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Assessing Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality or IAQ is a term that has certainly gained a lot of popularity over the course of the past few years. While COVID has propelled the conversation forward it is much more far-reaching than a pandemic. Assessing Indoor Air Quality is something we should all have at the forefront of our minds in all areas of our daily living. Study after study is showing that increased IAQ boosts health, productivity and promotes better living. The challenge is finding a way of assessing Indoor Air Quality.

Generally with bad IAQ we are dealing with contaminates that are either invisible or barely visible such as gases, viruses, spores, dust and so forth. This makes it difficult to walk into a room and make an accurate assessment of the IAQ. What we are able to do is access some of the attributes of the room. Here are a few things to look for:

  1. Is there a good source of ventilation? This could be natural (air blowing into the area) or mechanical (some type of exhaust fan or fresh air intake fan). For instance, are there windows open with fresh air coming into the area? Do you feel a “breeze” dispersing the air? Can you see exhaust fans in operation?
  2. Does it feel or smell stagnant? Does it feel like odors are lingering in the area? In a restaurant there are going to be smells – hopefully good ones. The smells we are looking for are more like yesterday’s food smells that aren’t as pleasant. Smells like when you have left the dirty laundry sitting in the room for a little too long. This is an indication that there is not enough ventilation or fresh air being brought in.
  3. Are there signs of mold or mildew? This is probably the easiest one to identify because it is for the most part visible. Generally you will see it in bathrooms but also check around windows and in kitchens. Proper ventilation along with a good cleaning routine can help eliminate it.
  4. Occupancy and room size. This is where we get into spreading viruses (not just COVID). Assess the space. Is it a large open space with only a few people in it? Are you jammed into a space like a can of sardines? More and more studies are confirming proper ventilation is a key for fighting the spread of viruses. Why this is effective is they are removed from the area with the exhaust fan then also diluted by the fresh are coming in. This is why there is very little transmission of viruses outdoors. Why occupancy and room size is important is it changes your odds. Think of the old run down smoky bar you see in the movies. There is a haze of smoke (no ventilation) and the place is packed with people (reason there is so much smoke). If you take the same bar and there is only one or two people, now the amount of smoke is a fraction of what it is when it is full. In this scenario, the smoke represents viruses. The more people the more everyone is exhaling, the more chance that something is being spread.
  5. CO2 monitors. These are becoming a popular way to assess indoor air quality. When we breathe we omit CO2 so logic tells us if we are in a space with high levels of CO2 there is a higher chance of something being spread. This goes hand-in-hand with what we just discussed with occupancy and room size. It will take a lot longer for a large room to fill with CO2 than a smaller one.

So where do we go with all of this? We all have different comfort levels of assessing risks in our lives. As a consumer or guest we want to educate you on things you can look out for when entering a building or home and then make the determination that best suits you. As a business owner or if you are opening your home up to guests, we hope to press you to consider what you are doing to ensure your indoor air quality is good and you are providing a better, healthier experience for your guests. If there is one thing we would say is the most important, it is making sure your space is properly ventilated. We know, the first thing you are going to say is of course we would say that – we are a ventilation company! We will not deny that but when you stop and think about it, so much can be mitigated by proper ventilation and something like opening a window my be all you need to do.

We also want to take a moment to say, just because an area might have factors of bad indoor air quality, this does NOT mean you will automatically get sick if you walk into it. You can’t be infected with a virus that isn’t present. Sound funny to say but it is true. This is all about determining your comfort level within a space.

For more information about assessing indoor air quality and proper ventilation please read though our previous posts on the subject. Also visit our exhaust fan, range hood and fresh air sections of the Air King website to learn about solutions we offer.

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