Monitoring Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) at Home

Woman sitting in living room working from home

Indoor air quality is a popular topic these days. Studies show that improving air quality improves productivity in offices. This effect can even spill over into improved sleep for employees after they go home. It stands to reason that there would be similar benefits from improving the air quality in your house, not to mention that your house likely doubles as your office in the current work-from-home climate. With so many of us now working from home, indoor air quality is incredibly important. However, a few questions remain. Firstly, how can you know what your home’s IAQ actually is? Secondly, what makes for optimal indoor air quality? And thirdly, how can monitoring indoor air quality help you and your home?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Naturally, pollution is the first factor that comes to mind when we consider air quality, and there are a lot of sources of indoor air pollution. In fact, there are so many that it’s not uncommon for indoor air to be five times more polluted than outdoor air!

One of the main forms of indoor air pollution is VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These are produced when various materials inside a building “off-gas” fumes into the air. While it’s possible to measure individual gases, most homeowners will find it adequate to just track the total amount of VOCs in the air. If you see the term TVOC, that’s what it means - total volatile organic compounds.

Temperature

There is a lot of debate over what the ideal room temperature actually is. However, everyone can agree that it has an impact on their quality of life. Whatever you choose as your optimal temperature at home, it’s helpful to monitor it. That way you can see what is driving fluctuations that may make you and your family uncomfortable. According to Elinor Aspegren in an article for USA Today, an EPA report [said] that thermostats should be set at 78 degrees." This is appropriate "for optimum comfort and savings."

Humidity

Humidity has a huge impact on comfort levels. “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” actually has its basis in science. In summer, excessive humidity makes you feel like it’s warmer than it really is. In contrast, when you heat your home in the winter, it dries the air out. The dry air makes you feel cooler, so you’re tempted to turn the thermostat higher, drying the air out even more. 

Graph depicting different ranges of relative humidity and their effects. Courtesy of 2015 National Asthma Council Australia

Besides comfort, humidity has an impact on your family’s health. Too low or too high humidity levels can lead to environmental conditions that aggravate allergies, asthma and even skin conditions. Low humidity in the winter also makes people more susceptible to viruses that attack the respiratory system. These viruses include COVID-19, the flu and the common cold.

The recommended level for indoor humidity is between 30 and 60 percent, which refers to relative humidity. Low humidity can cause itchy skin, dehydrated mucous membranes and other health problems. High humidity - especially dew point humidity - can lead to other issues like the formation of mildew and mold. Relative humidity can be controlled or modified through the inclusion of houseplants and machines like humidifiers.

 

 

 

Respira: Solutions for Improving and Monitoring Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality monitoring can be quite involved. You might need to hire a company to come to your home and give you detailed results about exactly which pollutants you’re dealing with. On the other hand, it can be as simple as ordering a device that tracks your home's air quality.

Respira’s smart technology monitors the conditions of the plants to keep them healthy. It also keeps track of these three important elements of your indoor air quality (VOCs, temperature, and humidity).