Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Sick Building Syndrome’

Sick Building Syndrome? Could Your House Have It?

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

When you buy a house, you assume that it’s safe to live in. You assume that the construction is sound and the air quality is good so that you never need to worry about things like excessive illness due to contamination. However, the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 30% of homes built in the 1980s subjected homeowners to Sick Building Syndrome – a situation where indoor air quality causes symptoms and feelings of illness without a clear cause.

That number has dropped in the last 25 years as many homes have been remodeled and retrofitted to stay comfortable year round, but without proper air quality control, a home with poor ventilation and filtration may still be unsafe.

How Do I Know We Have Sick Building Syndrome?

There are quite a few potential symptoms of poor air quality and SBS in your home. Chest tightness and coughing is a primary factor and can lead to fevers and chills. Often, recovery from the illness has nothing to do with your health, but with the conditions of your home – you may not feel better until repairs are completed or you leave the house.

Other symptoms of sick building syndrome include headache, eye and nose irritation, dry skin, nausea and dizziness, fatigue and trouble concentrating. And throughout it all, your doctor likely won’t be able to determine the cause of your discomfort.

What Causes This

The most common reason for sick building syndrome is poor ventilation. In the 1970s, the ventilation requirements for new homes were reduced by 66% to help save energy. However, air quality measures were not included to ensure people stayed healthy. That has since changed as ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers raised the recommendations back to the pre-1973 levels and even increased them in some cases.

There are other things as well you should look out for including indoor chemical exposure to carbon monoxide from exhaust fans, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde. Outdoor sources can make you ill as well. Smoke, exhaust, and various gases from outside your home can enter your indoor air and cause illness to your family if they aren’t properly filtered out.

Finally, there are things like mold, bacteria and pollen which are always issues for indoor air. Proper purification and filtration will help with each of these problems, but only if you monitor and test for them regularly.

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The Facts about Indoor Air Quality

Friday, May 27th, 2011

One of the least understood aspects of your home’s comfort system is the indoor air quality. Most people assume that once they have a good furnace and air conditioner installed, there’s nothing left to worry about. However, with the push in the last 20 years to reduce energy loss through poor insulation, most homes are sealed up tighter than ever before. This doesn’t just cause stuffy indoor air – it can actually lead to illness.

How Bad Can Indoor Air Quality Get?

Homes built in the 1980s were recommended to have one third of the ventilation of those built before. Today, the standards have returned to their original levels, but for many years, homes were built with poor ventilation and excessive insulation. The result is a space that holds the air in too well. Everyday contaminants and allergens like dust, pollen, pet dander, mold, or smoke cannot get out of your home and as a result, you can get sick.

In fact, some people even suffer from Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). This is when they feel ill constantly, with respiratory symptoms that have no root cause and are hard to diagnose. Often, it is because they simply breathe too many contaminants and too much stale air.

Fixing Air Quality Is Simple

The first thing needed to fix air quality is a good filtration system. Despite what many people think, simple filtration is not that expensive. There are big, powerful purification systems with advanced ionization units and UV lighting to kill bacteria and viruses, but most families are served well with a simple HEPA filter to remove things like dust, pollen and dander.

It’s a good idea to have your indoor air quality tested, however, just to make sure other contaminants are not present. High humidity can lead to mold growth, and poor ventilation can lead to exhaust or gas fumes in your home. A good carbon monoxide detector is recommended for the latter, but testing should be done to make sure nothing else is floating around.

Finally, make sure your home is properly ventilated. Standard ventilation tends to leak heated or cooled air outside, so many homeowners now opt for energy recovery ventilators. These systems have heat exchangers that transfer warm air between indoor and outdoor air.

However you want to fix your indoor air quality issues, know that there are plenty of things you can do with the help of a good filtration device and regular cleanings of your ductwork and vents.

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