Indoor Air Quality and Why It Matters 

Indoor Air Quality refers to air within and around a building that is known to affect the health, comfort and well-being of a building’s occupants. This overlooked topic, can often cause companies real issues without even being detected. The EPA estimates that poor indoor air quality affects 33% to 50% of commercial buildings in the U.S. and is responsible for over 10 million lost work days per year.

What The Research Says

Researcher firms have also taken a look at Indoor Air Quality and its effect on employee output. One study placed subjects into a controlled room and asked them to complete cognitive tasks while the overall Indoor Air Quality was adjusted. They found that when the subjects were exposed to poor indoor air conditions (conditions found in most conventional office buildings) their cognitive scores decreased 61% compared to when the same subjects were tested in an environment with improved indoor air quality.

Naturally, the next question was whether the costs of fixing these issues was worth the investment. In looking at the costs associated with buildings improving indoor air quality compared to the increase in productivity of employees the evidence was clear: “Even with conservative estimates, the increased productivity of an employee is over 150 times greater than the resulting costs.” *Economic, environmental and health implications of enhanced ventilation in office buildings.

Types of Pollutants

With numbers like these it is important to take the time to better understand what qualifies as a contaminant and where they come from. The EPA made the following chart to help break down the different types of indoor pollutants and their most common sources:

Air Monitoring Systems

First, we need to understand how most systems currently work. Traditional systems will have a required number of air changes assigned to a specific space. This is determined by how the space will be used. Hospitals for example will have stricter requirements than office buildings.  The system then moves enough air to ensure these requirements are met but never actually monitors the air quality. Air Monitoring Systems on the other hand are a good way to ensure indoor air quality levels are appropriate. These systems monitor the air quality and increase or decrease the number of air changes in a space based on the readings.

This has two major benefits; it ensures the air quality is at acceptable levels for your staff and can also reduce the number of air changes needed, resulting in significant cost savings.  The savings on energy bills is significant enough that most buildings will see a payback on investment in less than 3 years.

Air monitoring systems can measure air quality through duct probes, wall mounted sensors and ceiling mounted sensors. These systems can also generally integrate with existing building controls. 

Air Cleaning Systems

While monitoring the air is a great idea, another thing you can do is clean the air as it moves through the ducts. This becomes especially important if you are dealing with mold, bacteria or viruses. There are a couple types of cleaning systems out there but two common ones are UV Systems and Bi-Polar Ionization Systems.  

UV Systems

UV Systems can help people who suffer with allergies and also help prevent bacteria from causing issues in the workplace. They work by installing a high-powered UV light inside the duct system. As air passes through the ducts, the UV light kills the mold spores and bacteria. This can  impact indoor air quality but should be evaluated on a system by system basis to ensure it is the right fit.

Bi-Polar Ionization Systems

These systems come into contact with the air in your HVAC system and can kill mold, bacteria and viruses just like a UV system. The ions these devices release cause particles in the air to bunch together which ultimately helps them get caught in your filter.  These ions can also remove the hydrogen atoms from viruses’, bacteria and mold which results in the death of these pathogens.

An interesting video showing how this type of system works can be seen here. This system can be a great alternative to UV Systems and can also generally come in at a lower price point.   

Have Questions?

Do you need to know how your system would integrate with an air monitoring or cleaning system? Curious about what other options are available? Reach out to the experts at Rasmussen Mechanical Services and ensure your facility is operating like it should. Call us at 1-800-237-3141, email, chat with a support agent, or contact us online.

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