The air quality inside can sometimes be much worse than the air quality outside.
This is especially true in commercial, institutional, and industrial structures.
Many commercial buildings in the United States have poor Indoor air quality, due to a lack of proper maintenance and repair operations.
Poor maintenance of commercial structures and deferred maintenance can lead to many structural issues in addition to poor indoor air quality and mold growth.
Winter months are especially difficult for indoor air quality because workers tend to spend more time indoors.
That coupled with the lack of proper ventilation can create an unhealthy working environment for individuals.
Why does indoor air quality get really bad during winter?
We’ve increased the amount of insulation and installed high-efficiency windows and doors to keep the cold out and energy expenditures down.
Reduction of the amount of available fresh air introduced into the structure. This causes building occupants to inhale a greater volume of recirculated air, not-so-fresh air.
In addition to heat, the recycled air can be filled with airborne particles such as hair, skin cells, dust, mold, and other allergens.
Increased building design and insulation means more stagnant air inside the structure (compared to open-air office buildings).
This condition that creates stagnant air can increase moisture within the structure; both of which benefit mold growth.
Another major reason for indoor air pollution in the winter is poor functioning central heating systems.
When the central heating system is not serviced regularly, this can lead to a build-up of mold, bacteria, and other airborne contaminants in the air distribution system.
Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality
The health effects of bad air can be immediate, short-term, and readily treatable, but long-term exposure can lead to more severe conditions.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, poor winter indoor air quality can exacerbate respiratory diseases such as asthma and raise the risk of pneumonia and other upper respiratory problems.
Indoor air pollution can also cause respiratory illnesses and a host of other issues, especially in individuals with underlying health conditions.
Poor indoor air quality can also increase employee loss time from work and significantly lower worker productivity.
Even if a sick employee shows up for work, no one is at their best with watery eyes and a runny nose.
Some more direct effects or poor indoor air quality in commercial buildings (workplaces) that can impact the company’s bottom line include:
- Increase operational expenses
- Increased loss time incident rates
- Reduction in productivity
- Low employee morale
- Unsafe working conditions
How to Improve and Maintain Good Indoor Air Quality During Winter
Even in the cold, indoor air quality can be enhanced. Here are a few things to try if you have a business or industrial facility
1. Keep it clean.
In the winter, be sure to keep all surfaces of the structure clean, especially in the basement.
Wearing an air-filtering mask and performing regular and frequent vacuuming will help to minimize airborne pollutants including mold, pollen, and dust mites.
To prevent dust from being circulated back into the environment, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. When feasible, utilize non-toxic cleaning supplies instead of harsh chemicals.
If harsh chemicals are required, make sure the space being cleaned is well ventilated to avoid fumes from hanging around and on the surfaces cleared with them.
2. Make sure to regularly Check the ducts.
Dirt and debris can accumulate in the ductwork and spread to the air inside the building.
Consider having the ducts cleaned and then sealed if they’re clogged with dirt and debris. In situations where the ducts can’t be cleaned, budget to have them replaced as soon as feasible.
3. Pay close attention to the air filters.
Filters in HVAC systems are the first line of defense against indoor air pollutants, but to do their job effectively, they must be maintained, especially during the winter when the heating unit is operating almost constantly.
Clogged or dirty air filters are a major source of poor indoor air quality.
Check your filters regularly and replace them as needed. When you install the filters, make sure they are tightly fastened to prevent gaps between the filter frame and rack so that bypass air is reduced.
4. Consider upgrading filters.
Consult with a commercial HVAC professional to see whether it’s feasible and cost-effective to switch to filters with a higher MERV rating, or filtration efficiency.
A superior filter may improve the capture efficiency of the submicron particles, which can cause health issues.
5. Control it at the source
Like toxic cleaners, eliminating other sources of indoor air pollution can significantly improve the air quality.
Gas emissions from old equipment, for example, maybe reduced with regular maintenance. It is critical to seal or enclose asbestos properly.
Ventilation improvements, on the other hand, might raise energy costs.
6. Increase ventilation
Bringing more fresh air into circulation is an easy approach to lower indoor air pollution.
Condensation on the walls or windows, stuffy air, and dirty heating or cooling devices, as well as “earthy” smells that are most apparent when you enter the building from the outside, are all signs of insufficient ventilation.
Take notice of any hot spots where special attention should be paid to ventilation.
Paint, sanding, welding, or gases can be dispersed throughout the premises if there is insufficient ventilation.
7. Use an air purifier designed for commercial buildings.
The use of an air purifier intended for business usage may be beneficial, but keep in mind that some air purifiers only capture particulates.
In order to remove gas, smells, and chemicals, activated carbon filters are required.
Some contemporary air purifiers may capture and destroy even tiny germs, such as bacteria, viruses, pollen, smoke, animal dander, and other pollutants.
Some units can clean the air several times each hour using cutting-edge technology. It may be a useful technique to keep the indoor air cleaner throughout the winter.
When choosing air purifier technology, keep in mind that it must have the necessary capacity to accomplish the task. This is determined by pollutants, sensitivity, and room size.
8. Install and maintain energy-recovery ventilators
These systems, sometimes known as air-heating exchangers, are used to supply enough fresh air into a structure to sustain a healthy environment.
When stale, polluted indoor air is removed and replaced with pure outdoor air through air-heat exchangers,
The system is heated with energy recovered from the operation of the entire system.
In addition, in the summer, energy-recovery ventilators remove excessive moisture from the building. They may be controlled by humidistats that register low or high humidity levels.
9. Add Some humidity
Not just polluted indoor air, but also the extreme dryness of winter air, can cause discomfort or sickness.
To boost the moisture content of the air and decrease static electricity, fan-powered humidifiers send moisture vapor directly into the heating ducts.
Dehumidifiers help people breathe easier since they prevent dry throats and nasal passages. Dust mites, mold, and mildew are also controlled by the correct amount of moisture in the air.
10. Fix Issues Promptly
Ensure any issues that arise are addressed promptly and avoid deferring maintenance in the facility.
As we have discussed, poor indoor air quality can be a significant issue during the winter.
This is especially true in commercial buildings such as warehouses, industrial facilities, and office buildings.
It is important to ensure the structure is well maintained, all systems such as ventilation, air distribution, and air filtration systems are operating as intended.
Failing to improve and maintain the indoor air quality can be costly and can lead to loss of productivity, increased employee loss time due to illness, and many other issues that can impact the company’s bottom line.