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Indoor Air Quality, Carbon Monoxide, Formaydehyde, Mold

indoor air qualityAlabama Energy Doctors offers indoor air quality solutions, including air quality testing and ventilation solutions, throughout the Dothan, AL region.

According to the EPA, poor indoor air quality poses a significant health risks for many American familes today. Unfortunately, too few of us are aware of the risks, and of the measures that we can take to improve our homes' indoor air quality and limit the risk of asthma, allergies, exposure to carcinogens, and the many other detrimental effects of poor air quality in our buildings.

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

Poor indoor air quality can be caused by a number of factors, but the typical culprits are inside the home: pet dander, cigarette smoke, dirt and dust, mold, chemicals from building materials, smoke from fireplaces and kitchens, etc. While it is possible to minimize the impact of poor indoor air quality sources within the home, the most effective way to control air quality is to ventilate properly.

What Can Be Done About Poor Indoor Air Quality?

A ventilation strategy is critical for improving indoor air quality and minimizing the health risks of poor indoor air. While many homes rely on the natural ventilation occuring through air leaks in the building envelope (leaks between the living space and the crawlspace, attic and walls), this is not a reliable remedy -- often, the crawlspace and walls are full of toxins (like mold) that thereby enter the living space. The best way to improve a building's indoor air quality is through whole-house ventilation, using either a powerful whole-house fan or a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy-recovery ventilator (ERV).

For more information about indoor air quality in homes, or to schedule a free phone consultation to discuss your home's indoor air quality could be improved, contact us today! 334-828-1024


Is a low level of carbon monoxide safe?

You know that saying, Don't judge a book by its cover? That certainly applies to what may be the best protection against carbon monoxide poisoning you can buy. The CO Experts carbon monoxide monitor (and another that we use) doesn't have a flashy website or marketing program. It doesn't even have the approval from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) that so many products crave. And there's a good reason for that.

The CO Experts monitor is a low-level monitor that tells you what's going on with the carbon monoxide levels in your home in real time. It cannot get listed by UL because UL has decided that only high levels matter. Here's a quote from the UL standard, as given on the CO Experts website:

Carbon monoxide alarms covered by this standard are not intended to alarm when exposed to long term, low level carbon monoxide exposures or slightly higher short term transient carbon monoxide exposures, possibly caused by air pollution and/or properly installed/maintained fuel-fired appliances and fireplaces. See Table 38.1, Part B, False alarm resistance specifications.

Engineer George Kerr,  cites numerous studies showing that low levels of CO are harmful. In fact, problems show up even at really low levels. A UCLA study found that CO levels above 5 parts per million (ppm) was associated with pregnant women having underweight babies with smaller heads.

The existence of such studies probably helps to explain the disclaimers that companies making UL listed CO alarms put on their products. Here's the warning from the Kidde-Nighthawk Model #KN-COPP-3, as given in the user manual I downloaded from the Kidde website:

You should take extra precautions to protect high risk persons from CO exposure because they may experience ill effects from carbon monoxide at levels that would not ordinarily affect a healthy adult. Are there any infants or small children in the home? Be sure to check them for signs of possible CO poisoning because they might have trouble explaining their symptoms. Infants and children are more susceptible to CO poisoning than a healthy adult.

Pregnant women should be aware that their unborn fetus could be harmed by exposure to carbon monoxide, even when the mother suffers no ill effect herself. Any pregnant woman who suspects she may have been exposed to carbon monoxide should immediately contact her physician.

Is there anyone in the household who is elderly, or who has anemia, heart disease or respiratory problems, emphysema or chronic bronchitis? These individuals are at higher risk for CO poisoning and for health problems from exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide.

Basically, the problem with UL listed alarms is that they're meant to offer protection to healthy adults during very high levels of CO in a home's air. So how much CO does a UL listed alarm allow you to breathe?

  • 30 ppm for up to 30 days
  • 70 ppm for up to 4 hours
  • 150 ppm for up to 50 minutes
  • 400 ppm for up to 15 minutes

If you think about what those numbers mean, it's actually worse than it looks. For example, as Kerr points out on the CO Experts site, a UL listed CO alarm would allow you to breathe air with 358 ppm for 45 minutes—with NO alarm at all. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have more protection than that.

The CO Experts low level CO monitor starts giving you warnings when the CO levels it detects are above 6 ppm. As the CO levels rise, the warnings go from visual to auditory and increase in frequency. The highest level of alarm occurs when it reaches 70 ppm, when it gives you a series of beeps every 6 seconds.

Don't judge a book by its cover

Back to that old aphorism I opened the article with, there are two reasons you might rush to judgment about the CO Experts monitor. I've already mentioned one: No UL listing. I hope I've convinced you already that that's not a valid reason. The problem isn't that this low level monitor isn't UL listed. The problem is with the requirements for the UL listing.

The problem is that Kerr is also an engineer, and his website shows that. It's full of great information presented poorly. Don't be put off by the website appearance, though. This CO monitor is the real deal. Pretty much everyone I know in the home performance industry swears by these CO monitors. If you want to breathe easy, get yourself one, or the less expensive one that we offer today.

Call 334-828-1024