Indoor Air Quality
With homes being built tighter and tighter, the issue of indoor air quality comes front and center. Washington state has even developed a code for indoor air quality in new construction. It is that important.
While we upgrade our Pacific Northwest homes to bring them closer to new construction-efficiency levels, we need to be mindful of our indoor air quality. At HomeRx Heating & Air Conditioning, we are doing all we can to help improve indoor quality in the homes of Portland and the communities nearby.
What Are Indoor Air Quality Problems and Solutions?
Solutions to indoor air quality problems are contingent upon the source of the problem. Here are a few common indoor air problem sources:
- Improperly functioning combustion appliances
- Air from the crawl space under the house entering the living space
- People living in the house creating high-moisture levels
Generally, our air specialists solve commonplace problems in this order:
- Eliminate the source
- Block the source from entering
- Expel the pollutant after it gets in
Here are some sample solutions to our examples:
- Improperly functioning combustion appliances—Replace appliance if it is old, inefficient, and in need of major repairs. Repairing broken combustion exhaust ducts might be another effective answer.
- Air from the crawl space under the house—Create an air seal between the crawl space under the house and the inside of the house. In some cases it can more effective and cost less to seal and insulate the foundation walls around the crawl space. This approach, referred to as "sealed crawls," can be very effective at reducing indoor air pollutants and has given remarkable relief to asthma sufferers and to people with chemical sensitivities.
- People living in the house—This is from cooking, showering, laundry, and just breathing. We would expel it via exhaust fans. Sometimes additional make-up air needs to be added.
What Are Signs of Poor Indoor Air Quality or Inadequate Ventilation?
It can be hard to know for sure, but there are a few indicators that should raise the question. Some manifestations can come from different sources. It is not usually hard to figure out what is happening when we start to look more closely and do more testing to triangulate on the problem.
Sometimes we find home weaknesses that should be addressed for other reasons. Our professionals fix them and see what the collateral impact is. A good example is mold on a wall. We insulate the wall to prevent the condensation that is feeding the mold and the air quality improves.
Signs of poor indoor air quality or inadequate ventilation include:
- Condensation on windows
- Mold on walls or the ceiling in the bathroom
- Unfamiliar, unpleasant, persistent, or seasonal smells
- The smell of dirt (while gardeners find it attractive, it does not belong in your house)
- Visible buildup of dust and debris in your home, especially if you have heating ducts under your house
- High humidity
- Health issues that seem to flare up when you are in your home
What Should You Do if You Suspect an Indoor Air Quality Problem?
Our HomeRx professionals recommend finding the source and eliminating it, blocking it, or expelling it, in that order. More often than not, it really is that simple.
As part of our routine work in any home, we test air leakage to the outside. We want air exchange with the outside, but we want to understand the route it takes so we can vet the passengers. A home leakage test helps identify the route.
This test is called a blower door test because the device used is called a blower door. It is just a big fan on your door that pulls air out of your house. We measure how hard it pulls, which indicates the leakage rate. Ask our knowledgeable team for more information on the blower door test if you are interested.
Our experts also check combustion appliances to be sure they are not putting exhaust into your home. We check gas lines for leaks, and we check the relative humidity, which can also be a good indicator of exchange rate and air passage routes.
Some Oregon homeowners have called on the American Lung Association (ALA) for guidance and have even gotten their counselors to pay them home visits.
Like all home performance improvements, it is best to look at the upgrades in the context of the whole house. You do not want to make a change that comes with unintended consequences or do something that will have to be undone later when addressing other issues.
One thing we strongly recommend against is adding air fresheners. Adding air fresheners—which, by the way, are unregulated because the manufacturers have successfully argued the contents are proprietary—is like adding flavoring to dirty water so you can drink it. If you suspect indoor air quality problems, call us to come out and take a look.
Let HomeRx Help Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
Schedule an at-home consultation with our HomeRx Heating & Air Conditioning professionals by calling us at 503-479-5290 or requesting service online to assess the indoor air quality in your home. Our HomeRx experts can perform testing to determine what can be done to improve the air quality within your home. Together we will create a plan to help you reach and maintain superior indoor air quality.