Do you find yourself coughing or sneezing more while in your own home? You are not alone! Since the late 1970s, central air conditioning and heating systems have been installed in almost all homes where tropical climates drive outdoor temperatures and humidity very high for the majority of the year. Before the implementation of air conditioning into residential homes, homes were built to breathe. It would be a common sight in Florida on a hot August day to see all the windows open allowing what air is available to pass through the home.
Today, most homes are sealed up like an airtight safe. We add heavy insulation to our walls, double and triple pain sealed windows, rubber seals around all doors, and of course heavy insulation in our attics. We do this to help maintain lower utility bills and keep our homes comfortable in the summer or winter longer.
What effect does this have on us?
Instead of fresh outside air moving through our homes, we now recycle the air. While your air conditioning is running it easily will recycle the air in your home 5 times or more an hour. That means ALL the air in your home passes through your air conditioning system. Inside your air conditioning system, it is dark, cool, and damp. A perfect environment for things like bacteria and biological contaminants to grow.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors. This could be your home, office, or any other conditioned space. The EPA has also conducted studies and found that indoor levels of pollutants may be between 50% and 99% higher than outdoor levels.
How could this be?
Sunlight! Our beautiful sun acts as an excellent air purifier. The sun breaks down and destroys many pathogens in the air that can cause harm to us using waves of ultra-violet light. Once you are back in a conditioned space where the air is being recycled again and again we lose the sun's natural purification for our air. Did you ever notice mildew never grows on the outside of the house where the sun always shines?
What are some of the contributors to poor indoor air quality?
Particulates: Dirt, dust, pollen, dead skin, smoke, and other building materials combined. We use air filters in our homes to trap the larger of these particulates, but most filters are not able to catch more harmful airborne agents like microscopic organisms and viruses.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Indoor chemical pollutants. These come from building materials, flooring, cooking odors, indoor air fresheners, electrical components, and many other household items.
Bioaerosols: These create allergic reactions and diseases. They are very small. Ranging from one micron to 100 microns. This category includes viruses, bacteria, and mold. The bioaerosols are the greatest risk to your health.
What can we do to create a cleaner, fresher, and the healthier indoor environment?
Filtration: We will start with something we are all familiar with. Air Filters! The quality and type of filter you use are important to keep your air conditioning and heating system running efficiently and clean. A filter that will filter a really high level of particulates might also cause airflow restrictions which could increase your electrical bill with a decrease in inefficiency.
Purification: You see it all over the place. Where you buy your drinking water it notes on the side of the machine that it is purified with Ultra-Violet (UV) Light. Commercial buildings use UV Lights to provide a better working environment for employees. UV Lights kill and breakdown pollen, mold, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful poor health contributors. Why would it not make sense to have your own UV Light installed in a location where ALL your indoor air passes through?