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Employers: Lower Your Overhead Costs By Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

office workers at table

Running a business sure can be expensive! High-quality employees don’t come cheap and neither does their workspace. Every day, you have bills to pay, from utilities to supplies to vendors.

But alongside the oh-so-obvious costs of doing business, there are the less visible costs that can arise when your workforce isn’t feeling at their best.

When a worker begins to feel unwell, several things can occur simultaneously. Customer service quality decreases, as does overall quality of work output. Work team morale can suffer when any team member is compromised.

In time, there may be missed work hours for doctor visits and then whole sick days. And sick days can turn into extended absences that then become requests for long-term disability.

According to the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), many symptoms that send workers to the doctor each week can be linked to poor workplace indoor air quality.

Is the air at work making your employees sick? Find out what you need to know to improve worker health and lower your office overhead costs!

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome

“Sick building syndrome” is one of several health conditions that can arise from poor indoor air quality at work. The key to diagnosing it is workers linking symptoms specifically to time spent at their workplace and that cannot be linked to any other pre-existing unrelated health condition.

Symptoms of sick building syndrome can include:

  • Headache

  • Respiratory irritation

  • Mental fog

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

  • Breathing problems

  • Congestion

  • Coughing or sneezing

  • Sore throat

  • Allergic reactions

As you can see, these symptoms could indicate any number of different known health conditions, of which poor indoor air quality would typically be the least likely suspect!

But when more than one worker experiences similar symptoms that become more pronounced while at work and abate after several hours away from the work site, poor indoor air quality then becomes a prime suspect.

Common Indoor Air Quality Contaminants

Poor indoor air quality, like the symptoms it inspires, can be tough to track down. After all, odour isn’t always a reliable indicator that the air inside your workplace is contaminated with toxins.

Sometimes, your indoor air may smell just fine (especially if you routinely use air freshening products for odour control) but still be unsafe to breathe.

Take carbon monoxide, for instance. This invisible, odourless gas is poisonous to the point at which it has earned the nickname “the silent killer.” By the time carbon monoxide has built up in the indoor air to a toxic level, it is often too late to do anything about it.

Common indoor air quality contaminants in the workplace can include:

  • Formaldehyde from pressed-wood office furnishings

  • Vapours from glues, adhesives, pesticides, solvents, disinfectants, etc.

  • Ozone from office equipment.

  • Tobacco by-products from smoking, vaping

  • Mould and mildew

  • Bacteria, fungi, microbial particulate matter

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cleaning products, air fresheners, etc.

  • Dust and dust mites

  • Pollen

  • Buildup of carbon dioxide from poor air circulation and ventilation

Other Contributors to Poor Workplace Indoor Air Quality

Sick building syndrome is typically not something that occurs overnight (although there is an issue called Building Related Illness that can be caused by a sudden build-up of chemicals, bacteria or fungal matter).

Buildings become “sick” over time due to a combination of unaddressed issues. A heavy concentration of indoor air contaminants can be one facet.

Another related issue is often poor indoor air circulation and ventilation. Inadequate filtration and air purification can also contribute to ever-worsening air quality in the workplace and the symptoms this can provoke.

When there is a continual influx of airborne toxins and no pathway to purify them, filter them out of the air, bring in new fresh air and circulate that air throughout the space, this is when the building itself can become toxic to its workers.

Four Steps to Improving Indoor Air Quality in the Workplace

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we spend all day every day helping commercial and residential clients clean and purify the air they breathe.

When sick building syndrome or one of its precursors is suspected, we recommend this four-step process to diagnose and treat the issue and then prevent it from recurring.

Step 1: Conduct an indoor air quality test

The indoor air quality test takes 72 hours. The equipment is unobtrusive and silent. During the test period, air samples are collected continuously and analyzed for content. At test conclusion, you receive a full-color analysis of your indoor air content with improvement recommendations.

Step 2: Schedule an indoor air duct cleaning                

If you have heard the phrase “out with the old, in with the new,” this perfectly describes the necessary step of performing an indoor air duct cleaning. It is necessary to vacuum out trapped toxins, which can range from dust and insect debris to VOCs and bacteria, to prevent these toxins from re-entering your indoor air supply the next time your HVAC system cycles on.

Step 3: Install a filtration or purification system

You can choose between a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration system or an ultraviolet purification system. Both are experts at their job—stopping airborne toxins from entering your indoor air supply.

Step 4: Install a heat recovery ventilation system

Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) ensures a steady incoming stream of fresh, pure air that circulates throughout your workspace. A heat recovery ventilator also ensures your indoor air humidity levels are balanced to avoid buildup of mildew and mould.

Get in Touch

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2070 to start the process of purifying your indoor air at work!

Plus, right now and through June 30, 2018, save 10 percent on all indoor air duct cleaning packages!

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Why 2018 Is the Year of the Heat Recovery Ventilator

condensation on window

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average adult takes anywhere from 17,000 to 23,000 breaths per day.

In a perfect world, this would mean each one of those breaths would draw clean, pure, highly oxygenated air into your body.

But as we know, the world we live in today is far from perfect when it comes to overall air quality. While we have long been aware of the various hazards in our outdoor air, recent research from the U.S. EPA indicates our indoor air is even worse!

In fact, the average Canadian’s indoor air is anywhere from two to five times more toxic than the air outside.

As more Canadians learn about the hazards of indoor air, the demand for indoor air quality aids increases steadily. This year, the reigning star is a previously little-known appliance called the heat recovery ventilator!

What Is a Heat Recovery Ventilator?

A heat recovery ventilator, or HRV for short, is a system that provides balanced indoor air ventilation.

What this means is that not only is your indoor air supply refreshed on a schedule that meets or exceeds the current standards for residential ventilation, but it also provides two other critical services: balancing indoor air humidity levels and energy-efficient air warming and cooling.

Balancing indoor air humidity levels

The first is to keep your indoor humidity levels balanced. Current standards aim for keeping indoor air humidity between 30 and 50 percent year-round.

Where your indoor humidity levels fall naturally along this spectrum can depend on several factors, including the age of your home, how weather-tight it is and your own preferences (some people like more or less humid air).

Both old and new-construction homes present special challenges in balancing indoor air humidity levels. With older homes, air leaks can cause humidity to leak in or out depending on what is going on seasonally outside. With newer homes, airtight construction can prevent trapped humidity from leaving—or keep indoor air much drier than you might like.

Energy efficient air warming and cooling

A heat recovery ventilator actually takes its name from the ability to recycle heat energy to warm up or cool down your indoor air. A heat recovery ventilator has two completely separate airstreams—one outgoing and one incoming. The two never meet but are connected by a heat exchanger core.

The HRV uses this core to transfer heat energy where it is needed (or not needed). In winter, heat is extracted from the stale outgoing air and used to warm up the fresh incoming air. In summer, the opposite process occurs. This keeps your indoor air temperature-balanced just by using the heat energy that is already present in the air.

Even better, this process of heat extraction and transfer (exchange) keeps your monthly utility bills lower! A heat recovery ventilator is one of the most energy-efficient indoor air quality appliances available for homeowners today.

Heat Recovery Ventilators Required in New Construction Homes

As of 2017, Ontario has made installation of heat recovery ventilators an energy-efficient requirement for all new-construction homes.

This new ordinance (SB-12) is part of an overall push to boost energy efficiency by more than 15 percent in coming years.

More important, the addition of enhanced ventilation can help solve a problem called “tight home” that is unique to new-construction homes.

These homes are so airtight that there are no small cracks or fissures to allow trapped indoor moisture to escape naturally. Without an escape route, the moisture quickly turns into mildew and mould, an ongoing issue the installation of heat recovery ventilators is designed to correct.

How a Heat Recovery Ventilator Can Purify Your Indoor Air

There is a lot to love about heat recovery ventilators! Check out this list of benefits!

  • These nifty, compact, aftermarket appliances can be retrofitted to work with any central ducted HVAC system.

  • They naturally balance the humidity in your indoor air year-round, which means you no longer have to juggle a system of humidifiers and dehumidifiers to stay healthy seasonally and keep your home mould- and mildew-free.

  • They use two different airstreams to conduct stale air out of your home and draw fresh air into your home, meaning you never risk mixing old toxins in with your new air supply.

  • They use existing airborne heat to keep your indoor air temperate and comfortable, saving you money on utility bills in the process.

  • They are easy to install and can be up and running within a day.

  • Most important, the addition of a heat recovery ventilator to your home HVAC system ensures you will always have a steady supply of clean, fresh, oxygenated air to breathe! This is especially helpful if anyone in your family suffers from allergies, asthma or chronic respiratory distress.

Does Your Home Need Better Ventilation?

Unless your home currently uses a heat recovery ventilator, chances are high that you could use some extra ventilation assistance.

However, there are some telltale signs your situation may be more urgent. One of the most obvious signs is if you notice a stale or musty odour in your home that seems to persist no matter how often you clean or use air fresheners. This is an indication you may have moisture building up inside your home.

Another clear sign is when the insides of your windows persistently develop condensation, especially in extreme temperatures (hot or cold).

Chronic respiratory issues, such as watery eyes, runny or clogged nose, headaches, mental fogginess, sore throat or coughing can also signal the presence of stale toxic air inside your home.

Give Us a Call

Is this the year you add a heat recovery ventilator to your HVAC system? Give us a call at 905-544-2470 to schedule your complimentary consultation!

P.S. Right now through June 30, 2018, save 10 percent on any indoor air duct cleaning system!

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Ready to De-Clutter for Better Indoor Air Quality? Here’s What to Do!

organized but toxic garage shelf

For many of us, the concept of “spring cleaning” relates directly to spraying and scrubbing and dusting and vacuuming until our space looks spotless.

In more recent years, however, health research has revealed that we may actually be making our indoor air quality worse by doing this type of vigorous home or workplace cleansing!

As well, often spring cleaning addresses only visible areas of high traffic—the very areas that are likely to need more cleaning again in the near future. What about those over-full closets, dusty attics, dim-lit garages and musty coat closets?

We often think these areas can wait. But these are the same areas that can make a just-cleaned house still smell dank and mouldy.

There are a few different issues at work here: the types of cleaning supplies you use, where you clean and whether you take the time to de-clutter periodically. In this article, we address each one in turn to show you quick and easy ways to clean up your indoor air along with your home or office.

Do Away With Toxic Cleaning Products

According to Environmental Defence Canada (EDC), we spend nearly $650 million dollars on household cleaning products each year. This adds up to around $250 per household just for cleaning supplies.

Clearly, we are not a nation that shies away from cleaning chores. But are these efforts doing us more harm than good? According to EDC, the answer depends on what kind of cleaning supplies we are purchasing.

To evaluate different cleaning products and their air quality impact, the EDC conducted a study of 14 homes. The measurement used was volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Participating homeowners who cleaned with conventional (non-eco-friendly or “green”) cleaners had 120 percent more VOC-based air pollution after cleaning than before they started.

Participating homeowners who cleaned using eco-friendly or green products had an average increase of about 35 percent air pollution.

Participating homeowners who cleaned using “green” products (products that claimed to be eco-friendly but did not list out their ingredients to support their claims) showed an increase of 100 percent VOCs.

Clearly, even commercial eco-friendly cleaning products can have a negative impact on the quality of your indoor air.

What can you do about this? You have to clean, right? The EDC recommends using simple homemade cleaners that have no hidden chemical ingredients (or ingredients with such complex names you have to look up them on the internet).

You can take a look at our blog post “The Best Natural Home Cleaners to Maintain Good Air Quality” to learn easy, cheap and effective recipes for household cleaning products and air fresheners that will not toxify your indoor air.

It’s Time to Clean Up Your Out-of-Sight Spaces

If you had to take a guess, what room in your home do you think is the most toxic in terms of air quality?

According to a recent program featured on CTV News Canada, that room might well be the garage. The reason is simple: that is where your car emits exhaust and all of the airborne VOCs that go with it—and especially a compound called benzene. Even after you turn off your vehicle, it will continue to emit these VOCs as it sits there.

If your home has an attached garage, your risks of these VOCs entering your home air supply and toxifying it rise threefold.

But your vehicle is not the only reason your garage tends to be the most toxic room. The garage is also one of the most common places where people store home renovation, repair, craft and other DIY supplies. Many of these supplies, including adhesives, solvents, primers, paints, insulation and other hazards are highly toxic in their own right and can release more VOCs into your air when used.

Not only does this make cleaning out your garage and any relevant workshop spaces a priority, but it also means you need to wear appropriate eye and respiratory protection when you clean.

By removing unused, outdated or empty cans and packages and disposing of them safely, you reduce the chances of additional passive VOC emissions entering the air inside your garage and your home.

You also have the chance to inspect the floors, walls and ceiling around where these items used to sit to be sure you don’t have mildew and mould colonies, flammable debris, water leaks, rust and other dangers lurking.

Other key areas where your cleaning attention is needed include utility closets, seasonal coat and shoe closets, cleaning supplies cabinets and closets, attics and any other rarely used space where less-needed items are tucked away and forgotten about.

De-Clutter to Keep Your Indoor Air Clean

As you are cleaning these potentially dangerous yet less-remembered areas of your home or office space, this is also the optimal time to de-clutter for easier inspection and cleaning in the future.

We acknowledge this can be particularly tough to do if you are more of a “collector,” but the benefit to your overall health is significant enough that it’s worth making the effort.

Every stored item will in time collect a layer of dust. Some will begin to leak or degrade. Others will simply expire, rendering them useless anyway. Semi-perishables such as seasonal clothing and sports gear can start to grow mildew or mould, causing them to become unsafe to wear or use.

While it sure is tempting to keep the things into which you have previously invested your time and finances, once these things have been impacted by time, wear and tear, seasonal humidity and/or ingredients breakdown, they are really no longer safe or healthy for you anyway.

Get in Touch

Right now, you can save 10 percent on all three of our indoor air duct cleaning packages—just in time for your spring cleaning needs!

To learn more or schedule your indoor air quality consultation, give us a call at 1-905-544-2470 or visit us online

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