HVAC - Ventilation Tips

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What is the role of air cleaners in commercial indoor air quality systems?

Air Cleaners Get Rid of Unhealthy Particles and Gases

Air cleaners are a critical component of commercial HVAC systems. It helps to know the types of air cleaners, as well as their benefits and limitations.

All air cleaners require cleaning and filter replacement. For commercial buildings, choose high efficiency air cleaners that can handle a lot of air. There are different types of air cleaners for different functions: furnace filters, electronic air cleaners and ion generators, to name a few.

Mechanical filters remove particles from the air. Flat mechanical filters collect large particles. Pleated filters such as HEPA filters collect smaller particles. Electronic air cleaners and ion generators use an electronic charge to zap airborne particles. Be aware that these devices may also produce unhealthy ozone. Dome air cleaners remove polluting gases from the air. They use special material, such as activated charcoal, for cleaning gaseous pollutants.

Which federal agency handles workplace complaints on air quality?

NIOSH Investigates Workplace Air Quality Complaints

If your business is the source of an air quality complaint, it is important to understand the process and comply with investigators. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health responds to complaints by workers and employers of poor air quality and other environmental hazards. A NIOSH review examines workplace activities and attempts to measure and track contamination levels and exposure.

Investigators look for pollution sources, and inspect HVAC systems. They check ventilation sources, and see if air flow is carrying pollutants from one room to another. Indoor air quality problems can be caused by poor ventilation, overcrowded work areas, office materials that produce gases, and outside air pollutants, among other things. Improper temperature settings and humid work areas also can produce complaints of discomfort.

Often air quality problems can be fixed by a building's maintenance engineer. You may also want to contact an HVAC specialist. The specialist likely will test the air and offer solutions.

Will commercial HVAC systems stop mold growth?

Keep Indoor Humidity Low to Prevent Mold Growth

Commercial HVAC systems that perform efficiently will stop unhealthy mold growth. They dehumidify, ventilate and filter the air. Their smooth operation is vital to the health of employees and customers. Buildings also need to be well-maintained for the HVAC systems to function well. Here are problems to watch for, and tips for maintaining indoor air quality:
* Check for wet spots and condensation in your building. Mold grows rapidly in a wet environment, so scrub and dry wet areas within 48 hours.
* Keep indoor humidity low.
* Reduce moisture levels in the air if you spot condensation.
* Repair leaks and increase ventilation if outside air is cold and dry. Dehumidify, if outdoor air is warm and humid.
* Raise the surface temperature through better insulation or by increasing air circulation.
* Clean heating, ventilation, and air conditioning drip pans.
* Perform routine repairs and cleaning of your HVAC system.

Should I worry about ventilation in my basement?

Dry Basements and Crawlspaces Need Ventilation

Your basement or crawlspace should not be sealed shut. The area needs ventilation, even if you do not use it often. If your basement or crawlspace is damp, do not close or block the vents - doing so may cause mold and lead to rotting. The mold can spread into living areas of your home.

Sometimes you cannot see moisture in your basement but you know it is there. The air feels wet and smells moldy. Here's what you can do to find out if there is moisture permeating through the dirt floor of an unfinished basement:

Place clear plastic on the dirt floor for a few days to see if water collects on its underside. If you have moisture and ventilation problems, it is best to contact an HVAC or ventilation specialist. Once your basement is dry, you can close foundation vents in the winter to save energy. Open them when it warms to allow moisture from the house to escape.

What should I do if I think there's a problem with air pollution at my office?

Office Air Pollution Can Cause Health Problems

Offices can have significant problems with indoor air pollution. They may have poor ventilation from commercial air quality systems that don't run properly. Here are some steps to take to ensure the quality of air in your office:

- If you are concerned about indoor air pollution in your workplace, talk with other employees about their experiences and observations.
- Ask management to keep a record of your complaint and the complaints of other workers.
- Talk with your physician. If your company has a physician, make an appointment.
- Ask company management to contact the Environmental Protection Agency for guidance. The EPA publishes "IAQ Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM)," which offers tips for managing issues related to indoor air quality, or IAQ.

The primary causes of bad indoor air quality usually are the presence of polluting substances; problems with heating and cooling systems; and improper use of a building. The EPA reports an increase in the number of indoor air quality complaints since the 1990s. The increase coincides with a better awareness by the public of health risks associated with poor indoor air quality.

How can I improve ventilation in my home?

Bathroom, Clothes Dryer Need Proper Ventilation

Make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient by improving ventilation. Here are few "around the house" tips to boost ventilation:

* Vent moisture to the outside from the bathroom and laundry room. The bathroom produces more moisture than any other room in your house.
* If you cannot vent the bathroom to the outside, install a vent through the attic and down through a soffit vent. But do not vent directly into the attic, which can lead to ice buildup in the winter and mold during warmer months.
* Vent the clothes dryer to the outside with a short metal duct. Clean the duct regularly to prevent house fires. Do not vent the dryer directly into the laundry room.
* Install a vent hood with an exhaust van over your kitchen stove.
* Improve ventilation and air flow in your home with ceiling fans. If you run the ceiling fan in reverse, it will better distribute warm air in the winter.
* Do not block vents for heating and cooling systems, which can run up energy costs and damage equipment.

Can attic ventilation reduce cooling costs in the summer?

Attic Ventilation Controls Moisture, Cooling Costs

Attic ventilation is important to control moisture and keep cooling costs down. Heat can build up in the attic during summer months, and increase costs to cool your home. When it is in the 90s outside, the temperature in your attic can top 150 degrees.

Moisture in your home can rise into the attic. The moisture can collect and damage insulation and your home itself. Mold spores grow in wet areas, causing indoor air quality problems. Insulating and air sealing your attic will keep your attic dry and reduce energy bills.

Use loose-fill insulation, which is cheaper than batt insulation. Next seal all air leaks between the attic and your home. Don't cover soffit vents with insulation, because they allow for attic ventilation. If there already is insulation on the attic floor, check to make sure the vents are not blocked.

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George Sayour