42% of the U.S. labor force is now working from home fulltime, and correspondingly, considerations for healthy homes have greatly increased. How can we help occupants have a better experience in a living space? How can we improve the health of our own living spaces? As we spend up to 90% of our time indoors, indoor air quality (IAQ) has become more of an interest to consumers. The following items are the main causes of poor indoor air quality:
- Gas Stoves: Indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor air as homes with gas stoves have 50-400% higher nitrogen dioxide emissions than homes with electric stoves. In addition to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), natural gas ranges may also emit carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (HCHO) which are all respiratory irritants and can be toxic to humans and pets. Due to these effects, many people are switching their systems towards efficient electric appliances powered by clean energy.
– Turn on stove exhaust ventilation when cooking.
– Switch to electric power or induction cook tops.
- Gas Water Heater: A gas water heater that isn’t properly taken care of may also release carbon monoxide (CO), which is a deadly, odorless gas that is virtually undetectable. If exhaust gases are escaping a water heater, CO could be pulled into the living space.
– Install CO sensors in spaces next to gas burning appliances and in all bedrooms closer to the doors.
– Provide both heating and cooling by using a heat pump water heater. A heat pump water heater (HPWH) is an electric water heater that typically costs more than a natural gas water heater, but if you’re constructing a new building and you don’t need natural gas, you don’t have to pay for all that gas infrastructure and metering to be installed. They are very energy efficient and friendly with Title 24 and ASHRAE compliance.
- Household Cleaning Products: Most of us have found ourselves cleaning and sanitizing surfaces now more than ever due to COVID-19. These products can produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can react with ozone to create formaldehyde and ultrafine particles, both of which can harm human health.
– Utilize cleaning products or brands that have less off-gassing.
– Have a dedicated storage area that contains exhaust ventilation to help remove unwanted odors and VOCs.
- Inadequate Ventilation: As winter is upon us, most U.S. residences are keeping their windows closed and the heater on. In turn, this causes the common household contaminants listed above to increase in concentration. Going all-electric is typically not a feasible option for existing home owners; however, increasing ventilation is.
Increasing ventilation can be as easy as opening a window or turning on your range hood while cooking on the stove top. Having bathroom fans run continuously or intermittently on a timer will help move old, stale air out of the home. Ensure gas-fired heating appliances are sealed and power-vented systems installed to remove products of incomplete combustion.
Having a healthy home is a top priority for health and wellness. Proper ventilation and/or electric appliances can directly improve occupant health within breathing zones. VCA Green performs Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing for all contaminants listed above. For more information on how to optimize the air quality in your new or existing building, contact Moe Fakih below.
Contributing Writer: Devin Green, Operations Coordinator
Moe Fakih, Principal