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How to Measure Air Quality at Home

The air inside homes is usually much more polluted than the outdoor air. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is caused by a number of issues, such as poor ventilation and the use of certain products indoors. In our most recent blog, the HVAC technicians at Grove Heating & Cooling discuss how to measure the air quality at home to determine if your household has a problem. We’ll also explain how you can make improvements for better health and comfort.

How to Measure Air Quality in Your Home

An easy solution to measure your home’s air quality is to purchase an indoor air quality monitor. There are several devices available on the market that sit inside your home and detect high levels of allergens, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and humidity.

Using an indoor air quality monitor is easy. Plug the device in or turn it on and allow it to run at all times. Depending on the model you choose, your device may display various readings in real time or use an indicator to show overall indoor air quality. 

Another method for measuring air quality is to conduct a mold test. Most indoor air quality monitors do not detect mold so a separate test is needed. Purchase a mold test and use it as directed.

Typically, the test will consist of a petri dish that contains an agent that allows mold to grow. The dish is left out in the home for a specified time period and then incubated for a set time to see if mold grows. If the test produces mold, there is mold in the indoor air. Nearly all homes have some amount of mold in the air, but tests can indicate if you need to look for sources of mold spores growing in your home.

Radon tests also help measure air quality at home. Purchase a test kit to determine short-term radon levels as well as long-term radon levels that stay in your home for longer periods of time.

Install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors to alert your family to the presence of carbon monoxide in the home. Make sure to install them correctly and use at least one detector for each floor of your home. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can lead to serious health problems and even death.

Air Quality Measurements

Standards only exist for certain indoor air quality contaminants, making it difficult to determine what is good and what is bad. When you’re measuring the air quality in your home, look for the following:

  • Indoor radon levels should be no more than outdoor radon levels, which are normally 0.4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). This is not always achievable, so it is recommended that levels of radon be at or below 2 pCi/L.
  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends ozone exposure should not be higher than 0.1 ppm (parts per million).
  • NIOSH recommends carbon monoxide exposure be limited to no more than 35 ppm per day.
  • Particulate matter, such as dust and allergen particles, should be at or below 25 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) for particles at or below 2.5 μg in size.
  • Formaldehyde levels should be below 0.1 ppm over 8 hours or 0.3 ppm for short-term exposure.
  • Indoor relative humidity levels should be kept between 30 to 50 percent.

Recognizing Poor Indoor Air Quality

Measuring air quality is difficult because we cannot see these pollutants in most cases. In addition to measuring devices, watch for these signs that indicate poor air quality:

  • Moisture on windows and surfaces
  • Visible mildew or mold growth
  • Surfaces become dirty and dusty quickly, despite cleaning
  • Increased allergy symptoms
  • Symptoms that mimic those of a cold, like runny nose, headache, itchy eyes, and others

Improving the Quality of the Air Indoors

When you know how to measure the air quality at home, you can use this data to make improvements to your home.  The following solutions help reduce contaminants and remove them from living areas:

  • Source control involves limiting contaminants introduced inside the home. Limit use of perfumes, aerosol cleaners, and other chemical pollutants. Swap these products for natural versions where possible. 
  • Improve ventilation to push out indoor air pollution and bring in fresh air. Use exhaust ventilation to remove moisture from kitchens and bathrooms, and whole home ventilation to exchange air throughout the home.
  • Whole house humidifiers and dehumidifiers work with HVAC systems to keep relative humidity balanced throughout the year.
  • A whole home air cleaner or air purifier provides powerful filtration to remove contaminants from the air supply.

Gain Better Air Quality Today

Grove Heating & Cooling can help you with measuring your home’s air quality and make improvements for better indoor air in your Maryland home. Contact us today to learn more about the HVAC solutions that control contaminants and deliver cleaner air throughout your home.

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