Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Benefits of Air Purifiers for Allergies & Asthma

What is an Air Purifier?

An air purifier is a device which removes contaminants from the air. These devices are commonly marketed as being beneficial to allergy sufferers and asthmatics, and at reducing or eliminating second-hand tobacco smoke. Commercial grade air purifiers are manufactured as either small stand-alone units or larger units that can be affixed to an air handler unit (AHU) or to an HVAC unit found in the medical, industrial, and commercial industries.

Use and benefits of purifiers:

Dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and dust mite feces can act as allergens, triggering allergies in sensitive people. Smoke particles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can pose a risk to health. Exposure to various components such as VOCs increases the likelihood of experiencing symptoms of sick building syndrome.[1] Additionally, with the advancement in technology, air purifiers are becoming increasingly capable of capturing a greater number of bacterial, virus, and DNA damaging particulates. Air purifiers are used to reduce the concentration of these airborne contaminants and are very useful for people who suffer from allergies and asthma. Technological and scientific studies are also finding that poor air quality can be a contributing factor of some forms of cancer, respiratory illnesses, COPD, and other pulmonary infections and illnesses.
Air purifiers also reduce the need for frequent room and area cleaning of dust. It is most beneficial to get an air filter that will filter particles smaller than 0.3 microns.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The effects of your Office Indoor Air quality on your Performance & Health

Type of Pollutant
Many different factors influence how indoor air pollutants impact occupants. Some pollutants, like radon, are of concern because exposure to high levels of the pollutant over long periods of time increases risk of serious, life threatening illnesses, such as lung cancer. Other contaminants, such as carbon monoxide at very high levels, can cause death within minutes. Some pollutants can cause both short and long term health problems. Prolonged exposure to environmental tobacco smoke can cause lung cancer, and short term exposures can result in irritation and significant respiratory problems for some people, particularly young children.
People can react very differently when exposed to the same contaminants at similar concentrations. For example, some people can develop severe allergic reactions to biological contaminants to which other people will not react. Similarly, exposure to very low levels of chemicals may be irritating to some people but not others. For people with asthma and other pre-existing conditions, exposure to irritants like environmental tobacco smoke or gases or particles from various indoor sources may cause more severe reactions than the same exposure would in others.
Moisture and Humidity
It is important to control moisture and relative humidity in occupied spaces. The presence of moisture and dirt can cause molds and other biological contaminants to thrive. Relative humidity levels that are too high can contribute to the growth and spread of unhealthy biological pollutants, as can failure to dry water-damaged materials promptly (usually within 24 hours) or to properly maintain equipment with water reservoirs or drain pans (e.g., humidifiers, refrigerators, and ventilation equipment). Humidity levels that are too low, however, may contribute to irritated mucous membranes, dry eyes, and sinus discomfort.
Design, Maintenance and Operation of Building Ventilation Systems
Maintaining good indoor air quality requires attention to the building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system; the design and layout of the space; and pollutant source management. HVAC systems include all of the equipment used to ventilate, heat, and cool the building; to move the air around the building (ductwork); and to filter and clean the air. These systems can have a significant impact on how pollutants are distributed and removed. HVAC systems can even act as sources of pollutants in some cases, such as when ventilation air filters become contaminated with dirt and/or moisture and when microbial growth results from stagnant water in drip pans or from uncontrolled moisture inside of air ducts. Because of the HVAC system's importance, good indoor air quality management includes attention to:
Ventilation system design. The air delivery capacity of an HVAC system is based in part on the projected number of people and amount of equipment in a building. When areas in a building are used differently than their original purpose, the HVAC system may require modification to accommodate these changes. For example, if a storage area is converted into space occupied by people, the HVAC system may require alteration to deliver enough conditioned air to the space.
Outside air supply. Adequate supply of outside air, typically delivered through the HVAC system, is necessary in any office environment to dilute pollutants that are released by equipment, building materials, furnishings, products, and people. Distribution of ventilation air to occupied spaces is essential for comfort.
Outdoor air quality. When present, outdoor air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, pollen, and dust may affect indoor conditions when outside air is taken into the building's ventilation system. Properly installed and maintained filters can trap many of the particles in this outdoor supply air. Controlling gaseous or chemical pollutants may require more specialized filtration equipment.
Space planning. The use and placement of furniture and equipment may affect the delivery of air to an occupied space. For instance, the placement of heat generating equipment, like a computer, directly under an HVAC control device such as a thermostat may cause the HVAC system to deliver too much cool air, because the thermostat senses that the area is too warm. Furniture or partitions that block supply or return air registers can affect IAQ as well, and need to be positioned with attention to air flow.
Equipment maintenance. Diligent maintenance of HVAC equipment is essential for the adequate delivery and quality of building air. All well-run buildings have preventive maintenance programs that help ensure the proper functioning of HVAC systems.
Controlling other pollutant pathways. Pollutants can spread throughout a building by moving through stairwells, elevator shafts, wall spaces, and utility chases. Special ventilation or other control measures may be needed for some sources.

Factors that Affect Occupant Comfort and Productivity

Besides the factors that directly impact the levels of pollutants to which people are exposed, a number of environmental and personal factors can affect how people perceive air quality. Some of these factors affect both the levels of pollutants and perceptions of air quality.
  • Odors
  • Temperature -- too hot or cold
  • Air velocity and movement -- too drafty or stuffy
  • Heat or glare from sunlight
  • Glare from ceiling lights, especially on monitor screens
  • Furniture crowding
  • Stress in the workplace or home
  • Feelings about physical aspects of the workplace: location, work environment, availability of natural light, and the aesthetics of office design, such as color and style.
  • Work space ergonomics, including height and location of computer, and adjustability of keyboards and desk chairs
  • Noise and vibration levels
  • Selection, location, and use of office equipment
Ask your supervisor or office manager who to talk with if you have a concern about any of these factors.

Indoor Air Quality is a Shared Responsibility

Some of the factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality may originate from inadequate HVAC design. Some may be solely in the control of the building management, such as maintenance of the HVAC system and the amount of outside air being mechanically brought into the building. Others are largely in the control of building tenants and occupants, such as materials used in renovations and products and furnishings brought into or used in the building by occupants. Some, like cleanliness and general housekeeping of the building, require the cooperation of both the building management as well as all of the individuals who work in the building. For these reasons, indoor air quality is a shared responsibility.
Good indoor air quality management practices can make a big difference. However, some factors, like reactions to indoor air contaminants among highly susceptible individuals, or the quality of the outside air, may not be within anyone's immediate control. It is also important to remember that any building, no matter how well operated, may experience periods of unacceptable indoor air quality due to equipment breakdown, inadequate maintenance, or in some cases, the actions of building occupants.
It is also important to keep in mind that many perceived indoor air quality problems are often comfort problems, such as temperature, humidity, or air movement in the space being too low or too high. In addition, many symptoms, such as headaches, can have causes that are not related to factors in the building.
The Good News...
Even though the factors that affect the quality of the indoor environment are numerous, the good news is that most indoor environmental problems can be prevented or corrected easily and inexpensively through the application of common sense and vigilance on the part of everyone in the building. Success depends on cooperative actions taken by building management and occupants to improve and maintain indoor air quality. By becoming knowledgeable about indoor air quality, tenants and occupants are in a good position to help building managers maintain a comfortable and healthy building environment. Work with management any time you:
  • Identify or suspect an indoor air problem
  • Need cleaning and maintenance service
  • Plan to install new office equipment
  • Plan for renovations and/or remodeling with a professional interior designer and/or an architect
  • Experience leaks, spills, or accidents

Monday, January 9, 2012

Energy-Efficient HVAC Solutions For Your Home

In today's environmentally conscious world, everyone wants to do their part for a more sustainable future. But it's hard to know what you can do to limit your impact on the planet. One of the easiest and most eco-friendly choices is to install an energy-efficient heating and cooling system in your home for dramatically reduced energy usage. And, as if that wasn't enough, the lower energy consumption of these heating systems will also help you save big bucks on your bills! In fact, some Energy Star rated HVAC systems can save you up to 30% on heating and cooling.
Solar Heating Systems
Solar heating systems are a great hot water heating solution that's eco-friendly and has extremely low operating costs. These systems can provide up to 80% of your home's hot water for major energy cost savings. Used to heat hot water, pools, and water for radiant heating, solar heating systems harness the free energy of the sun. And, although solar hot water heating can be expensive to install, it usually pays for itself in less than five years (in reduced energy bills and government incentives). Once the equipment is paid off, you have almost zero operating costs.
Hybrid Heat Pumps
Hybrid heat pumps are efficient combinations of gas furnaces and traditional heat pumps; blending two energy-efficient systems allows this hybrid to get the best of both worlds! Heat pumps function quite efficiently during warm months, but at cold temperatures they typically lose their effectiveness. Hybrid heat pumps work like a hybrid vehicle, turning on the gas furnace when necessary to supplement the efficiency of the heat pump. Switching between the two heat (and cooling) sources allows the system to automatically adjust for optimal function.
Ground Source Heat Pumps (Geothermal Heating and Cooling)
Ground source heat pumps are among the most efficient heating and cooling options on the market today. They're eco-friendly as well as inexpensive. This specialized type of heat pump utilizes the relatively constant temperature of ground to heat your home in winter and cool it in summer. A loop of piping is installed in the ground near or under your house, and liquid (antifreeze or water) flowing through the loop heats or cools your home depending on the season. In summer, the soil is relatively cool, so it chills the liquid, which in turn cools your home; in winter, the soil is warmer, heating the liquid. Ground source heat pumps are a completely safe method of heating and cooling your home with a renewable alternative to fossil fuels. They can even reduce your home heating costs by up to 70%!
Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant heating is another environmentally-friendly heating solution that has gained popularity in recent years. Radiant heat functions by circulating heated water through pex tubing in your flooring. This warms the floor and radiates heat throughout your space as the warmth from the flooring rises. Because the tubing must be installed under the flooring, radiant floor heating is recommended for new construction or during major remodels. However, despite the expense and hassle of installation, many homeowners love the energy-efficiency and great tactile experience of radiant heating. Just imagine walking across a toasty-warm floor instead of icy cold tile! Radiant heat can be used as a whole house heating system or installed in individual rooms (commonly kitchens and bathrooms).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Importance of Energy-Efficient Appliances

Save Money, Save the Earth

Every time you buy a home appliance, tune up your heating system, or replace a burned-out light
bulb, you're making a decision that affects the environment. You are probably already aware that
most of our biggest environmental problems are directly associated with energy production and
use: urban smog, oil spills, acid rain, and global warming, to mention a few. But you may not
realize just how big a difference each of us can make by taking energy use into account in our
household purchasing and maintenance decisions.
The cost of using appliances and heating and cooling equipment averages more than $1,200 per
year. You can sharply reduce your energy bill by using high-efficiency appliances and space
conditioning equipment. While these may be more expensive to buy than comparable models
with lower or average efficiency, your reduced energy bills will put that money back into your
pocket long before the product wears out.
By purchasing energy-efficient appliances, you can also have a positive effect on national
security, the economy, and the environment. The efficient use of oil, gas, and electricity improves
U.S. economic competitiveness, and reduces the environmental pollution associated with energy
production and use.
In fact, choosing energy-efficient appliances is one way you can immediately reduce your
contribution to global climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary gas affecting global
warming and virtually all energy-using equipment results in CO2 emissions either directly or
indirectly. Since burning oil or gas in your furnace creates CO2 directly, choosing a more efficient
furnace will reduce this pollutant right from your home. Furthermore, coal or gas is burned in most
power plants to create electricity and this produces emissions. By replacing a 20-year-old
refrigerator with a new, energy-efficient model, not only will you save about 800 kWh per year,
you will also reduce your home's CO2 contribution by about one ton per year—all while saving
more than 100$ per year through reduced electric bills.