Indoor Air Quality Testing Procedures May 15, 2019 – Posted in: Blog

When you think of pollution, you probably imagine the foul, emissions from vehicles and factories, the oil spills from ships or offshore drilling, or plastic waste everywhere. There’s no doubt about it – the world outside our homes contains so many harmful pollutants. But they don’t just live outside.  We could be having the same pollutants (maybe more) inside our homes.  For these reasons, indoor air quality testing should be something that every homeowner or building manager should pay attention to.

Thankfully, there are several home air quality testing procedures that should help you measure the number of pollutants present in your home, from do-it-yourself indoor air quality testing kits to comprehensive air-testing programs.

Studies show that indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air. What makes it worse is that we all spend most of our time indoors.  Indoor air pollution is real. And it is even more dangerous because pollutants present in confined spaces, such as our homes, are concentrated. It is so harmful to the point that 2.2 million deaths are linked to indoor air pollution, which is way higher than the 500,000 deaths related to outdoor air pollution. 

On this guide, learn about the importance of air quality testing, the common air pollutants present inside your home, and how you can effectively deal with them.

How to Test Air Quality in Your Home

Home air testing is possible without help from professionals. Thanks to the inexpensive air quality testers available in the market – you can simply install one and it will do the work for you.

However, you should know that there is no indoor air quality testing kit that can test for all types of indoor air pollutants. There are, unfortunately, hundreds of them.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes these pollutants into three:

  • Biological – these include bacteria, dust mites, dander, and mold
  • Chemical – these are Volatile Organic Compounds present in household products and building materials used during construction, such as lead and radon.
  • Combustion – these include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and formaldehyde.

The tester you will purchase should depend on the type of pollutants you suspect your house contains. Some devices are able to conduct air quality checks are able to test for tiny dust particles and other allergens in the air, VOCs, temperature, and humidity. These devices usually cost $150-$250.

Indoor Air Quality Testing and Contaminants

Testing the presence of contaminants in the air is like walking in the dark. You won’t know they are around until you make use of a device. When doing home air quality testing, you should always keep in mind the three major types of pollutants that we discussed earlier as the procedure would vary depending on which type you wish to test.

For biological pollutants for example, which include allergens and dust, you can have it checked by submitting a dust or air sample (which you can obtain using a tool like an aerosol impactor) to an accredited indoor air testing company.

For VOCs or chemical pollutants, which are highly present in furnishings, building materials, and household products, there are home air testers that you can use. However, note that testing certain VOCs like radon and lead is better left in the hands of trained technicians for a more accurate result.

In addition to residential air quality testing, the EPA recommends strategies to reduce the levels of VOCs in homes:

  • Increase in ventilation.
  • Follow product warnings and directions from household products.
  • Discard unused chemicals. Only purchase when needed and in small quantities.

As with combustion pollutants, there are house air quality testing kits available as well which could cover contaminants from tobacco smoke. For carbon monoxide (CO), which is released by gas stoves, fireplaces, and gas space heaters, installing a CO alarm is not only recommended but required in most states.

Indoor Air Quality Testing by Pollutant Type

Knowing how to check air quality at home is an essential skill. As discussed earlier, there are hundreds if not thousands of pollutants that are possibly present in your indoor air. Factors like smoking, exposure to a nearby source of emission, and the like affect the quality of your indoor air.

However, there are a few air pollutants that are very common among households.

Mold

Mold in the house isn’t just a problem for people with allergy or asthma. It is every homeowner’s nightmare. Mold build-up can cause irreversible damage to your property as it can cause various surfaces such as wood, fabric, and even concrete to rot. Aside from the visible mold you cringe to see, mold also travels through the air and you may not notice it, like any other pollutants. Exposure to mold can cause a stuffy nose, throat irritation, coughing, and wheezing.

Usually, if the mold is visible, there is no need to test it. Otherwise, you can submit an air sample to a laboratory to measure the concentration of mold spores in your home. You can also purchase indoor air quality testing mold kits to get the sample. Or, you can hire qualified mold professionals who will come to your home and conduct the test. This is an expensive approach but it provides a more accurate result.

House Dust Mites

You may not see them with your naked eyes but dust house mites are a real danger to you and your family. Put them under a microscope and you will surely scream! These tiny bugs can cause allergy symptoms like wheezing, coughing, runny nose, and itching. They could also cause skin irritation and trigger asthma. There are do it yourself indoor air quality testing kits for dust mite. Fortunately, these bugs are easier to address with the use of dehumidifiers or air conditioners (dust mites love warm environments).

Pollen

During spring, summer, and fall, weeds, trees, and grasses release pollen into the air. Unfortunately, they easily attach themselves to anything, including people and pets and making easy entry to your house. Pollen can trigger a respiratory disease called hay fever. Indoor air quality testing can help determine the presence of two types of pollen allergens – the birch tree allergen and Timothy tree allergen.

Chemical Pollutants (VOCs)

Every household has a lot of chemical products at home, such as cleaners, paints, disinfectants, and stored fuels which can release contaminants in the air. Since VOCs are potentially toxic, testing for them is best done by trained technicians. The indoor air quality testing cost for chemicals ranges from $283 to $546, depending on the space and type of analysis needed.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide has answered the most common question of homeowners – how do I test the air quality in my home?

Again, environmental air quality testing is highly important because of the worsening condition of indoor air in every household.

Home air quality inspection is best done by trained professionals but there are inexpensive DIY kits that allow homeowners to take samples for submission to laboratories.

Furthermore, there are many ways to improve the quality of air inside your home. From installing dehumidifiers and air purifiers to increasing ventilation, cleaning regularly, and avoiding storing highly concentrated VOCs, you can reduce the contaminants in your home and keep your indoor air fresh and healthy.