VOC, IAQ, PM2.5, LEED, HEPA

There are many letters that we know tie into air quality, but, can we decipher them and how does this knowledge help the homes occupants?

This is something I get asked a lot and I want to make sure I am explaining it well.  I think, is this really what it means?  Are we testing enough items?  We all are affected by air quality as we lead our lives.  Our daily habits adapt to those changes.  This is an interesting time, we are becoming fascinated with how technology helps us manage ourselves.  The equipment to measure air quality has evolved, too.  Something two years ago that seemed daunting and hard to decode is now an app on your smartphone.  You can wear something on your wrist that lets you know if you had a peaceful sleep.

I am confident in saying though, that the correlation between pollutants and bar graphs and pie charts mean something in theory however, in practice, having a physical test done helps determine the outside baseline and there is a much better possibility of pinpointing the sources of readings with a physical test.

Why the home?  Because we are home inspectors and…Canadians spend upwards of 90% of our time indoors.

Here is a snapshot of what I talk about when I talk about air quality.

Girl at window

What is Air Quality (or IAQ)?

Air Quality is an abstract term measuring several indicators:

Dust Levels – measured in µg/m3, for differently sized particles i.e: PM2.5

Volatile Organic Compound Gases (VOCs) – Formaldehyde, Benzene, Acetone – measured in ppm (parts per million)

CO2 – measured in ppm

Activities such as moving into a new home, renovating, and bringing in new furniture can expose occupants to abnormally high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  VOCs are gases released from materials such as paint, glues, pressed wood products and subflooring.  High VOC’s are responsible for contributing to asthma, fatigue, etc.  Environment Canada is working to reduce VOC emissions resulting from the use of solvents in consumer and commercial products. Household cleaners, personal care products, paints, and printing inks have VOC’s.

Indoor Air Quality can become a concern if:

  • Building mechanical systems are not operating properly.
  • Hazardous materials are used in or near a property.
  • An event affecting the integrity of a building, such as a flood.

Particles in the PM2.5 size range are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with breathing and heart problems, children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM2.5.

The key factors that affect your air quality: chemicals (VOCs), dust (PM2.5), carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity and mould. We can develop an Indoor Air Quality action plan to meet your unique needs. We have the training and the equipment to test the key factors that affect air quality.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED provides a point system to score green building design and construction.

HEPA (high-energy particulate arresting)  Using, or containing a filter usually designed to remove 99.97% of airborne particles measuring 0.3 microns or greater in diameter passing through it.

This topic has inspired me to write on a Springtime concern which ALSO affects indoor air!  Moisture Intrusion.

Look for my next post right back here: www.homeinspectionkelowna.ca

The topics may seem dry (terrible paradox) but building science is everywhere and it means so much to us that we are a resource to our clients.

I liked this bit of great information from CMHC.

https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/grho/moaiprre/moaiprre_001.cfm