Modern Houses & Indoor Air Quality 🏡

One will think that the more modern the house, the better the indoor air quality. However, that’s not always the truth as recently I discovered that many houses have inadequate appliances that will create harmful air pollutants and some of them will falsely mitigate contaminants by creating a false sense of remediation.

Example #1

Gas cooktops are a must according to good chefs as the pans are able to heat immediately and you have more control of the heat. That’s not true as the new induction cook tops are able to heat the bottom of the pans as fast without releasing harmful pollutants like Nitrogen dioxide.

Gas stoves, especially when unvented, can be the number one source of indoor air pollution. According to new research, gas cooking produces about twice PM2.5 as electric cooktops; including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (CH2O). 

Example #2

Hoods, extractors or over-the-range microwaves “with” exhaust are important while cooking. However, the over-range microwaves that come with an extractor end up reticulating air indoors without proper filtration.

Most houses in the US have these false products that give the sense of remediation but they actually contribute to indoor air pollution. Look at the holes this aluminum filter has! These products are designed to trick customers and spend electricity without any measurable results. Shame on the companies that sell them!

Example #3

Once more, most gas heaters, which are installed indoors without any proper ventilation, result in more unnecessary indoor air pollution. They release the same pollutants as the gas stoves because the combustion of the “natural” gas, which is a fossil fuel, creates all of the above pollutants.

Mitigation

Although my cooktop doesn’t use gas, particulate matter is also released when we cook. I managed to mitigate the pollution that comes out of the pots while cooking with a portable air purifier (AirBubbl by Rensair) which was able to fit above the microwave and capture on the HEPA filter most of the particles by easing the air I breathe indoors.

Finally, I keep windows open when possible and the bathroom extractor on in order to dilute the indoor air with outdoor air (when the ambient air is clean). CO2 and VOCs drop significantly with this technique and PMs are managed well.

It is hard to make drastic changes to an apartment when living on rent, but there are a few techniques that will help us remove pollutants from the indoor air. Next, I will have to buy a high CADR number indoor air purifier with a good HEPA filter.

Office Study – Tapping Into The Real World Air Quality Data

Nowadays, it is a privilege to have access to a real indoor environment where you can measure and quantify indoor environmental quality (IEQ). It is not an easy task because most companies keep AQ data private, and we totally respect that. However, sometimes tapping into the real world data is fundamental in order to understand the conditions white color employees and employers work in an effort to improve work conditions and productivity.

The owner of the building and the office granted me access to installing the Atmocube IAQ monitor for two months, in order to figure out what improvements shall apply in their effort to mitigate covid19, improve working conditions and boost productivity. The office is located in Almeria, Spain which is a coastal city.

They don’t have any mechanical ventilation systems, so the indoor conditions were subject to their human actions and whether they opened the windows/doors or not.

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CO2 Trio Side by Side: Single Beam NDIR vs Dual Beam NDIR vs Photoacoustic

So many different types of sensors have become available in the market. For years we have seen and used Single (mainly) and Dual-Beam NDIR sensors for CO2 detection, but now another technology has surfaced, the Photoacoustic.

I decided to do a quick comparison of the different technologies in order to determine which one is the best and what are the differences if there is one. Price always affects the Bill of Material BOM, so we need to make a wise choice depending on the application of the sensor (commercial, real estate, industrial, scientific, etc).

Single and Dual Beam NDIR

CO2 is a gas with an asymmetric molecular structure that has strong absorption of infrared. This is the reason we use a Non-Dispersive Infrared NDIR sensor which is based on tunable diode laser spectroscopy.

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Review: Atmocube Air Quality Monitor by ATMO

The need for indoor air quality monitoring solutions hasn’t stopped increasing due to two main factors. The market is constantly demanding tailored solutions to meet Green Building standards and, of course, Covid19. Many have bought cheap and generic indoor AQ monitors from big retail stores, but after a while, they realized that their money went down the drain as there is nothing they can do with the data they obtained for two reasons. The AQ monitors didn’t keep the measurements or the accuracy of the data was poor.

Here comes Atmocube, a new indoor air quality monitor designed entirely to meet occupants’ requirements for indoor air quality. The design language is modern and functional. I underlined functional because you don’t need to be an expert to understand what is wrong with the IAQ and which specific parameter you need to address, I will explain more about it in a minute. Finally, the monitor is full of superb sensors, nine to be exact.

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AirGradient DIY Indoor & Outdoor Air Quality Monitor

Countless times I have mentioned that we need to monitor indoor and outdoor air quality. This is an essential step in order to have a holistic approach to air pollution that surrounds us in both environments. Unfortunately, not everybody can afford to buy two monitors but thanks to the community and AirGradient there are two DIY solutions that can help us monitor the air quality quite accurately and of course, manage the air we breathe better.

AirGradient’s DIY solution is more appealing than the competition for many reasons. First of all, you can buy directly the DIY Kit with all the electronic components from them including the PCB. The PCB is the board where we will deploy all the sensors, WiFi module, and display. That is a huge benefit because you don’t have to search on the internet and purchase the components one by one. The well-designed PCB will also help us keep the monitor neat and small without unnecessary cables. Secondly, Air Gradient’s DIY AQ Monitor is very customizable allowing us to build an indoor monitor with an NDIR CO2 sensor but another one without a CO2 sensor or display for the outdoor environment. If you don’t want temperature/humidity sensors you can easily omit them too, but I highly recommend them. Moreover, there is software support as a community of passionate people have been improving the firmware constantly. Finally, the solution comes with a web dashboard where you can manage all the monitors and take advantage of the histograms and tools like the alerts.

Additionally, the devices which are connected to the cloud and the dashboard can broadcast the measurements back to a separate display (Viewport) which allows us to see the air quality indoors and outdoors like in the example below. Isn’t that very cool?

It has been a long time since I soldered something, so I was very happy to build the monitor. I built two monitors by following the fairly easy instruction here. There is also a video with the instructions here by Jeff Geerling.

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