CleanAir Solutions Blog

September 2019

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

homeowner caulking window

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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A Simple 3-Step Process to Clean & Purify Your Indoor Air

air filter diagram

If you have ever found yourself avoiding news about declining air quality worldwide, you are in good company.

It is never easy to hear about escalating pollution that impacts not just the outside air we share but also the air inside our homes, workplaces and schools.

However, there is one bright light we can choose to focus on, which is that you have control over the quality of your indoor air.

In this post, learn about a simple three-step process you can use to clean and detoxify your indoor air.

3 Steps to Better Indoor Air Quality

The U.S. EPA recently released their general findings on the best way to clean up toxic indoor air using this 3-step process.

1. Control the source

The first step is to improve your understanding of how pollution enters your indoor air.

In other words, the more you know about the specific toxins in your space, the more you can tailor a specific solution to the specific air quality problem.

Many of today’s indoor air pollution sources are ones we introduce ourselves. Some are easier to control than others (for example, if you use a wood stove or indoor fireplace, even the best exhaust vent may not remove all combustion by-products).

Other introduced toxins come from cleaning supplies, perfume or body spray, craft adhesives or glues, off-gassing from new furnishings, use of tobacco products and similar sources.

Two basic methods exist to determine what is polluting your indoor air. 

The first and most obvious method is simple observation. You can look around your home and notice what is going on.

Does someone in your family smoke or vape inside the home? Do you light candles or use air fresheners? Can you pronounce any of the ingredients listed on that bottle of sanitizer spray? Do your hobbies require using glues, adhesives, paints or other chemicals?

The second method is air testing.

A variety of air tests exist depending on what types of toxins you are looking for. For example, some geographic areas have a known higher output of radon gas than others.

There are also some tests that can comprehensively evaluate your indoor air and give you one summarized list of indoor air pollutants.

For stress, time, cost, accuracy and other reasons, we typically recommend going with option B and just doing a single comprehensive indoor air quality test.

This 72-hour silent indoor air quality test takes continuous air samples in different areas throughout your home.

At the end of the test period, you receive a full-color printed report summarizing findings and providing guidance for remediation efforts.

2. Improve ventilation

The second key step to improving indoor air quality is to make sure that it does not become overly stale.

As the air inside your home becomes stale, it is leached of oxygen. At the same time, pollution levels rise because no fresh air is coming in.

In older-construction homes, natural ventilation typically occurs by way of small cracks and leaks present in the structure itself.

However, since concerns about diminishing natural resources began to increase and we entered the era of airtight construction, this is no longer the case with new-construction buildings. These buildings can be so airtight, no fresh air comes in at all!

There are two main strategies for improving indoor ventilation in any space, whether it’s old or a new build.

The first is as old as the days before air conditioning – simply open a window or door. However, this is really only feasible during more temperate weather, and even then may not be ideal for a variety of reasons.

The second strategy is to add mechanical ventilation – a set of artificial lungs, if you will. The heat recovery ventilator, or HRV, is the tool of choice for this job. Because of new airtight construction standards, HRV installation is now a requirement to meet building codes in Toronto.

Heat recovery ventilators not only ensure a steady supply of fresh incoming air, but they also send excess humidity packing and recycle heat energy to lower your energy bills.

3. Clean the air

The third key step to improving your indoor air quality is to actively clean your indoor air. A variety of tools exist to accomplish this job.

Here is where your indoor air quality test results really come in handy. By understanding the predominant pollution sources inside your space, you can better match the air cleaners you select to the tasks at hand.

We recommend two air cleaners because each one addresses a different set of indoor air pollution sources.

The HEPA filtration system addresses solid (particulate) pollutants. These airborne micro-particles are often impossible to see with the naked eye, but you can certainly feel their presence with a variety of health symptoms that range from watery eyes to brain fog.

Modern HEPA filtration systems can be retrofitted to work with any style of HVAC, including ducted and ductless systems.

HEPA filters can easily catch and trap floating particulates that are as small as 1/100th of a single human hair!

The ultraviolet air purification system, in contrast, addresses gaseous and liquid pollutants. Like solid micro-particles, you likely won’t ever see these airborne pollutants, but you will feel them in your scratchy throat and aching head.

UV air purification systems make use of a synthetic version of the sun’s own ultraviolet light – in this case, the strongest band of UV light, UV-C. Applying UV-C to floating gaseous or liquid particles changes their structure and renders them harmless.

Here again, today’s advanced ultraviolet air purifiers can be retrofitted to work with any style of HVAC, including ducted and ductless.

Get in Touch

Do you need guidance as you begin the process of improving your indoor air quality at home, work or school? We can help!

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

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How a Humidifier Can Improve Indoor Air Quality This Winter

happy family around sofa

Indoor air quality is a hot topic these days.

Thanks to a recent shocking study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we now know that our indoor air is up to five times more toxic than the air outside.

Unfortunately, mainstream media is often more preoccupied with issuing dire health warnings than they are with offering practical, actionable steps to fix the problem.

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we spend our days implementing indoor air quality solutions for worried homeowners and business owners. In this post, learn why humidity is essential to winter indoor air quality and how to use this tool to stay healthy all winter.

Humidity: A Missing Link to Winter IAQ

Most homeowners today know that the optimal indoor humidity balance ranges from 30 to 50 percent.

During the hot, humid summer season, when outdoor humidity can easily hit 60 percent or higher, it is pretty simple to achieve this balance just by turning on your air conditioner.

But in the winter, unless a storm blows through on a warmer day, the air outside is usually quite dry. When the humidity content in the air drops below 30 percent, everything starts to dry out.

For your home, overly dry air can take the form of cracked wood furnishings, creaking hardwoods and uncomfortable and dangerous static electricity discharge. For you, overly dry air makes your sensitive respiratory tissues less well able to fight off health threats like cold and flu germs.

Without at least 30 percent humidity (and ideally more) content in your indoor air, life can get pretty uncomfortable during the winter.

Strategies to Add Back Humidity to Your Indoor Air in Winter

Happily, inadequate indoor air moisture content is a relatively easy problem to fix. These are some of our customers’ favorite humidity remedies.

Reseal your home with caulk, weather stripping and insulation

Air leaks are common in older homes. While these leaks can provide an arguably handy source of natural ventilation, they are not without their challenges.

In winter, air leaks will inevitably drive up your heating bill and help indoor humidity escape outside.

The only way to keep your hard-won humidity indoors is to seal up those leaks and cracks. Here, pay special attention to sealing around any pipes or vents that exit to the outdoors. Also seal around electrical outlet covers, windows and doors.

Add houseplants in strategic places

Houseplants are indoor air quality wonders. They can do so much for your indoor air and will beautify your space as well.

Because houseplants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, they are our perfect air quality counterpart in an indoor setting.

Plus, houseplants can be a great natural source of indoor air humidity. While you do need to be more careful not to over-water your houseplants in winter, you can give them a daily misting as well as watering when needed and they will steadily emit this humidity back into your air.

Place bowls of water near heating vents

Placing a bowl of water near a heating vent works similarly to simply opening the bathroom door after taking a warm bath or shower and letting the steam out.

As the warm air emerges from the air register and passes over the bowl of water, it will pick up some of the moisture from the water in the bowl and add it back to your ambient air supply.

Use a portable or whole-home humidifier

By far the best and most consistent way to ensure adequate indoor air humidity levels in winter is to make use of a humidifier. This piece of modern technology makes balancing indoor air humidity a simple matter.

For older homes and commercial buildings in particular, some areas may be naturally more or less humid. In these cases, a portable humidifier may do the trick to add some extra humidity to overly dry rooms.

For airtight new construction homes or any space where winter indoor air is consistently too dry, a whole-home humidifier is the perfect solution.

This humidifier can be retrofitted to work with any central (ducted) HVAC system to keep indoor air humidity levels consistent throughout your home or workplace.

Two Main Types of Whole-Home Humidifiers: Flow-Through and Steam

There are two main types of whole-home humidification systems. Both types of humidifiers have many advantages for spaces of different sizes and seasonal or year-round humidity needs.

Flow-through humidifier

A flow-through humidification system connects directly to your furnace and uses your air ducts to distribute humidity along with warmed air.

There are two types of flow-through humidifiers: bypass and fan-powered. The bypass system requires a small addition of a bypass duct that conveys the water through the furnace first and then flows the humidity out into the air ducts and into your space. The bypass system is quieter to operate but can be less energy efficient.

The standard (fan-powered) humidifier substitutes a fan for the bypass duct to achieve the same result. A power humidifier can be noisier to operate but is generally more energy efficient.

Both types of flow-through humidifiers are ideal for small to medium-sized homes or workspaces that have forced-air heating systems installed.

Steam humidifier

A steam humidifier is often recommended in large homes and commercial spaces since they have dedicated power and their own separate heating element to generate the humidity.

Steam humidifiers can be more costly to install and run but are very energy-efficient and effective. This is also a particularly wise choice if you are living in new airtight construction or you do not have a forced-air heating system installed in your home.

Get in Touch

Right now and through September 30, 2019, save $25 on the humidifier of your choice and get two FREE humidifier pads with your purchase! Just complete this simple online form to claim your special offer!

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

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