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Static Electricity: What Those Shocks Are Telling You About Indoor Air Quality

girl with static hair

Zap, zap, zap. Does anyone like static electricity?

Your locks are flying about like Einstein’s on an especially bad hair day.

Every time you touch a doorknob, you get zinged again.

Your clothes won’t leave you alone...literally.

But static electricity has a more important message to deliver than just wardrobe malfunctions or tactile discomfort. When static electricity is on the rise inside your space, this also means humidity is on the decline.

Along with drier indoor air comes a whole host of indoor air quality issues that can affect your health and home safety. Find out what to do to stop the shocks and keep your family safe.

What Dry Indoor Air Can Do to Your Health

Though winter storms may sometimes temporarily elevate humidity levels, for the most part, winter here in Canada tends to fluctuate between dry, drier and driest.

Everything gets parched both inside and outside. When you combine overly dry air with constant indoor heating, this becomes a recipe for all sorts of health symptoms.

These are among the most common patient-reported symptoms associated with very dry air:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Irritated nasal passages and respiratory symptoms
  • Increase in seasonal bronchitis, colds and flu
  • Dry, cracked, irritated skin
  • Eczema and acne breakouts
  • Constant chills no matter how much you turn your thermostat up
  • Increase in allergies and asthma symptoms

What Dry Indoor Air Can Do to Your Home

It is bad enough to suffer through yet another super-dry winter with chapped lips, cracked skin, chronic cough and constant chills.

But what can make you feel even worse is when your home starts to show the telltale signs of being too dry inside too.

If you have natural wood furnishings and flooring, these are often the first to succumb to cracking as the wood dries out and becomes increasingly fragile.

Musical instruments will become harder to keep in tune.

Paper-based artwork, books and furnishings can also start to grow brittle and warp.

But the most concerning issue by far is the static electricity we mentioned here earlier. That uncomfortable zap actually represents a potent micro-electric charge – one that is perfectly capable of igniting any nearby flammable matter under the right set of circumstances.

So when you start getting zapped repeatedly in your home, it’s time to take corrective action to avoid a home fire risk.

Optimal Humidity Range for Human and Home Health

In the winter, sometimes humidity levels can drop to as low as 15 or even 10 percent. This is far below the optimal U.S. Department of Energy-recommended indoor humidity range of 30 to 50 percent.

When your indoor air stays between 30 and 50 percent humidity on a consistent, year-round basis, the majority of the health and home safety issues we just highlighted will decrease or cease.

You will feel better. Your home will look better. You won’t have to worry nearly so much about a seasonal home fire.

How a Whole-Home Humidifier Can Help

Installing a central (whole home) humidifier may sound like a daunting prospect, but in fact it is far easier than most homeowners think.

In fact, other than selecting the model of central humidifier you want, we will do all the heavy lifting – literally!

There are two types of whole-home humidification systems: bypass flow-through humidifiers and steam humidifiers.

Bypass flow-through humidifier

A central (whole home) bypass flow-through humidifier connects to your home’s central HVAC system and works with your furnace and air conditioner to continually balance the humidity levels inside your home.

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Yes, Your Indoor Air Is Toxic: How to Fix It Fast

plug in air freshener

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently shocked the world (not to mention all of North America) when it released the latest indoor air quality report.

Perhaps it should have been called “the lack of indoor air quality.”

The average home and workplace today is operating with an air supply that may be up to five times more toxic than the air just outside.

In this post, find out what is polluting your indoor air and how to fix it fast.

Questions That Confirm Indoor Air Toxicity

Unfortunately, just sniffing your indoor air usually isn’t enough to rule out toxicity.

The booming business of so-called air fresheners hasn’t done any of us any favours in this department – in fact, many of those products are contributing to the toxic chemicals in our indoor air!

These questions can help you identify some of the major culprits that are toxifying your indoor air.

  • Does anyone in your home or workplace smoke indoors?

  • Do you use a fireplace or wood stove?

  • Do you have shedding pets?

  • Do you see condensation on windows when it is cold outside?

  • Does your indoor air dry out in winter?

  • Does your home or office ever smell "off" for no specific reason?

  • Do your doorknobs shock you when you touch them?

  • Does your hair refuse to cooperate and your clothing cling to you?

  • Do you use ready-made cleaning products, air fresheners, incense or candles?

  • Does anyone in your family battle persistent allergies, asthma, colds or sinus issues?

Answering “yes” to just one of these questions is proof that you have toxic elements inside your home or workplace.

This is never good news, but there is a lot you can do to clean up your indoor air and protect your family's and/or your employees' health.

The 3 Keys to Indoor Air Quality

We realize that the rapidly evolving world of indoor air quality aids can be a confusing place.

There are so many types of purification and filtration devices, appliances to add back humidity and to extract humidity, ventilation aids to push air in and out of a space, and filters, filters, filters galore.

What really works? What do you actually need? What is the bottom line when it comes to cleaning up your indoor air quickly and completely?

There are just three components to improving indoor air quality in any size space. Those three components are source control, ventilation and elimination.

Source control

The term “source control” refers to what is permitted inside your space in the first place. For example, if somebody you live or work with smokes or vapes, this means that from now on, they need to do that outdoors.

Things get slightly more complicated if you have a furry pet that tends to shed. You can’t simply banish your loved one to the outdoors, especially in winter! But you can take steps to drastically limit the fur and dander that ends up covering pretty much everything.

When it comes to using so-called air fresheners, the best approach is to stop using them. You can substitute natural essential oils, boiling cinnamon and cloves on the stove, houseplants and natural citrus, all of which keep your indoor air smelling sweet without introducing any chemicals at all.

Switching from pre-made cleaners to all-natural cleaning supplies like baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar further removes toxic chemicals from your indoor air.

Ventilation

While source control can drastically reduce the sheer volume as well as variety of airborne toxins coming into your home or workplace, it isn’t able to do a thing about sending the toxins already trapped inside back outside again.

For this, you first need a professional indoor duct cleaning service to remove all trapped toxins from your ductwork system. Once that is done, you need ventilation to ensure a steady supply of fresh air.

For ventilation, we recommend the heat recovery ventilator – an appliance so useful it is now mandatory in all new Toronto-area construction.

HRVs, as they are known, can work with your existing central (ducted) HVAC system. They “breathe” for your home, sending out stale, toxic air and drawing in fresh, oxygenated air.

HRVs also help balance indoor air humidity, which is especially essential in winter, and conserve heat energy to lower your winter heat bills.

Elimination

While ensuring a steady supply of incoming fresh air from outside gives you more oxygen, it doesn’t mean that fresh air is toxin-free.

Quite the opposite – the EPA is very clear that our indoor air is up to five times more toxic than our outside air, meaning our outdoor air today is plenty toxic all on its own.

Add to that the impossibility of eliminating every new toxin that you (or your pet) generate from inside your space and what you end up with is a problem that is still only partially solved.

What you need is the twin team of indoor air filtration and ultraviolet purification - both are needed because they perform two separate tasks.

HEPA indoor air filtration system can trap solid particulate toxins as tiny as 1/100th of a single human hair. HEPA systems are the same air filters used in hospitals and research laboratories today.

In contrast, an ultraviolet air purification system can neutralize gaseous and liquid toxins, changing their molecular structure to render them harmless.

With the combined might of these indoor air quality appliances, you can do more than imagine a world where you, your kids and your workers breathe clean, healthy air - you can actually have it!

Get in Touch

Are you ready to upgrade your indoor air? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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Chronically Sick Child? Indoor Air Quality Could Be to Blame!

sick child

When your child wakes up sick, you know it is only a matter of time before you do too. Not only are you worried about your child’s health, but now you are feeling lousy on top of it.

On average, children do tend to get sick more frequently because their immune systems are still developing. Even ill, they continue sharing. What this amounts to is that the smaller, younger people in your household are a virus’s best friend.

But while you can expect a certain amount and regularity of illness in your child’s life, chronic coughs, respiratory infections, headaches, asthma or allergy attacks may be a sign of a more urgent problem—with your indoor air quality.

How can you know for sure what is causing your child’s repeated illness? Read on to find out!

How Bad Is the Indoor Air Pollution Problem?

Indoor air toxicity is on the rise throughout North America and it is outpacing outdoor air toxicity scores as well.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that our indoor air is up to five times more toxic than our outdoor air.

Recent data from the EPA also tells us that most children, like most adults, spend up to 90 percent of the average day indoors.

This basically means your child is spending the vast majority of their immune-building years dealing with an overtaxed immune system.

While you may not be able to exert as much control as you like over the quality of the indoor air at your children’s school, the one place where you can have total control is at home.

How to Know Indoor Air Quality May Be Making Your Child Sick

To get a sense of how much toxic indoor air may be influencing your child’s overall state of health, it helps to learn more about the most common symptoms of exposure to toxic air.

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation

  • Headache

  • Sore throat

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Allergies

  • Asthma attacks

  • Recurrent pneumonia

  • Respiratory infection

  • Chronic cough

  • Confusion/mental fogginess

  • Neurological disorders

  • Heart problems

  • Fluid buildup in the inner ear

  • Fever

  • Shortness of breath/wheezing

  • Hives

  • Immune problems

  • Muscle twitches

  • Seizures

  • Later-life cancer

For expectant parents, the risks are potentially much higher.

With exposure to common indoor air toxins comes an increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), low birth weights, slow growth rates, neurological abnormalities, lung abnormalities, developmental delays and cognitive impairments, including lower IQ.

What Is In Toxic Indoor Air?

The types of toxins your child breathes in can definitely correlate to the specific health symptoms they are experiencing.

But answering the specific question of which toxins your child may be breathing in can get quite complex very quickly. There are more than 4,000 known toxins present in just a puff of secondhand tobacco smoke!

These are the top seven major categories of airborne toxins your child is likely to encounter.

1. Tobacco

Secondhand tobacco smoke is one of the most common and damaging of all airborne toxins. Nitrogen oxide, or NO, is one of the best-known of the more than 4,000 known toxins contained in secondhand smoke.

2. VOCs

Volatile organic compounds are found in many products today, from furniture and furnishings to home cleaners and crafts adhesives. Perhaps the best-known VOC is formaldehyde.

3. Allergens

Common allergens include pet dander, pollen, mould and mildew, bacteria, viral germs, insects and dust mites.

4. Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide, CO, is called the “silent killer.” This by-product of incomplete combustion is odourless and colourless.

5. Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring byproduct of decaying uranium, a naturally occurring metal with radioactive properties.

6. Lead

Lead is a potent poison that can cause permanent damage even in small amounts.

7. Pesticide

Pesticides, herbicides and insecticides are poisonous to people as well as insects.

How to Find Out Which Toxins Are in Your Indoor Air

Cleaning up your indoor air begins with figuring out what is toxifying your indoor air. For this, what you need is a simple, quiet, 72-hour professional indoor air quality test.

The test will take air samples from key areas throughout your home and collate the results by toxin and percentage. Tested areas including common living areas, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, garage, attic and the surrounding yard.

At the end of the test period you will receive a detailed full-color report as well as air quality cleanup recommendations.

Indoor Air Quality Cleanup ASAP

If you already know your indoor air is toxic (for example, because someone in your household smokes regularly), you may not need to do the full 72-hour indoor air quality test to know additional details.

In this case, you can skip ahead to the remedies. This is what we recommend doing, in this order, to permanently repair your indoor air quality.

1. Have your indoor air ducts professionally cleaned and sanitized

If your home has central HVAC, air duct cleaning is a must. Without removing the toxins trapped inside your air ducts, the rest of the remedies are at best a band-aid against the larger problem.

2. Install a HEPA air filtration system

HEPA is still used in hospitals and laboratories today, but now there are residential units as well. HEPA filtration systems filter out tiny toxins as small as 1/100th the width of a single human hair.

3. Add a U.V. air purification system

Ultraviolet light purification is the most powerful deterrent to airborne liquid and gaseous toxins.

4. Install a heat recovery ventilator

The heat recovery ventilator will keep your indoor humidity balanced, ensure constant ventilation and recycle heat to lower your energy bills.

Get in Touch

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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