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The Truth About Air Leakage and Indoor Air Quality (and How to Fix It)

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Until recently, concerns about indoor air quality were mere peeps in comparison with the trumpeting warnings about outdoor air quality.

Unfortunately, all of that is changing rapidly today. Unbeknown to most people, a number of factors are conspiring to create truly toxic conditions inside our homes and workplaces. One of the most potent is air infiltration, or air leakage.

In this timely blog post, learn about the hidden link between indoor air quality and air leakage and find out how to fix it – fast!

What Is Air Infiltration?

Air infiltration is the technical term the U.S. Department of Energy gives to what happens when air freely exits or enters a space.

Either way, there is cross-contamination between the air inside and out. And either way, that cross-contamination is bad news for any air quality controls you may have set up.

Air infiltration brings more than just concerns about airborne toxins, however.

Seasonal humidity can also be a concern, especially as air leaks inside your home or workplace. An increase in humidity can in turn lead to a threat of mould and mildew as well as the rapid growth of bacteria and other microbial matter inside your space.

To add insult to injury, air infiltration also wastes energy and drives up your annual cooling and heating bills.

The Link Between Air Leakage and Indoor Air Quality

It is no secret that the quality of our outdoor air continues to decline globally. This is especially the case right here in parts of Ontario, including in Hamilton, St. Catharines and surrounding areas.

Benzene leaking into the outdoor air is increasing the risk for cancer and a whole host of concerning health symptoms (we recently devoted a whole blog post to this topic).

What is still a rather well-kept secret, however, is a corresponding decline in our indoor air quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a report indicating the air quality inside our homes and workplaces is up to five times more toxic than our outdoor air.

Even worse, a recent report on Canada’s national camping habits indicate that as many as 30 percent of Canadians spend less than five minutes per day outdoors.

This means we now spend most of our time indoors, breathing our increasingly toxic indoor air. So it is little wonder that there is a corresponding increase in a wide variety of respiratory diseases across Canada.

Each of us on our own can make only minimal impact on the quality of our outside air. But we can have a huge impact on the quality of our indoor air, once we understand what is causing the toxicity and how to fix it.

5 Steps to Fix Toxic Indoor Air

These are the five steps we recommend if you are concerned about air leakage and toxic indoor air.

1. Seal, caulk, weatherstrip, insulate

Unless you live and work in a brand-new airtight home or workplace, air leakage in both directions is likely a reality. So the first step is to keep outdoor air from further polluting your indoor air.

To do this, you need to identify air leakage and plug the leaks. Nothing else you do with indoor air quality will have a lasting impact without this first step.

2. Clean and sanitize your indoor air ducts

Any trapped toxins that are not already circulating in your indoor air are likely trapped in your air duct system. These toxins may have been percolating inside your ducts for months or even years.

Mould, mildew, insect debris, pollen, bacteria, microbes, VOCs, pet dander – even if you don’t have pets yourself, you can be sure a previous tenant’s pet dander is still in there— all aggravate allergies and toxify your indoor air.

Having your air ducts professionally cleaned and sanitized removes all those trapped toxins at once (for bonus points, be sure to schedule a dryer vent cleaning at the same time).

3. Install a heat recovery ventilator

Now that you have solved your air leakage issues and removed all trapped toxins from your air ducts and dryer traps, it is time to give your home or workspace a new set of lungs – mechanical lungs.

A heat recovery ventilator is now a required addition to all new construction in the Toronto area. All homes and workplaces need ventilation, but the old-fashioned kind is both impractical and a waste of energy.

Heat recovery ventilators isolate incoming and outgoing air streams, balance indoor humidity levels and even recycle otherwise wasted heat energy.

4. Add a HEPA filtration system

There are some new HVAC systems that use HEPA-grade filters (HEPA stands for "high efficiency particulate air"). But most residential systems are not equipped to cope with these dense and ultra-efficient filters.

So the best way to add hospital and laboratory-grade air filtration to your home or workplace is to install an aftermarket residential or workplace HEPA filtration system that can work with any type of central HVAC system. Portable models also exist for non-ducted spaces.

These systems trap microbial toxins as small as 1/100th of a human hair.

5. Add an ultraviolet air purification system

The final step to securing your indoor air quality for the future is to add an ultraviolet air purifier. Like HEPA filtration systems, UV air purifiers can be retrofitted to work with any HVAC system, either central or ductless.

These systems are able to target and neutralize both airborne gaseous and liquid toxins before they can cause any harm.

Get in Touch

Do you need assistance with detoxifying your indoor air at home or at work? We can help!

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

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