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Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality – Is Your Home Built Too Well

As you would expect, Maryland home builders are making more of an effort to improve the energy efficiency of new homes. This effort includes reducing the air leakage from homes and has resulted in a lack of fresh air circulation into the home and a build-up of stale, polluted air trapped inside the home. Besides the impact on the air quality in the home, this can affect your comfort system (aka your heating and air conditioning system) as well.

Years ago, the EPA”s Office of Research and Development found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 10 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Studies indicated that products containing organic chemicals contributed to very high pollutant levels in the home and elevated concentrations remained in the air long after the products were used.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOC’s include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. VOC’s are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

These VOC’s have become a bigger problem over the years in the heating and air conditioning industry. One of the worst examples was from drywall that was imported from China that contained such high levels of VOC’s the indoor coils were corroding to the point of failure within a year in some cases. This problem was so widespread that manufacturers have been forced to alter the composition of their equipment in order to better withstand the effects of VOC’s.

Don’t panic, this isn’t common to every home or always as severe as this example. However, the impact of VOC’s has recently become more understood in terms of your air quality and even the performance of your comfort system. During your spring cleaning, it may be time to find a place outside your home to store those old paint cans, lacquers and pesticides instead of in the corner of the basement. If you think that your home may need more fresh air, there are solutions to manage the introduction of outside air into your home efficiently. For more information on indoor air quality, give us a call.

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