Reducing Building Maintenance Costs by Monitoring Air Quality

Pollution can decrease the quality of air inhaled by people outdoors and can cause poor health, but air pollution does not only happen outdoors. Indoor air quality can be affected by common activities such as cooking or using a boiler. Dangerous gases like carbon monoxide (CO) are released, which can lead to death in extreme cases.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) can also reach dangerous levels in a cramped space with more than a few people and poor ventilation. These gases can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea, and the symptoms have been experienced by people who had long hours of work in a poorly ventilated building. This condition is called sick building syndrome, and a risk factor is poor air quality.

High levels of CO2 and VOCs have been shown to aggravate asthma. (Image credit: wavebreakmedia/ShutterStock)

High levels of CO2 and VOCs have been shown to aggravate asthma. (Image credit: wavebreakmedia/ShutterStock)

Poor air quality can deteriorate symptoms in people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, and allergies. Dust, cigarette smoke, and pollen brought in from outdoors can all add to poor air quality.

Indoor Air Pollution from Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) occur frequently but are a less recognized source of indoor air pollution. VOC sources at work and in the home include:

  • Newspapers
  • Cosmetics
  • Sofas and mattresses
  • Cleaning products
  • Paint and varnishes
  • Photocopiers
  • Furnishings such as carpets

Mold found in humid buildings also leads to the formation of VOCs. They are extremely volatile and discharge a horrible odor; they include compounds such as formaldehyde, acetone, chloride, and benzene.

VOCs can be released into a room by solvents-containing products such as nail varnish as well as more everyday items such as newspapers and cosmetics. (Image credit: Inga Dudkina/Shutterstock)

VOCs can be released into a room by solvents-containing products such as nail varnish as well as more everyday items such as newspapers and cosmetics. (Image credit: Inga Dudkina/Shutterstock)

VOCs can lead to symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. They can also affect people with respiratory illnesses.

Improving Air Quality with an Air Purifier

In a building having low air quality, handling the issue is the best way to improve the air quality, for example, optimizing the ventilation. If that cannot be achieved, or if people in the building are highly sensitive to poor air quality because of issues such as asthma, then an air purifier is an option to purify the air. Air purifiers generally use one or more different kinds of filtering technology to handle numerous kinds of pollutants.

The kinds of filters available are:

  • Activated carbon — The carbon used in this case is extremely porous, so that there is more surface area to adsorb particles. This makes them effective in removing VOCs.
  • UV light — Used as a sterilizer to remove microorganisms, such as airborne viruses, which cause diseases like flu.
  • Photocatalysts — A photocatalyst is used to oxidize water to form hydroxyl radicals. The radicals can terminate several pollutants such as VOCs and airborne pathogens.

Air Quality Sensors

Certain air purifiers come fitted with sensors that are capable of checking the ambient air quality. The air purifier can modify how hard it functions, according to the number of pollutants detected by the sensor.

SGX Sensortech manufactures sensors that can detect numerous types of gases, including VOCs. Stand-alone VOC sensors can be used to check how well the air purifiers function, guaranteeing that the air purifier is really enhancing the air quality if VOCs are present.

The variety of VOC sensors offered by SGX Sensortech applies the latest technology. Sensors using micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology and metal oxide semiconductors are able to detect VOCs with a high degree of sensitivity.

With the help of MEMS technology, compact yet robust sensors can be designed. These devices will have the ability to note minute alterations in the level of VOCs, spanning a large detection range in real time. Some devices can even be plugged into a power outlet when they work at low power with high energy efficiency. SGX Sensortech has also manufactured VOC sensors that can show the level of CO2 in an area, which is often used as a proxy for determining air quality.

In the near future, SGX Sensortech aims to build VOC sensors that can monitor other factors unsettling the air quality, such as humidity and temperature. They also want to offer an option to personalize the sensors, according to the consumers’ requests.

Measuring the Efficiency of Air Purifiers

The efficiency of an air purifier is determined by the type and variety of particles it can remove from the air, and the speed at which it can complete the job. In the United States, air filters are given American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineer ratings to indicate their efficiency.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers-approved purifiers are given a Clean Air Delivery Rate to indicate their efficiency. This states how many cubic feet of air is purified by the air purifier every minute.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by SGX Sensortech (IS) Ltd.

For more information on this source, please visit SGX Sensortech (IS) Ltd.

 

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