Category: Air Quality
We say it all the time – I’m going outside for some fresh air or, open the window to let the fresh air in. But is that air fresh? It is a question with many answers and we are going to take a look at some of them.
First, what is fresh air? As defined by the Google Oxford Languages dictionary it is “the air outside as opposed to that within a room or other enclosed space.” Great so as long as we are outside the air is fresh – case closed, thanks for reading. Well we think it is a little more involved than that. We know that the air inside a home or office can be 5 times more contaminated than outside air so does that confirm that outside air is fresh?
Here is where it gets a little complicated. What is in the outside air? If you live in a city with a lot of air pollution from cars, businesses and so forth, it is hard to call that fresh. Now let’s go the opposite direction to a rural area. That air has to be fresh – right? While it might not have the man-made contaminates, there could be a host of other contaminates like pollen, dust, and more.
Great, so we know that the air inside is bad and the air outside might not be any better, what do we do? Here is where we take a step back, relax and realize we can’t control everything so let’s concentrate on what we can. The reason the air inside our homes can be so bad is because it takes everything and concentrates it. Even the “polluted” outside air is going to have less concentration of contaminates than the indoor air (unless you are standing right next to a car tailpipe or under a building exhaust system). You have contaminates you generate (cooking, showering, breathing, and just living) plus contaminates coming in from the outside. Without a mitigation strategy they build up and linger inside the home. A very easy solution is a properly operating ventilation system. Using exhaust fans in the bathrooms, a range hood in the kitchen and exhaust fans in any other areas where contaminates build up such as laundry and craft rooms. The ventilation system will take the bad air out but we still need to deal with the air coming in.
The air coming into the home will dilute the remaining contaminates that the exhaust fans do not get. The key is controlling the air coming into the home. Opening a window or door will definitely bring air in but you will not have any control over it. On days where the pollutants such as pollen, dust and so forth are high, you might not want to open the windows. Utilizing what is known as a mechanical solution puts the control into your hands. A mechanical solution is just a fancy term for a fan that brings air into the home. Some HVAC systems have an intake that pulls air in from the outside, which is then filtered as it goes through the system. Standard HVAC filters capture items like dust, dander, pollen, and larger contaminates. Upgraded filters can capture items like viruses. Read our “The Air Filter Debate – Is Too Much Too Much” blog post for more information about air filters. For HVAC systems that do not have an outdoor intake function or need more air, utilizing an air intake system with a filter is a great way to control the amount of air coming in as well as ensuring it is as “clean” as possible.
So where does this leave us? Is fresh air fresh? Maybe instead of using a generic term like fresh air we should be asking if the air is the best we can do? Having a good strategy in place for your home such as proper ventilation as well as air intake will allow you the peace of mind that you are doing everything you can to provide the best indoor air quality you can.
For information about fresh air or exhaust fan solutions utilize the links at the top of this page.