Healthy Home Guide
Is your home harming you? New research highlights deadly effects of indoor pollution
The time we spend indoors is probably the longest breathing air time we endure. Aside from the ‘norm’ accepted toxins we allow in our home every day, we do not take into account high humidity, accelerators from perfumes, air fresheners and how they interact in the same environment to create dangerous cocktails for our lungs and body cells.
It is essential that a consistent air flow filtrated or not be running through the house or building. Not just movement but essential fresh air change or 'free air’ which not only dilutes or removes these toxins but brings positive energy associated with fresh air through the building.
Improving Air Quality Indoors
The quality of the air inside of homes has grown to be a concerning matter especially for those who suffer from asthma or allergies. Air quality levels can have an effect on all residents, however, not solely those with health conditions. There is a wide range of potential contaminants which can build up within a home and these can present a serious health threat with prolonged exposure. Hop to this page to see what OSHA has to say about these matters. The origins of such undesirable microbes can vary. Some may include those brought in by pets which become air borne, those already present in building materials and some which spread due to increased moisture levels in certain areas of the house.
There are some things homeowners can due to ensure better air quality indoors and therefor avoid the correlated health risks. One of the biggest measures would be to increase air flow and circulation throughout the home. Stagnant air can fill with pollutants and begin to deposit them on surfaces allowing them to potentially get ingested. Reducing humidity levels inside a home is also a good way to clean up the atmosphere in a household. This can be done with dehumidifiers, fans and otherwise circulating air through the home with the windows open. Routinely deep cleaning carpets will also help greatly because carpets will fill with these pollutants over time which will be launched into the air in increasing volumes each time the vacuum cleaner is run. Folks within the Indianapolis area can check out this carpet cleaning service which makes use of highly sophisticated equipment to thoroughly remove dirt and contaminants from the home making a safe environment for you and your family.
The Impact of Air Conditioners
In today’s world, most people have invested in one form of an air conditioner or another. We have either reverse cycle, portable, ducted or split system air conditioners in our homes. They keep us cool in the extreme summer heat without fail. However, have you ever sat back and looked at the costs of running an air conditioner? When compared to the common household fan the amount of electricity required to run an air conditioner is enormous. The difference in weather conditions from year to year will also greatly affect the costs.
What happens when the peak demand is soaring, the ability of the supply grid to support that supply becomes overwhelming, and we get blackouts because the grids can’t support the demand for extra power. The grid goes into self-protection mode by limiting the amount of power that it can transmit, resulting in entire geographical zones being shut down.
Ventilation is essential to a clean and healthy home. Not only does it keep the air clean but it keeps bacteria, air borne virus’s, damp and mould at bay and keeps timber and building structures protected from termites, rust and corrosion.
When compared to the common household fan the amount of electricity required to run an air conditioner is enormous. Air conditioners literally devour electricity. The energy an average air conditioner uses in on 3 hours is enough to power a fridge for a week. A large electricity bill may affect you in the short term, but high-energy consumption is likely to affect the environment in the long term.
‘Monthly costs assume cooling is used for 4 hours per day.’
- Fan (portable or ceiling) 1c approx. $1.60
- Evaporative cooler (portable) 2c approx. $6.50
- Evaporative cooler (ducted) 10c–14c $23–$34
- Reverse cycle air conditioner (window/wall or split system, 1–2 star rating) 33c–35c $42–$47
- Reverse cycle air conditioner (window/wall or split system, 4–6 star rating) 24c–37c $30–$35
- Reverse cycle air conditioning (cooling whole home) 55c–80c $71–$102
- Ducted reverse cycle air conditioning (zoned system—bedrooms and living areas cooled at separate times) 32c–47c $37–$55
Ref* Sustainability Victoria.
On top of massive energy consumption, the use of many air conditioners can and does affect the local temperature. As the cool air is created inside, intense hot air is pumped outside via the condensers. This creates heat zones, multiply these zones in a city and you have what the science world call an urban heat island. This is the name given to describe the characteristic warmth of both the atmosphere and surfaces in cities (urban areas) compared to their (non-urbanized) surroundings.
Take for example blocks of apartments, office blocks or large commercial buildings, pumping out 40C to 60c per unit to the already hot external air temperature. When you add up a city’s worth of air conditioners, you can understand why it is that cities are hotter than the countryside in summer. This additional heat also creates a microclimate convection system whereby the hot air rises swiftly in pocketed areas, creating many new abnormal localized weather patterns.
Another environmental concern is the use of refrigerants in air conditioners. Hydro Fluro Carbons (HFCs) such as R410A or R407C are the most commonly used refrigerant type found in domestic air conditioners. While HFCs don’t damage the ozone layer like CFCs do, they are a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, with profound consequences.
The latest wave of green alternatives for cooling and heating your house are geothermal pumps, solar ventilation or solar fans, and HRV (heat recovery ventilation) systems.
Ground cooling/heating systems, solar (Solarventi) or geothermal pumps can provide adequate comfortable natural air conditioning to any building. The obvious advantages being initial minimal running costs with minute carbon emissions. The added benefits being that fresh filtered air is ventilating the property thereby creating a fresher cleaner and healthier internal environment.
Solar ventilation systems will run cost free and most are maintenance free.
Fans use a fraction of the power of that of air conditioners, as they only have to rotate blades, but as such they only move the air around - they don’t cool it.
Ceiling fans cool by creating a low-level “wind chill” effect. This windchill effect makes you feel cooler by accelerating the evaporation of moisture on your skin. As long as indoor humidity isn’t stifling, they can be quite effective.
Insulation, in its many forms, helps stop the transfer of heat from one place to another. A good example of this is the insulation in the attic. A thick layer of insulation helps to stop heat flow from the house to the attic during the winter. In the summer, that same insulation helps stop heat transfer.
Tips – if you do feel the need to use your air conditioner
- Keep filters clean. Filters blocked (with dust) make the machine work harder and use more electricity.
- Each degree you are able to raise the thermostat, you will save 3–5% on air conditioning costs.
- Keep the air in the room moving – use a fan. A little breeze will make it feel even cooler.
- Using a timer to automatically switch air conditioners on and off. If your model doesn’t have a timer function, use a separate plug timer between the air conditioner and the plug socket.
- Reduce heat gain by pulling drapes or shades, and use shelters to prevent direct sunlight from streaming in through windows on the south and west-facing sides of the house. Overhangs, patio overheads, latticework, awnings work well.
- Always keep all doors and windows closed when operating an air conditioner.
- Don’t cool unoccupied rooms (but don’t shut off too many vents either, or it will put pressure on the system).
- Install inexpensive heat-reflecting film on windows that face the sun. This will keep the house cooler and reduce glare and ultraviolet rays that damage furniture and floors.
- Hire a professional technician to inspect, clean, and tune your system every 2-3 years.
- One of the most important principles of an energy-efficient home is to keep the house or building air sealed. Air sealing prevents the flow of heat from outside to inside and outside. Weather-strip all windows and doorways.
Drying - It's as simple as that
The importance of drying in damp houses as a part of the daily health is essential. In some cases, changes in the weather can affect drying but, for now, let’s just concentrate on drying.
Drying simply means removing dampness remaining on the absorbent parts of the house structure and soil as a result of flooding, natural seepage or pipe leaks. This is accomplished after one of two ways of removing the physical liquid. Physical removal of liquids may be as simple as opening a hole in the brickwork at the lowest point of the subfloor area that will allow the flowing liquid to drain due to gravity. Or, it may involve using a pit or sump pump in closed or encased subfloor areas to mechanically draw that liquid out to a more suitable drain area. Drying then begins with either two ways slow positive input of dehumidified warm air in combination with a negative balanced airflow to keeping motional cross balance. Two is to swiftly draw air at quantities using negative pressure only using means such as a large fan from the lesser part of the building drawing warmer dryer air in from the greater side of the building. Both methods creating the more commonly known method of evaporation. Evaporation of liquid is usually enhanced through the use of heat and the movement of air over the area. In today’s Australian climate, cross ventilation is rarely suitable due to boundary enclosures, fences, close buildings, differential wind direction and incorrect vent placing.
At first, drying by evaporation would seem very simple. The evaporation of liquids, after all, is nothing spectacular. It’s a process we see every day. It rains, the sidewalk gets wet. The rain stops and the sun comes out and the water on the sidewalk evaporates and is gone. Job done, however take a deeper look, and think where all that water has dissipated to? It also reveals that there is more to evaporation than one might think. The belief is that the rate of evaporation depends on temperature only! The higher the temperature, the faster evaporation takes place! Well, actually, yes but in fact not completely correct! The rate of evaporation is actually driven by the relative humidity to a greater degree and air movement than by temperature. As the temperature of air is increased, it can absorb more liquid and, therefore, the relative humidity is decreased. The greater the air movement the greater the displacement of lower humid air. Lower relative humidity promotes faster drying. The following chart and graph which both show essentially the same data are very interesting.
As temperature is increased, the amount of water required to saturate a specific volume of air increases.
This graph shows that as the temperature of air increases, the amount of water required to saturate it increases dramatically. A few degrees of increase in temperature has an increasingly large effect on the saturation point. So, take for example a subfloor area at a temperature of 10C, with 100 RH, this would hold 7.8 grams of water vapour per Kilogram g/Kg. - Now, introduce airflow continually at only 20C, and 50% RH - not much, but this will have the capability to hold twice the what is present specs (20C -15 g/Kg). Take it another step, continuously drawing this 20C air which holds double the g/Kg capacity through your subfloor area and then displaces it externally will not only change the air temps and humidity but will draw the dampness (moisture) out of surrounding structures (timber and brickwork). Doing this process on a daily basis and allowing stagnation at night allows building structures to become dryer, subfloors temperatures raise by a couple of degrees and humidity levels to drop dramatically.
Air at 100% humidity is saturated with water. If a volume of air saturated with water is heated, the level of saturation is decreased and the air requires additional moisture to again become saturated. Air that is saturated with water is at a relative humidity of 100%. Air that contains only 50% of the water required to be fully saturated is at a relative humidity of 50%. Similarly, if the temperature of a volume of air that is saturated is reduced, water comes out of the air as a fog or water droplets. The “dew point” is the temperature at which air becomes fully saturated. In weather terms, this is when it rains. In thermal bridging of surfaces at a lower temperature, this is when you see condensate.
Relative humidity in percent is the total water required for a volume of air divided by the amount of water that would be required to be totally saturate that volume of air. In drying, it is important to understand the role of both temperature and humidity and how they are related. Next consider the complete implication that by drying and slightly raising the temperature of what is normally the coldest and wettest part of the house, would have on a daily basis.
It really is as simple as that……