Few things are as important to our health and well-being as the air we breathe, especially inside our own homes. That is why it is so important for individual homeowners as well as management to stay up to date on issues of indoor air quality and ensure that everything possible is done to provide a healthy environment.
Staying warm is always priority number one in the winter months. That desire to keep the cold out and the warmth in can lead to problems with air quality, as windows and doors are typically closed in winter. “The type of air problems that can lead to sealed homes in the winter time is wholly dependent on the construction of the home. The older homes don’t matter much because they leak like fizz and get many air changes, but newer homes are constructed with spray foam and are very tight and it can be a major problem if they don’t have a supplemental air supply,” says Gene Marckini, president of Boston Environmental Engineering Association.
“ASHRAE [the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers] has established a standard of 20 cubic feet of air per person, per minute occupying a space. And in those spaces that are totally sealed up with no air changes you get a build-up of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and humidity. The carbon dioxide can make you drowsy and listless. The humidity levels building up and condensing on parts of the home can cause mold. Mold problems can cause allergies in normal people, and in people who are immuno-suppressed or sickly or that are asthmatic can cause severe allergy reactions.”
“What happens in the wintertime is that you are solely relying on your HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-conditioning] system and with that you’re not getting an adequate amount of fresh air from the outside, especially residentially,” says Michael Capillo, principal owner of Continental Clean Air in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “If you have poor filter maintenance in your HVAC system you’re basically breathing in finer particulate that may be circulated through your home or condo, and that gives you a greater risk of getting sick or catching a cold or becoming ill with seasonal allergies. This time of year a lot of people neglect keeping an eye on their filter. It’s all based on usage. If it’s a real, real cold winter, that heating system is going to be running 24/7. So your filter is important. I recommend any MERV [minimum efficiency reporting value] rating filter over 10. The higher the MERV rating the better the filter and it’s going it give you that much more infiltration and efficiency.”
“The types of filters that most people use are cheap and inefficient,” adds Chris O’Korn, an account manager with SynergyOne Solutions, Inc. in Canton, Massachusetts. “Because people know there is a filter in there and the filter has to be replaced, they don’t really look at what it’s filtering. In most cases, you can take a residential air filter and pour a bag of sand on it and watch the sand come right through the filter. You have to ask yourself ‘if the sand is getting through there what is this filter filtering out?’ Clean filters are extremely important in the winter time.”