21 Nov 2019


Indoor Air Quality Challenges During the Winter

IAQ winter

Winter will soon start knocking; the holiday season is almost here! Everyone is busy buying gifts and making holiday travel plans. However, to be happy and healthy during the holidays, it’s essential to think about indoor air quality challenges that arise during the winter. Flu and other ailments due to airborne entities are commonly noticed amongst the occupants with poor indoor air quality (IAQ).  A number of reports suggest that asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems occur during the winter months due to poor IAQ. So much so, that it’s becoming a global health concern.

Common Factors with Indoor Air Quality Challenges

Humidity and ventilation are identified as common factors out of many influential issues that can adversely impact IAQ. Modern architectural practices dictate that buildings are built more air tight in order to conserve energy and create more comfortable ambient conditions. This is great for saving energy costs but can present indoor air quality challenges. The intake of fresh air into buildings is helpful for diluting the building pollutants. On the other hand, little to no outside air flow causes contaminants to start accumulating inside. Due to internal and external sources in the winter months, the level of pollutants are higher. To avoid the intake of pollutants from the outside, it’s advisable to close your doors and windows. However, there are other ways to insulate and ventilate your building to maintain good air quality. Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) and Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) are useful devices for maintaining appropriate ventilation.

Microorganisms, dust & dirt, volatile organic compounds (VOC), pet dander, smoke, gases (Carbon mono or di oxides, Radon, Ozone, and other residuals as a byproduct etc.) and other a-biological and biological substances are common in buildings. When these contaminants cannot escape from the building, they rapidly aggregate within the closed environment to influence building health and occupant well-being. Occupants with weak or compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to sickness due to it.

Solving the Problem

Proper identification and quantification of contaminants is necessary in order to properly alleviate these indoor air quality challenges.  A few basic approaches as mentioned below are highly encouraged in order to identify the potential agents responsible for such conditions and determining their abatement strategies.

In absence of a universally accepted practice to assess indoor environments, a few basic approaches are beneficial for enhancing environmental quality by preventing and managing indoor contaminants/allergens. It is encouraged to properly manage building ventilation, relative humidity and temperature under the threshold (30-60% and 68-79°F, respectively).

It is also worth mentioning that smoking inside, off-gassing from household appliances/furniture and others may adversely affect the environmental quality. Consider testing your indoor environment using do-it-yourself test kits for an initial screening and if it turns positive, then a building health evaluation  for occupancy needs to be undertaken on a periodical basis. For maintaining a good environmental air quality, smart air purification devices can be used after proper remediation protocols have been undertaken.
The winter months certainly present indoor air challenges relative to changing conditions both inside and outside of the building. For more detailed information on building health and IAQ testing please contact Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory at 1-800-422-7873 or feel free to email us here.