Many people associate the month of October with beautiful autumn weather, Halloween festivities and spooky decorations. But did you know that October is also National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month? Observed annually, this month-long recognition event provides an opportunity to focus on the air we breathe indoors.
The best way to participate? Take time this month to evaluate your living and working spaces and notice if and how you can improve the air quality. There are many solutions and strategies available to ensure healthier, safer, cleaner breathable air in the indoor spaces you frequent.
Why Is Indoor Air Quality So Important?
One of the more popular statistics about indoor spaces is how much time the average person spends indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates it at 90% in America! (Understandably, it’s also quite a noteworthy statistic.) The quality of the air we’re breathing 90% of the time is important, and it should matter to you.
Indoor air quality is also significant because of its role in human health and wellness. There are many known adverse health effects associated with exposure to poor air quality. On the contrary, healthy indoor air quality is connected to various health benefits. The key takeaway: indoor air quality is of great consequence for human health.
What Is Good Indoor Air Quality?
But what is good indoor air quality? What does a healthy indoor air space actually require? Simply stating that ‘good’ air quality is better than ‘poor’ doesn’t provide a clear goal. There are no explicit objectives to reach in good. So, let’s get technical.
Sadly, there are no federal indoor air quality guidelines. There is no legal definition of good indoor air quality. The ideal indoor air quality chart that compares indoor air based on pollutant levels or the building HVAC system or measurable IAQ qualities is nonexistent. Which, of course, makes it difficult to get technical.
There are, however, agreed-upon definitions for acceptable indoor air quality in the industry. ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers, is a bigwig in the field. Likewise, ASHRAE Standard 62.1 is a recognized ventilation standard applicable to most indoor settings. The standard defines acceptable indoor air quality as:
… air in which there are no known contaminants at harmful concentrations as determined by cognizant authorities and with which a substantial majority (80% or more) of the people exposed do not express dissatisfaction.
If air quality simply refers to the condition of the surrounding air, then acceptable air quality requires that the surrounding air has minimal air pollutant concentration levels. Therefore, good indoor air quality:
- minimizes potential adverse health effects from air pollution exposure and
- provides an indoor environment people find comfortable.
Perhaps in the near future, there will be more tangible numbers to reach thanks to updated regulations. But for now, good indoor air quality means reducing indoor air pollutants and working toward a healthy, safe and comfortable indoor space. The result? Achieving good IAQ in your space is a largely individualized goal.
How To Improve Indoor Air Quality
Nonetheless, the good news about an individualized goal is that you can choose to take action using whatever control method or a mix of strategies you desire. With that said, let’s try for a slightly more fulfilling explanation of what good IAQ can look like. A comprehensive plan to improve indoor air quality generally involves three important efforts:
- Preventive Maintenance: This includes routine filter changes, seasonal HVAC maintenance, IAQ testing and actions that support a healthy home system and deter problems before they become bigger issues.
- Healthy Home Habits: These are simple daily actions or routine practices to change in your daily actions to better control pollution sources and emissions. Source control tricks include not wearing shoes inside and cooking with the kitchen hood fan on.
- IAQ Upgrades & Control Strategies: Whole-home system upgrades include air filtration, purification, humidity control and improved ventilation.
Of course, the best option is to simply choose to intervene. Your home is likely the one place you truly have control over the air you breathe. Whichever IAQ control strategy you choose, starting is what’s important. Another suggestion that actually encompasses all three options listed above is to improve your own air quality awareness.
Indoor Air Quality Awareness
Do you think about air quality? Is there a part of you that wonders how polluted your indoor air is, or if there is something more you could do to create a healthier space? Do you consider outdoor air quality before starting your day or doing activities outside? Cultivating an awareness about indoor air quality begins with simple questions like these.
Indoor air quality awareness implies being more mindful of the daily actions that contribute to or can help minimize air pollution in your home. It’s choosing to learn about your home’s HVAC system and what impacts your building environment. Air quality awareness is as simple as growing your own knowledge on the topic! From learning what air quality really is to how outdoor air compares to indoor air, the dangers and increased health risks associated with exposure and the strategies and solutions available to improve indoor air quality.
In reality—choosing to grow your awareness of indoor air quality is the best way to improve your home IAQ. With greater indoor air quality awareness, you’ll seek out solutions. Understanding IAQ allows you to work alongside a home contractor, better trusting the process and their recommendations. You’ll discover which pollutant sources are applicable to your space and what IAQ problems are relevant in your home—and which strategies to commit to.
How To Boost Your IAQ Awareness
In addition to noticing, learning and questioning more about air quality—monitoring your space’s indoor air quality also boosts awareness.
Monitoring outdoor air quality is easy thanks to the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is the EPA’s national air quality measurement reporting and rating system. The information is provided daily and easily found in a weather report or on the weather app on your smartphone. It’s helpful to get into the practice of checking your local AQI daily.
For indoor air quality, consider investing in a whole-home air quality monitor. An in-duct air quality monitor provides real-time pollutant levels, temperature, airflow information and other helpful stats so you can better understand your home’s air quality.
National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month
Air quality monitoring is an easy and helpful way to increase your air quality awareness. From there, you can move forward with IAQ home upgrades and healthy home habits that better ensure improved indoor air for you and your family. Take the first step and get informed this National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month!