I hope everyone is well. I have not had the time to post much this week with the weather and issues with a wacky world. I was listening to Dave Ramsey yesterday and a young lady was talking about the new house they had purchased and its health issues that were affecting her baby. Now this is a newly constructed home, with payments around $2000.00 a month. The baby was having problems and the diagnosis was that her house was contaminated with black mold, which is creating breathing complications for them and the baby. So I decided to educate anyone interested in Air quality in their home with a little information I have been working on. this is a little long but worth the read. Have a great day!.
“Adversaries in our Homes”
Is your health and your family’s health important?
If so, then you should educate yourself about The Air Quality in your Home!
“Your Indoor Air Quality”
With the technologies of the present years in building construction, our humble abodes have become extremely tight as far as fresh air and infiltration from the outside, which is a direct contributor to the decline of our indoor air quality. Our Duct systems that distributes the air in our home and office are concentrated with contaminates such as molds, bacteria, fungal spores, yeast, dust mites, and Viruses. Our Heating and cooling equipment is the force that propels the unwanted adversaries throughout our homes and offices, the evaporator coil, duct work, and the filter are the perfect breeding ground.
Through the normal breathing process we fill our lungs up to 20,000 times each day and probably more during extended exercise periods, over time all these contaminates can cause allergies, upper respiratory problems, asthmatic conditions, headaches and flu like symptoms, also inflammation in the mucous membranes. Most filters used in modern equipment are inadequate in stopping all of the contaminates due to the size of the particles themselves, they simply pass through the filter and collect in your duct, and on the evaporator coil which is the biggest Petri dish in your home, a perfect environment, offering the host, moisture and air, all the necessities for Growth. Airborne contaminates can also cause diseases such as influenza, hepatitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc., etc., and extended exposure may cause other respiratory diseases, heart disease, and different types of cancer, which may be debilitating or fatal.
According to Studies by the CDC, EPA, AMA ,American Lung Association, World Health Organization, and ASHRAE, about 65 million Americans suffer from allergies and about 14 million suffer from asthma, about 50% of illnesses are directly caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air, and about 30% of all commercial building where we work or our children go to school suffer from S.B.S. or “Sick Building Syndrome” which creates what is known as B.R.I. in a lot of the medical studies which is “Building Related Illnesses”. Our annual health care bill for Indoor Air Quality related illnesses in the U.S. is approximately 15 million dollars; The EPA even ranks Indoor Air Quality as one of the top environmental issues in the U.S., the EPA say’s “Indoor air pollution is America's Number One Environmental Health Concern.” And from the floor of the House of Representatives -- indoor air pollution has been called "One of our greatest environmental health problems.", but there are solutions to these situations that the majority of the public are not aware of or even realize there is a connection with air pollution, our Indoor Air Quality, and health related issues. One of the first things is to educate ourselves in the problems that may be present in our own homes, our work environment, and also our method of transportation, whether it is to the grocery store, work, schools, vacations, etc., our vehicle is a vessel for polluted air also. We had the problem with the cruise ships having to dock because of the “Norwalk Virus” and anyone who travels the airlines have had experiences with all types of viruses and bacteria related problems, also the biological contaminates introduced into our homes by our children and the school systems seems to be never ending. All of these places we are in when we are exposed to Viruses, bacteria, and other unwanted contaminates all have one thing in common….”Air Conditioning and Heating systems” this should make that light bulb in the head flash dramatically signaling us to the realization that here may lie the “Beast Within” the source, the breeding ground and distribution center of what we try to avoid at all cost…. “Our Health Related Issues!”
Let us determine why this may be our number one candidate for our increase in poor indoor air and health related issues. The first paragraph in the beginning of this article gives us the format to begin an understanding of the problem in general. But one of the main reasons that our heating and air conditioning systems contribute so much to our poor air quality is that there is a lack of proper preventive maintenance and a misconception as to what should be addressed when we have maintenance performed on our systems. One problem that HVAC contactors have is they will instruct their Technicians to never, under any circumstances mention that they have located mold or mildew in the systems duct work or evaporator chamber and indoor blower assembly. This is mainly due to liability factors that say you have to deal with this issue if you address it, and most companies do not educate their technicians with any information about proper procedure in this matter, so as a home owner you and your family’s health is at risk due to this inadequacy in reporting an obvious problem to the customer. In my opinion there should be proper protocol to inform the customer and offer a solution or to direct the home owner to have proper testing of the mold-like substance to be analyzed and the situation corrected. You are paying to have a service performed on your equipment to find out if there is any issue that may create problems, “Is That Not Correct?” Where is the concern for the Customer these days? I truly hate to say this about my own industry, but it seems like “Get the money and run” attitude. Well I left off the “Smile, Look neat and clean, be friendly and act concerned” then “Get the Money and Run”. Well I have vented, let us get back to the importance of this issue with our Health and its relationship to our Indoor Air Quality, or Vise-Versa.
There are many different situations that may create pollution in our indoor environment with a direct relationship to our air conditioning and heating systems and the majority of them are a result of the initial installation of our Duct work and equipment.
- Improper sealing of the connections and seams in our Duct work, Supply registers and the Return Air chamber. This is mainly due to the production line attitude in the building industry and the bottom line concern of the Builder and HVAC installers. They want the cheapest price to get the job finished and most of the time, end up with poor quality on the finished product with a lot of corners being cut to save expense and time on the installation end. This can lead to infiltration of contaminates from under the house in the Crawlspace, or from within walls or the Attic space. These areas can supply your humble abode with all types of nasty no-see-ums, such as Molds, Bacteria, Viruses, Rodent debris, as well as Radon gases, and many more unwanted hazards.
- Poor or insufficient insulation or improperly installed insulation on the Duct work. This can and will create moisture problems within your house if you have Duct work above your ceilings or under your house. This is when “Mold” will start to flourish within you living space, it is only a matter of time before it happens and it will if the situation is not corrected or preventive measures taken. I have been in numerous houses and see where insulation has been left off or improperly sealed and taped, or the wrong type of tape used causing the insulation to come loose allowing the Duct work to sweat in those areas thus accumulating the moisture required for the propagation of “Mold and Mildew”. This process is condensation, the same as when you have a ice cold drink and the outside begins to sweat creating moisture.
- Improper or poor quality Return Air filters. This is one of the most common issues that I have run across in this industry and that is, inappropriate Air Filters in the home. The majority of home owners do not understand the need for a quality filter, until they are educated a little and then you get that universal answer of “Really I Had No Ideal” that could pose a problem.
One of the common filtering methods is HEPA filtration. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate arrestance. HEPA filters use a powerful blower to force the air through a very tight membrane to achieve high-efficiency particulate filtration. The biggest advantage of the HEPA filters is that they are very efficient in the filtering of air that passes through the filter and can filter to 0.03 micron. The drawback is that they require routine and very expensive filter changes. The filter can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and fungus. They do not remove odors, gases, pesticides, viruses, and many bacteria. They reduce airflow due to the tight pores of the filter, They are generally not used in central systems, and are sold as stand-alone or by-pass units. (Fink, 1998). When air ventilation is restricted due to building design or for energy saving reasons the use of an air cleaning system is your main choice for treating re-circulated air (Bahnfleth et al., 2005).
Carbon filters are another method of filtration, incorporating the use of carbon impregnated filter fabric or granulated carbon. These filters usually have a foam or fabric filter to hold the media. Carbon has the unique capability of acting as a physical filter trapping particulate, and on a chemical basis by reacting with some odors and some of the heavy gases. A notable advantage of the carbon filter is that it absorbs odor, absorbs some gases, and filters particulate. Some major disadvantages are the method requires frequent cleaning, and acts as a breeding ground for microorganisms, and can easily become blinded and cease to function properly creating restricted air flow and possible equipment damage.
Fiber or open-cell foam filters rely on the air passing through a matrix of foam cells or fibers of fiberglass, wire, plastic, or doth. Typically, these filters only stop medium to large particulate. The low cost is probably the main advantage to this filtration method (Fink, 1998). The disadvantages of the system are they only filter the air that passes through the filter and the particle buildup can act as a breeding ground for bacteria. The filters with the loose fiberglass type structure do not stop small particulates, they simply pass straight through to the evaporator coil and the duct system in your Air Conditioner and begin to either colonize and grow or become the food source for other microorganism, bacteria, and viruses, and these are continuously being spread through out the structure by the blower motor in the system, and what we have is an endless cycle of contamination and pollution re-circulating in our homes, Schools, and places of employment.
Pleated paper or cloth type filters will catch much smaller particles and are still economically feasible, if your return air filter grill will allow it, extended surface filters of a 2 inch thickness are the best option, but most set-ups only allow for 1 inch thick sizes. These will have to be changed anytime you notice accumulations of debris and dirt, but should be inspected on a monthly basis as should all filter types. Honeywell has introduced a new improved filter the “FC40R” which will capture up to 37 times more airborne particles than the standard 1 inch filter. This filter will provide 4 inches of filtration in a 1 inch return air grill, and three times the life. This product meets the American Health Associations “Healthy House” guidelines.
4. Condensation problems. There are a few issues here that should be addressed and often are not. Here in the southeastern section of the United States, summer can be brutally hot and humid, and removing the humidity in the structure or home is the main issue as well as the removal of heat from the air. For example you can have an air temperature of 72 degrees with 95% humidity and the air comfort feeling will be more like 80+ degrees, and with that same temperature of 72 degrees with 30 to 40% humidity you may almost feel chilly. What we try to shoot for in comfort cooling is around 40 to 50% indoor humidity. All of this is basically moisture content in the air, “The higher the percentage of humidity, the higher the moisture content of the air”. In my area of the south we can expect normal condensate amounts of around 1 quart to 1.5 quarts of water or condensation per hour of operation in the cooling mode on most air conditioning systems. Equipment that is not level or with partial or complete blockage of the condensate drain, or improper drain piping applications can create very serious problems for home owners in the form of standing water in the drain pan or leakage in the attic or crawlspace under the house, or a water saturated area around the outside drain or air conditioning system. All of this water that is standing can create situations that may produce mold, mildew, or fungus growth that is unwanted, unneeded, or potentially harmful to your indoor air quality and your health. I will deal with these issues next time I have “TIME”.
To be continued…….