It’s time to take a deep breath and breathe easily. Un-clench your jaw, sit or stand straight, and pull your shoulders back. In these unprecedented times, we are understandably tense. Few, if any, of us have experienced anything like this pandemic before. Unable to interact with others, spending more time at home, battling a worldwide pandemic, and potentially falling ill, Americans are cleaning and disinfecting more – as they should be.
As Building Consultants, we provide lab-analyzed Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Testing for our clients, identifying Formaldehyde, VOCs, and mold VOCs. While these tests are wonderfully accurate in determining air pollutants, home conditions change – so we often recommend other products for ongoing monitoring. Below, we have compiled a list of the best IAQ monitors available in 2020.
Whether you opt to use natural or chemical-based disinfectants, it is important for your health to monitor and manage the quality of the air your family is breathing. These monitors provide real-time feedback on common pollutants and other air conditions inside your home. Remember to use disinfectants only as directed (more is not better!) and be sure to get some fresh air every day.
What causes poor indoor air quality?
VOCs or volatile organic compounds are airborne chemicals, like the ‘new car smell’, that come from cooking, cleaning products, toys, furniture, carpets, coatings, and more. Less is better. None is best, though practically impossible. This has been an eye-opener in my home as we are largely responsible for increases in indoor VOC levels. Open windows when you clean and use organic-based or low VOC cleaners. Choose low VOC products and coatings.
Dust or Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) are airborne particles, solid or liquid. Cooking, candle burning, and lack of regular dusting are common sources. Particulates are often asthma triggers. Again, less is better. Duct system filters can catch some of this dust, but ‘tight’ filters can damage the equipment. Regular dusting and free-standing air purifiers work best.
CO2 or carbon dioxide is what we and other animals exhale – great for plants but can make occupants drowsy, headachy, and unable to think clearly. These levels increase quickly with the number of people in a room or in closed rooms – especially children’s sleeping rooms. You got it – less is better.
CO or carbon monoxide is the deadly relative of CO2. CO is the result of gas or propane combustion and can even migrate in from cars in attached garages. The most common source is from cooking, so use your exhausting range hood every time you use the oven or stove (or open a window). None is best, so find a monitor that can detect low levels (0-30 ppm).
Combustible Gas is from natural gas or propane leaks. While small leaks are fairly common and rarely dangerous, occupants often report allergy-like symptoms. So, if your hay fever allergies are bothering you out of season, it might be a gas leak. These leaks can be found by a home inspector, HVAC tech, or handyman with a ‘gas sniffer’ and can be permanently fixed.
Radon is a radioactive soil gas that seeps up into homes and is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. Again, less is better and none is best. The EPA action level is >4 piCu/L and installed mitigation systems can lower home radon levels under 4. These levels fluctuate seasonally, and ongoing monitoring is ideal.
No monitor measures everything, so look for those that address your concerns. You will likely purchase more than one, as I have. Remember, “That which is measured can be improved.” So pay attention and react accordingly to improve your indoor air quality.