Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality
January • 2014
Air Conditioning Systems and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can lead to a variety of problems. People with allergies might experience coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms when they breath contaminated air. Over a longer period of time, poor IAQ can cause significant health problems, including persistent headaches, rapid heartbeat, hearing loss, and muscle pain.
When you have a reliably maintained, up-to-date HVAC system, you usually don't have to worry about poor air quality. Unfortunately, many business owners think that all HVAC systems can keep indoor air pure. That's a big mistake that can lead to health concerns, lower productivity, and even law suits.
An effective HVAC system can only maintain high IAQ when it has the proper amount of air coming in from the outside. If the air intake does not bring enough air in to replace air leaving the building, then air will leak in from other places, such as doors, windows, and cracks.
Air quality can also go down when the outdoor air damper does not function correctly. The damper controls how much air enters the HVAC system, which uses filters to clean the air. When the damper makes a mistake, either because it has not been properly installed or because it has suffered damage, indoor air quality will almost certainly decline.
Air duct placement can affect your indoor air quality. Not all HVAC companies think ahead when installing HVAC systems. In far too many cases, one can find a system's exhaust air vent located downwind from its out outdoor air intake.
Exhaust air should remove unwanted air from the building. That air often includes contaminants that leak into the building. If the exhaust air vent is located near the outdoor air intake, then those pollutants get sent right back into the building. The incoming air gets filtered, but the filtration system can only do so much before it becomes overwhelmed by pollutants.
If you have poorly placed intake and exhaust vents, then you can significantly improve your system's effectiveness and efficiency by having a professional move them to different locations.
Most HVAC systems use humidifiers and dehumidifiers to maintain a healthy moisture level in the air. Not all equipment, however, does the job well. Steam humidifiers that use treat boiled water, for instance, can pump chemicals into the air. Replacing these humidifiers with clean steam devices improves air quality. Clean steam devices also need less maintenance than other humidifiers.
Dehumidifiers can cause similar problems when they don't work well. Extremely dry air can cause breathing irritation. For some people, it can even cause bloody noses. If your dehumidifier leaches too much moisture from the air, then it could impact the health of some occupants.
Regardless of what HVAC system you have, you have to maintain it to enjoy excellent air quality. Maintenance requires several steps, including:
If an owner does not have these maintenance tasks performed regularly, then the amount of pollutants in the building will usually go up. Unpleasant, fishy odors can also develop, making unpleasant spaces for work or recreation.