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When it Comes to IAQ, the Confused Mind Says No

Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “The confused mind says no.”? Or perhaps the related saying, “The confused mind does nothing.”? Some of you might be able to relate these sayings to your thinking when it comes to the IAQ products you know about and sell to your customers.

This week I thought it might be fun and informative to address this subject from a myth vs. fact perspective, which we title “Myth Busters”.

Myth: Indoor Air Quality has little impact on your health.

Fact: The quality of the air you breathe affects your health both short-term and long-term. Poor indoor air quality saps your energy, drains cognitive ability, and makes you more susceptible to respiratory issues. Over time, poor indoor air quality has been proven to contribute to heart disease, dementia, and chronic respiratory diseases.

 

Myth: Any particles in your home’s air will eventually pass through and be trapped by your furnace filter.

Fact: The airborne particles most closely associated with health problems—especially long-term health problems—are so small they are called “ultrafine particles”. Being so small, they aren’t affected by air flow and that means they hang around in the air you breathe. Your expensive filter never even has a chance to capture them.

 

Myth: All air particulates are about the same size.

Fact: The size of particles in the air varies widely. Pollen, dust, and mold particles are fairly large—sometimes even visible to the human eye—while viruses, bacteria, and volatile chemical compounds (yes, VOCs are particles) are less than a micron in diameter. For comparison, a strand of human hair is about 70 microns in diameter. Over 90% of all airborne particulates are 1 micron and smaller.

 

Myth: A HEPA filter is the only filter you need.

Fact: HEPA filters are very good at trapping particles. By definition, HEPA means High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance filter, capable of removing over 97% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size. But, to trap a particle, the particle must first travel through the filter. Most ultrafine particles are unaffected by airflow, and so are never drawn into the filter to be trapped. This means a HEPA filter is, at best, a partial solution to indoor air quality.

 

Myth: Indoor Air Quality is better, typically, than Outdoor Air Quality

Fact: In isolated cases, that may be true. But most of the time, indoor air quality is two to five times worse, and sometimes ten times worse, than outdoor air quality. The EPA ranks indoor air quality as one of its top five environmental threats to public health.

 

Myth: If the air looks clean, it is clean.

Fact: Harmful gases like ozone and volatile organic chemicals, and pathogens including bacteria and viruses, are not visible. Many of the gases are odorless. There is no way for you to tell if you are breathing them in, but if you are, they can be very harmful to your health.

 

Myth: Better energy efficiency means better indoor air quality.

Fact: In many cases, energy efficient home construction techniques make the home relatively air tight. It follows that these homes may have poor ventilation that results in worse indoor air quality than homes that are constructed with more “leaks”.

 

Myth: A newly built home will have better indoor air quality.

Fact: Building materials, paint, and new carpet can release volatile organic chemicals. Often referred to as outgassing, some products continue to release VOCs for as long as five years.

 

Myth: Ozone is a safe way to neutralize bad things in the air.

Fact: Ozone generators can effectively neutralize odors and other air contaminants, but the ozone produced by these machines is itself a health hazard according to state and federal guidelines.

 

Myth: If the air smells good, then it’s safe to breathe.

Fact: The air freshener industry is a $1.6 billion market. But air fresheners rely on chemical compounds to make the air smell good. These chemicals, or VOCs, contribute to poor indoor air quality.

 

Myth: “Friendly Oxidizers” are Safe.

Fact: Oxidation is the loss of electrons during a reaction by a molecule, atom or ion. Oxidation can damage vital molecules in our cells, including DNA and proteins, which are responsible for many body processes. Molecules such as DNA are needed for cells to function properly, so if too many are damaged, the cell can malfunction or die.

 

Myth: A portable air purifier will protect my family in my entire home.

Fact: Portable air purifiers can only remove airborne particles that are brought to it based on the airflow design of the device. In addition, various air purifiers range in effectiveness.

 

Myth: The furnace or air conditioning system filter that I bought at the big box store is effective at removing airborne pathogens and VOCs.

Fact: Airborne pathogens, like bacteria and viruses, and airborne volatile chemical compounds (VOCs) are so small that these filters are essentially ineffective at removing these potentially harmful contaminants.

 

Myth: The furnace or air conditioning system filter that I bought at the big box store is effective at removing contaminants in my home that can cause an allergic reaction.

Fact: People suffer allergic reactions from a variety of sources including pollen, mold, mildew, dust mites and more. The first step in getting relief is to address the source of the allergen, such as dust mite allergen coming from bedding or pillows, or pollen coming in from outdoors, or mold/mildew coming from contaminated air conditioning systems. Once that is done, then a high-efficiency air filter may be adequate for removing these allergens, as long as it has a minimum efficiency rating of MERV 11 or the CDC-recommended MERV 13. These filters can be effective at particles of this size because they are large enough to be carried by air flows back to them.

 

Myth: The big box store filter will not cause a loss of efficiency, comfort or increase repair bills on my furnace or air conditioner

Fact: Most of the brand name filters sold by big box stores are, in fact, very restrictive to airflow and will cause significant performance problems with your heating and air conditioning system. If the Initial Resistance rating is .20 in. w.c., then it is excessively restrictive and will cause higher utility costs, reduced comfort, more frequent repairs, more noise and shortened equipment life.

 

Myth: “Ozone Free” means zero ozone is produced by the device.

Fact: UL 868 Sec 40 allows 50 ppb ozone or less to be labeled as “ozone free”. In most cases it is highly probable that the device produces some ozone.

 

Myth: My whole-home HEPA filter is keeping my family safe from airborne contaminants.

Fact: Nearly all airborne particles, pathogens and VOCs are so small and light that they never get caught up in the airstream and brought back to the filter. From a scientific point of view, everything airborne is a particle. Nearly all of these particles are below 1 micron in size and are so lightweight that they will stay relatively suspended in the air. In order for them to ever reach any filter, something must cause them to move.

 

Myth: Adding “options” to my bid price will make me lose the job because customers only care about the lowest price.

Fact: Some people only buy based on the lowest price, but most people spend money if the value is there for them. Selling is about discovering customer needs and offering them solutions to their needs. Is there a single person on the planet who would not at least be interested in reducing or eliminating viruses from the air they and their families are breathing?

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