem-causing rooms as well as the whole house. There are standards for that

“...like ASHRAE 62.2, that are very specific about how much air needs to be removed out of the bathroom, 50 CFMs minimum, to make sure that moisture is getting out of the bathroom, and then also whatever whole house strategy you have, they're very specific about the air changes per hour.

And that to meet the code, you need to be within 100% of that airflow that was designed for the home and 120%.

ASHRAE 62.2 covers the ventilation portion; there are also two other parts of the IAQ puzzle:

  • elimination and
  • isolation

Don’t store open gas cans in your basement. That’s elimination. If you must store solvents in the building, put them in an airtight container, in a ventilated closet or cabinet. That’s isolation.

Ventilate is more complicated; you have to ask yourself, 

“...what is the best strategy for the home that you're building, and for the clientele that you have, the homeowners, and probably most importantly, what the climate zone that you're in. ”

Humid places can be disastrous if the ventilation system is not right. 

But there is an easy button.

“Most experts will tell you that a balanced strategy, where you're exhausting undesirable air out of the house, bringing in the fresh, cleaner air, is probably the best strategy.

One of the biggest problems I see right now, that no one's really addressing or talking about, is that as an industry, we're not testing the ventilation products that we are putting into homes. 

Thing is, a lot of the codes require testing. ASHRAE 62.2 version 2010 requires testing, 'cause at ASHRAE, the engineers all realized that it doesn't really matter what it says on paper, it really matters if we find out how the system is performing once installed. ”

A lot of things that can go wrong in a ventilation system between the pollutant and the place you want to put the pollutant. The fan, being the first place. Just because the box says it can do something, you need to make sure that after the ducts are connected, it can actually move the air you want it to.

The numbers on the box come from testing done in a laboratory environment... 

"... in a laboratory environment with a very short piece of straight, rigid duct. It really was not representative of any typical installation.

So that's the first issue, is that you really can't look at what the fans say on the box, they really need to be tested, and look in the install performance.”

And that depends on the ducting. You can sabotage a well-meaning fan with dumb ducting. 

“Contractors using flex duct, and maybe somebody even steps on it, and then the other issue is the terminations. 

Up until recently, there were no terminations—whether it be a wall cap, or roof cap, or a soffit vent cap—that were even rated, or tested by the Home Ventilating Institute. 

So a lot of times, you could get a good fan into a pretty good insulation, and have a terrible performing wall cap, or roof cap, and greatly reduce the overall performance of the fan. It's really those three things. 

It's the termination, the installation, and then the actual fan that you buy yourself.

Termination, installation, and ventilation not only define a system for moving air, they pretty accurately describe our show, Seven Minutes of BS.

We’d like to thank #PanasonicIAQ for lending an expert to the cause, and encourage you—if you like this podcast—to please give it a thumbs up and leave a positive review on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Google Play

Remember, you get paid for what you do and what you know. There are only 24 hours in a day, but information is infinite.

—7 Minutes of BS is a Production of the SGC Horizon Media Network

 

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