You’ve probably come across the acronym VOC if you’ve purchased paint lately. Volatile organic compounds are a group of chemicals that contain carbon and hydrogen.
VOCs have a negative impact on IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). VOCs leak into your home’s air from a variety of sources including:
- cigarette smoke
- air fresheners
- particle board in furniture and cabinets
- paint and varnishes
- gasoline and other fuels
- household cleaning products
- carpets and under pads
- foam cushions and mattresses
Most sources are commonly found in your home. Indoor Air Quality is also impacted by biological pollutants including mold, bacteria and dust mites.
Health Canada estimates that Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors, at home, work and recreational facilities. Obviously, the largest portion of this time is spent in your own home.
Newer homes present more problems than older homes. Newer homes are built to be as air tight as possible for energy efficiency. New homes are more comfortable and less drafty year round. Newer homes also contain more VOCs, coming from new furniture, fresh paints, new carpets, etc. These pollutants stay trapped within the home.
Indoor Air Quality has a major influence on your health. Exposure to indoor pollutants can result in eye and skin irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headaches, nausea and fatigue. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the United States uses the name Sick Building Syndrome to describe illness caused by poor Indoor Air Quality.
There are several steps homeowners can take to improve IAQ:
- Do not allow smoking in your home
- Make sure kitchens and bathrooms are properly ventilated
- Control humidity levels, make sure your home does not have areas that are always damp
- Maintain appliances such as furnaces, gas stoves, water heaters
- Check your furnace filters regularly
- Install CO (Carbon Monoxide) Detectors
- Use low VOC paints and cleaners
- In newer homes, consider installing an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) or an ERV (Energy Recover Ventilator)
- Consider an Air Purifier mounted in your heating ducts
Air Purification Equipment
New technology originally developed by the Space Program has been adopted by an American company called Air Oasis. They manufacture a device which mounts into your ducting system. After installation, you can be breathing cleaner air within an hour. 99% of allergens, viruses and mold are removed from the air. Within an hour, 85% of VOC’s are also removed from your home’s air.
HRVs & ERVs
A Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) keeps your home supplied with a steady flow of fresh outdoor air. As stale, warm air is expelled, the heat recovery core warms the incoming fresh, colder air before it is distributed within your home. This constant supply of fresh air eliminates drafts and provides increased home comfort. By providing proper ventilation, an HRV controls excess humidity in your home. Improved ventilation will also improve indoor air quality.
Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) are suited to climates with hot humid summers, like we have in Southern Ontario. Similar to an HRV, the ERV recovers the heat in cold season, however, it also captures the energy trapped in moisture, which greatly improves the overall recovery efficiency. The ERV works as follows: In air conditioned homes, when it is more humid outside than inside, the ERV limits the amount of moisture coming into your home. In winter, when the humidity level is reversed, the ERV limits the amount of moisture expelled from your home.