Spring, Pollen & Clean Air in Your House

Spring, Pollen & Clean Air in Your House

It’s Spring and you’ve seen the yellow haze of pollen: on your vehicles, on your outdoor tables, on the pavement.  It’s everywhere.  And that pollen is drawn into your nasal passages, making you sneeze and creating watery, itchy eyes and other allergic symptoms.  What can you do to provide cleaner air in your house?

An Architect Can Specify a Clean Air System

pollen and clean air
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For one thing, you can have your architect design your new house, specifying a better air filtration system than you may have had previously.  Newer systems claim that 99.98% of airborne allergens can be removed from the air stream passing through a special high-technology filtration chamber.  The air inside your house could be up to 500% more contaminated that the air outside.  That means special attention needs to be paid to establishing and maintaining clean air inside your house.

According to HVAC system manufacturers, the US Environmental Protection Agency indicates that indoor air pollution is one of the top 5 environmental health risks.  More that 15 million Americans are estimated to have asthma and other respiratory problems.  This includes 1 in 13 school age children.  Children breathe faster than adults and therefore inhale 50% more air per pound of body weight than do adults.  This makes children’s bodies more sensitive to contaminants in the air inside a residence. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that about 1/3 of newly constructed and renovated houses have indoor air quality problems.

electronic air filter
Image courtesy of Trane. Click on image to see a video about electronic air filters.

One major HVAC system manufacturer claims to have an electronic air cleaning & filtration system that traps polluting particles down to .3 microns in size.  What happens to the trapped particles?  The are incinerated (vaporized).  They indicated that their system has a Clean Air Delivery Rate of 1200.  It is assumed that this rate is similar or identical to the MPR (Microparticle Performance Rating) stipulated on removable throwaway filters.  For the MPR calculation, particles between .3 micron and 1 micron are measured passing through the filter media, because 99% of the number of particles in typical atmospheres are smaller than 1 micron and this size range is considered the most difficult to capture.  The particular system linked to this online article has had its performance verified by professors from the Harvard School of Public Health.

If you aren’t having a new house designed for you right now and would like to do something now; you can.  Some manufacturers of paper and similar throwaway filters like 3M have filters that you can buy at Lowes, Home Depot, WalMart and similar locations.  Their Filtrete model has a High Performance Filter that has a 1500 MPR rating, which they term: Advanced Allergen Reduction.  It has an electrostatic charge, which they claim lasts up to 3 months.  So, when you are using throwaway filters, according to filter manufacturer’s recommendations, you may want to consider replacing them every 3 months.  3M claims that their 1500 filter attracts and traps the following allergens and pollutants from your house’s air: pollen, household dust, lint, dust mite debris, mold spores (that’s a good one to trap), smoke, pet dander, smog, bacteria and particles that carry viruses.  That’s a decent rogue’s gallery of allergens to trap.

3 More Things You Can Do

Now then, are there other things you can do to make your home a cleaner place and have cleaner air?  Yes.  Here are 3 things you can do (in addition to the HVAC filter issue):

1. Vacuum your floors with a quality vacuum cleaner with quality bags that contain, rather than spew out, the dust it sucks into it.  Note: having a Central Vacuum system is far superior to having a portable vacuum, in terms of indoor air quality: because, a portable type of vacuum will be recirculating some of what it picks up, because the air causing the suction has to go out through the dirt receptacle area to function.  If you do not have a central vacuum system (which your architect can specify for you in your new house), use a new vacuum with the highest rating for trapped particles possible.

2.  Damp mop your hard-surfaced floors.

3.  Damp dust all horizontal surfaces in your house.  That includes: counters, tops of exposed cabinetry and furniture, computers, TVs, monitors, exposed shelving, top edges of window and door head frames, light fixtures, ceiling fan motor housings and exposed blade tops and anything else on which dust collects in your house.

Do all of the above, and your house will be a cleaner place.

Architect Specification of HVAC Commissioning

Here’s one more that we’ll bet you haven’t thought of: remove the floor and ceiling registers and grilles covering your ductwork.  Reach into your ductwork with a damp cloth rag.  Wipe as clean as you can.  We’ll bet you just

healthy home design
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removed a lot of construction sawdust and like, didn’t you?   One of the things a properly educated and experienced Healthy Architect can do for you is to specify commissioning procedures for your house project, in which he calls for ductwork to be protected during construction and for temporary fabric and temporary filters to be placed over your ductwork connection points, so that your ducts remain as clean as they were when they came from the factory.  Then when construction is done, the HVAC contractor is specified to remove these temporary precautions, and install new filters, keeping your ductwork clean from the beginning.  Just one of the things your architect can do for you in the design and construction of your house project.

Click here for a list of Green Design Articles and your house.

If you have any questions about the indoor air quality in your future house and what the design can do to improve the atmosphere in it, give Rand Soellner, AIA/NCARB a call or e-mail.  Website: www.HomeArchitects.com

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