The UltimateAir® News

I (Don’t) Smell Danger

Posted on Thu, Jun 14, 2012

After working here a few weeks and getting a crash course in ERVs and the Passive House, I have started to discuss these topics with family and friends. Most of them are blissfully carefree about indoor air quality. It is not that no one has heard of IAQ issues. They might know all about Radon. Many homeowners can name sources of windowformaldehyde and other VOCs too. So the obvious question arises: what then, stops someone in the know from properly ventilating their home? The most popular response: "Money. I can't shell out the cash at the moment." Don't despair, Green Builders, because while there is honesty in their responses, it's not entirely true. Many homeowners would rather buy a new TV or finish their basement; they find it difficult to prioritize the invisible. But if you could constantly see nasty air being forced down your throat, wouldn't you do something about it? These toxins are small and subtle enough that we do not perceive them on our own. When we say "passive home" styles we don't mean "passively poisoned."



OK, so sometimes you do smell stenches. Let's say that you do come home and your pet has left you a present. Or perhaps you'll return from vacation this summer to a musty odor. You can open your door, but as was explained to me my first week here, your nose stops smelling it after 5 minutes, no matter what. That's right, it’s not an open window or spray freshener. It's your body acclimating to the smell.


As a coffee fiend, I was immediately reminded of Starbucks. Theirdescribe the image cafes exude a unique aroma. This smell is essential to the company's brand. Four years ago, they scrapped their egg-sandwich from the menu because its smell was overwhelming the traditional coffee bean scent. Needless to say, their customers raised a stink. This scent works so well because customers enter over and over again -- they grow to expect a certain smell. Because we are indoors 90% of the time we lose whatever scent there is. Whether we are coming, going, or just hanging around it is always there. It takes something like "Egg-sandwiches" to make us sit up and notice.



So what can we do about this? How do we convince ourselves and others to fix that we cannot sense? Not sure. However interesting, continuous discussion of IAQ is somewhat frugal amongst those already in the field. As an outsider, my best piece of advice is to find more like myself, and educate them however briefly on the importance of good Indoor Air Quality.



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Tags: Homeowners, Indoor Air Pollutants, indoor air quality, Clean Home Air, recoupaerator, Ventilation Strategy

A New Perspective on Indoor Air Quality

Posted on Mon, Jun 04, 2012


    Hi! My name is Henry and I have recently begun working with UltimateAir.
This summer I will delve into health and energy efficiency in the context of the RecoupAerator: an Energy Recovery Ventilation system (ERV). Prior to joining this company, I had little knowledge of ERVs let alone the urgent need to ventilate my home. Doesn’t air conditioning bring in fresh air? Besides bugs and the occasional rogue bird, what’s wrong with opening a window? I had to take a deep breath and admit I was clueless to the issue. Parts of this blog will reveal how oblivious I was to the role of ERVs in ‘green’ home technology. By effectively filtering or diluting indoor toxins such as radon, pollen, and various formaldehydes, ventilation (via a RecoupAerator) is one of the most necessary yet easiest steps towards healthy living.

As I have started working and learning here at UltimateAir, one thing has become eminently clear: whole house ventilation such as the RecoupAerator should be a standard in all homes, not a luxury. We must list ERVs amongst televisions, dishwashers, and toasters as essential household appliances. In this series I will not only continue this theme but explore healthy and environmentally friendly practices as well as the lasting benefits of the RecoupAerator.

If you are new to energy efficient ventilation or passive homes, learn with me!! If you are a dealer, already have a RecoupAerator, or are savvy with passive homes, bear with me!! This series will give you insight into ways of promoting and reaching others like yourself. It will allow you to rediscover and explore why clean air is so important. Or maybe you will simply find this newcomer’s views cool and refreshing.

 

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Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, ERV, Air Filration, energy efficient, Passive House, recoupaerator

How to Eliminate Formaldehyde in Your Home

Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011

First, the bad news: formaldehyde is in many household products and is necessary to the manufacturing of them, so to some extent is unavoidable. Many new homes have too much formaldehyde and too little ventilation.

formaldehyde in cleaning products

But there is good news: we can substantially reduce its presence in our homes. There are practical steps one can take to drastically reduce the presence of, and exposure to, formaldehyde. While it may be necessary in the manufacturing of certain products, it doesn’t need to linger in the air we breathe!

Formaldehyde is often used in clothing and drapes to create a permanent press. It is used in adhesives, and in some paints and coating products. According to the E.P.A., formaldehyde is most concentrated in particleboard, plywood paneling and medium density fiberboard.

Exposure to formaldehyde has several health consequences. It can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, and difficulty breathing. At its most extreme, it can cause severe wheezing and coughing, allergic reactions and perhaps even cancer.

Tips to Reduce Formaldehyde in your home:

  • Practice the three basics of improving Indoor air quality... Source Control, Ventilation, then Filtration.
  • Source Control -remove the formaldehyde based products or avoid bringing them inside your home.
  • Ventilation -increase ventilation efficiently using the RecoupAerator®. Continuous ventilation will rid your home of unwanted toxins which off gas from furniture and finishes.
  • Test the level of formaldehyde in the air. For as little as $40 you can check existing levels of the byproduct in your home, either as a precautionary measure or after bringing in the product into your home.
  • Try allowing the product containing formaldehyde to air out before bringing it into your home. Leave the newly purchased product in your garage for a few days.

By taking these simple steps, and by being aware of formaldehyde’s presence in so many products, we can substantially reduce its risk to our families’ health.

 

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants

Indoor Air Quality Audit: The Kitchen

Posted on Mon, Aug 15, 2011

UltimateAir aims to promote health, specifically clean indoor air inside your home. As part of an ongoing "Indoor Air Quality Home Audit" series, we will travel to every room in the home to share best practices and tips to ensure your family is breathing fresh air.

2828 hood kitchenIn the previous weeks, we explored ways to improve the air quality of the bedroom and the bathroom. This week, we will concentrate on the kitchen. Because the kitchen is where our families cook and eat food, it is of critical importance to our health. Before trash day, our garbage accumulates in the kitchen, contributing to the risk. And, like the bathroom, many families store their cleaning products in the kitchen. For these reasons, an audit of the kitchen is an important step towards safeguarding the air quality and health of our families. 

Odors from the kitchen, from cooking, eating and stored garbage, attract rodents and insects. If our homes are poorly ventilated, the odors linger, increasing the chance of infection. The RecoupAerator®, which stands above all other ventilation systems on the market, removes odors from the home, greatly reducing the risks of inviting these unwanted guests.

In addition to the RecoupAerator®, there are other simple steps you can take to prevent dangers to air quality:

  • Open a window while you cook.
  • If you have a fan above your stove, turn it on.
  • Remove your garbage from the kitchen as often as possible.

Dangers can also lurk under our sinks where many people store cleaning products. As discussed last week, these cleaning products often contain chemicals that are very dangerous if inhaled or ingested, or through skin contact.

Fortunately, there are non-toxic ways to clean our homes.

  • Make furniture and floor polish from one part lemon juice and two parts vegetable.
  • Clean your oven with baking soda dissolved in water.
An audit of your kitchen is a simple and practical step towards the continued health of your family, and these steps can help give you peace of mind that you’re not cooking dinner in the company of pesky rodents and insects.

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, Indoor Air Quality Audit, Indoor Air Quality Tips

Indoor Air Quality Audit: The Bathroom

Posted on Thu, Aug 04, 2011

UltimateAir aims to promote health, specifically clean indoor air inside you home. As part of an ongoing "Indoor Air Quality Home Audit" series, we will travel to every room in the home to share best practices and tips to ensure your family is breathing fresh air. 

describe the image

In our first post, we explored ways to improve the air quality of the bedroom. This week, we will concentrate on the bathroom. Because of the shower, sink and toilet, the bathroom becomes wet throughout the day. It also tends to be the place where we store household cleaning products. For both of these reasons, the air within bathrooms is both susceptible to contaminated air and fertile grounds for unwanted allergy triggers to live.

Wet surfaces cause mold. According to the National Association of Realtors, mold causes allergies and asthma, and can generate illnesses in ourselves and our pets. Thankfully, we can prevent the accumulation of mold throughout our home with the use of an air filtration system and other simple steps.

How to Remove Mold From Your Bathroom

    • Remove the mold by cleaning the surface with an air-friendly cleaning product such as baking soda and water.

    • After drying it well, make an effort to keep it dry by applying towels, using an exhaust fan, or by leaving the door and window open after using the shower.

While we are removing mold and keeping it at bay in our bathrooms, we should also audit underneath bathroom sinks and in bathroom closets, where many people store their household products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cleaning, disinfecting, and cosmetic products all contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be very dangerous if breathed in. Ammonia, for example, is present in many of these products.

How to Make Our Own Non-Toxic Cleaning Solution

Thankfully, we can protect our air quality (and even save some money!) by making our own non-toxic cleaners. It is very simple.

    • Baking soda and water, though perhaps old-fashioned, is just as effective as any modern product.
    • And vinegar is a great disinfectant; it can be used to clean grout, shower curtains, sinks and toilets.

To ensure a continuous air exchange in the bathroom, where pollutants can be created and stored, consider adding an air filtration/ventilation system that can exhaust mold spores and VOC’s, and supply clean, fresh, filtered air.

Though bathrooms are vulnerable to poor indoor air quality, these best practices are necessary to ensure a healthy environment in your bathroom – and are very simple to take.

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, indoor air quality, Clean Home Air, Indoor Air Quality Audit, Indoor Air Quality Tips, EPA

Green Cleaning Products and Formaldehyde

Posted on Thu, Jun 16, 2011

Many of us frequently use "green" cleaning products in our homes. But, did you know that some of these products can produce levels of formaldehyde that can be dangerous to breathe?

Check out this quick and easy experiment we conducted with a Formaldehyde Monitor. It makes you wonder if these cleaning products actually do more harm than good, especially for allergy and asthma sufferers.



Learn more about how to ensure the air you're breathing inside your home or business is safe by visiting our YouTube Page.

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, Common Indoor Air Pollutants, Air Quality Study

What you need to know about Volatile Organic Compounds

Posted on Wed, Apr 27, 2011

vocpaintVolatile organic compounds are toxic gas emissions from solid and liquid sources that can be harmful to health that are indoor air pollutants . VOC sources include but are not limited to: paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and office equipment such as copiers, printers, glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. All of these products give off invisible gases that can be toxic.

Concentration of certain VOCs can be 10 times higher indoors than outdoors, and a lot of these VOCs come with adverse health effects. Research from the Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Resource Bank found there were moderate to strong increases in respiratory and allergic health effects in children who came from homes with high concentrations of certain VOCs.

Since so many VOCs come from products we use daily indoors, it is a challenge to counteract adverse health effects. What’s more, the symptoms of VOC exposure---irritated eyes, headaches and dizziness can easily be confused with other causes. However, keeping the air inside your home or office clean and toxin-free is one of the best measures to ensure health and safety.

Though it’s true that VOCs are all around us and are safe at certain levels, you can and should take proactive steps to eliminate these compounds. Doing so begins with improving indoor air quality by eliminating these indoor air pollutants.

Clean indoor air is the key to combating VOCs.

The first step in reducing toxic levels in your home or office is to eliminate the source. Purchase products that are less toxic and use them according to the instructions. When possible, only buy enough paint for immediate use and avoid mixing different household cleaners and solvents together. 

The second step to reduce the levels of VOC in your indoor space is to clean the air with filtration.  Caution:  many appliances promise to purify household air, but few really provide the solution you need.

  • Electronic air cleaners are effective in removing airborne particles, but not gases, and many of them can produce ozone that may irritate the lungs.
  • Ion generators may remove small particles (tobacco smoke) from the indoor air.  However, they do not remove gases or odors, and they do not do a good job removing large particles, such as pollen and house dust allergens.

The third step is to provide adequate ventilation – defined as bringing fresh air into the home. If you or your children have respiratory conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis or chronic colds, getting the proper amount of fresh air is even more important.

Our Indoor Air System ventilates, bringing fresh, filtered air into your home, dramatically improving your indoor air quality.

For additional information on VOCs, visit the EPA’s website or the Minnesota Department of Health.

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, Indoor Air Pollution

Allergy, Asthma Triggers, and your Indoor Air Quality

Posted on Wed, Apr 20, 2011

asthma allergy triggersAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency roughly 25 million people suffer from asthma each year. Seven million of these sufferers are children. Air pollutants commonly found in homes, schools and other buildings trigger asthma symptoms such as chest tightness, wheezing, coughing and breathing problems. Left untreated, asthma attacks can be life-threatening.

Some of the major asthma triggers include:

  • Second hand smoke: Second hand smoke is the leading cause of asthma triggers for children. The pollutants in cigarette smoke can come from adult smokers in the home, or travel through vents and cracks in windows and doors from conjoined housing units.
  • Mold: Mold grows in damp, poorly ventilated places such as kitchens and bathtubs. Toxic spores linger in the air, adhere to damp surfaces and grow. Touching these toxic spores can trigger asthma and symptoms of hay fever, which includes sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes.
  • Dust Mites: Dust mites are tiny critters invisible to the naked eye. They live in bedding, stuffed animals, upholstered furniture and other places. Dust mites can easily make their way into homes and schools.
  • Pet Dander: While many people love their pets, furry animals leave dead skin flakes, urine, hair, feces and saliva that can trigger asthma. Urine or saliva from warm-blooded animals including cats, dogs, mice, rats, gerbils, birds have been reported to trigger asthma episodes in individuals who are sensitive to animal allergens.
  • Nitrogen Dioxide: This odorless gas is a byproduct of indoor fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, gas or oil furnaces, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Nitrogen Dioxide can cause irritation in the eyes, nose and throat and trigger shortness of breath.

You can prevent asthma triggers by taking proactive measures to maintain a clean environment with optimal indoor air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency advises there are three basic strategies to improve indoor air quality:

  • Source Control
  • Improved Ventilation
  • Air cleaners

Additionally, the EPA, has an asthma program, recommending the following steps for source control:

  • Don’t allow smoking in your home or car.
  • Dust and clean your home regularly.
  • Clean up mold and fix water leaks.
  • Wash sheets and blankets weekly in hot water.
  • Use allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom and off soft furniture.
  • Control pests—close up cracks and crevices and seal leaks; don’t leave food out.

For ventilation and air cleaning, the best choices are air exchangers with filtration devices that introduce fresh, filtered air into your home.

The RecoupAerator® exchanges the stale, polluted air of an average-sized home with clean, fresh, healthy air about once every two hours. It provides both ventilation and filtration (air cleaning) – removing the many contaminants created from inside the home and capturing pollens and mold spores. And, it maintains your home’s air temperature while refreshing indoor air.

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, Indoor Air Pollution, Common Indoor Air Pollutants

Ultimate Air Health Risks of Dust Mites, Mold

Posted on Tue, Apr 05, 2011

woman sneezingDust mites and mold are two common unwanted elements in homes and other buildings that can trigger or worsen asthma and hay fever symptoms. These environmental pollutants can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and breathing problems. In severe cases, dust mites and mold contribute to life-threatening asthma emergencies.

You’ve probably seen mold along bathroom window sills and in other places with damp surfaces and poor ventilation. Mold produces toxic spores that linger in the air, adhere to damp surfaces and grow. Simply learn touching mold can cause sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes---all symptoms of hay fever, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

While dust mites and mold can easily make its way into our homes, there are some proactive steps you can take to reduce their threat. Improving your indoor air quality by eliminating or minimizing dust mites and mold can help you stay healthy. Here are some tips from the experts.

  • Keep it clean: A lot of dust mites and mold spores can be circulated throughout the home. Filters in central heating and cooling systems tend to trap dust and other air pollutants so change or clean filters regularly. Wash bedding once a week in hot water, keep stuffed toys off beds or choose washable toys, cover mattresses, pillows and upholstered furniture with dust-proof zip covers.
  • Be selective: What you bring into your home can affect the level of dust mites present. Experts at the University of Nebraska recommend avoiding ownership of pets with fur or feathers. However, if you love pets, you can minimize adverse health effects of by selecting a sleeping area for animals far away from your own. When furnishing your home, choose rugs, curtains and other items that can be washed regularly.
  • Set it right: High levels of humidity encourage mold to grow. The EPA recommends keeping your indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent. You can use a vaporizer or humidifier to help keep your indoor humidity at the recommended levels. Keeping indoor humidity within this recommended range can combat the threat of both dust mites and mold.
  • Ventilate your home: Not only can you become more energy efficient, but installing an energy recovery ventilator can protect your family from the common health risks that poor air quality, dust mites, and mold can yield.  ERV’s are great for homes of any age, and are greatly beneficial to older homes by better filtering out allergens that enter the home naturally.

Taking care of your home to prevent against environmental toxins such as mold and dust mites all comes down to improving indoor air quality. Take the proactive steps necessary to protect yourself and your family against the effects of these elements.

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, Home Energy Efficiency Best Practices, Common Indoor Air Pollutants

Why indoor air quality is so important

Posted on Mon, Mar 21, 2011

indoor air qualityBreathing quality indoor air is critical for good health. Most Americans spend a significant amount of time indoors--either in the home, office or other types of buildings--where gas, chemical and other pollutants can cause headaches, eye irritation, allergies and fatigue. Serious pollutants can cause certain types of cancers and other long-term health complications.

Clean air can prevent many environmental health hazards such as asthma, which according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, affects 25 million people, including 7 million children in a given year. Asthma accounts for nearly 17 million physician office and hospital visits.

Common indoor air pollutants include:

  • Second hand smoke: A serious indoor air pollutant which can worsen symptoms for asthma sufferers, increase risks of ear infections in children and increase risks for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  • Radon: A dangerous gas pollutant identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer, Radon enters homes through cracks and other improperly sealed openings.
  • Combustion Pollutants including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide: These gases come from burning materials or improperly vented fuel-burning appliances such as space heaters, wood stoves, gas stoves, water heaters, dryers and fireplaces.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas which is not easily detectable by human senses, and interferes with oxygen delivery throughout the body. Carbon monoxide causes headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea; and toxic amounts can lead to death.

Nitrogen dioxide, which is also a colorless and odorless gas causes eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, and increased risk for respiratory infections.

Indoor air quality is a critical public health issue that continues to be addressed at the local, state and federal levels. Recognizing the importance of air quality, states such as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin have implemented broadly encompassing legislation to address health concerns.

In Wisconsin, a statewide indoor smoking ban has already improved air quality in restaurants and bars by more than 90 percent, according to findings from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health. Before the law, air quality in 21 percent of all tested establishments was rated hazardous, the most dangerous level according to standards set by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. After the law was enacted, over 97 percent of restaurants and bars had good or satisfactory air quality ratings.

Indoor air quality continues to be a critical concern that requires immediate action from governments and homeowners alike.

Tags: Indoor Air Pollutants, Indoor Air Pollution, Common Indoor Air Pollutants