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Milwaukee/NARI Members Explain How Indoor Air Quality Impacts Your Health

Feb. 11, 2014

Most Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, either in their homes or at their place of work. Studies conducted by the EPA and others show that indoor environments sometimes can have levels of pollutants that are actually higher than levels found outside.

Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for more than 52 years, offer some insights into cleaning up the air inside your home.

“Indoor air quality (IAQ) affects everyone in the home,” said Scott Droegkamp, president of Dave Droegkamp Heating & Air Conditioning in Hartland. “Indoor air quality can be contaminated by odors and vapors from building materials, furnishings, stored chemicals, dust and mold, cooking, and lifestyle choices such as smoking, to name a few. Many homeowners don’t even realize there is poor indoor air quality until they feel unhealthy or their allergies or asthma is aggravated; then they try to identify the source of their issues.”

To prevent IAQ problems, homeowners should be pro-active, utilizing some method of air cleaning or filtering.

“There are a lot of different types of IAQ products,” said Dan Eaton, president of West Allis Heating & Air Conditioning in West Allis. “One option is a high-efficient media filter. Media air filters are four- to five-inches thick as opposed to the standard one-inch air filter, and are housed in their own cabinet.

“The efficiency of a filter actually removing air-borne contaminants is based on a MERV rating from 1 to 16,” Eaton said. “The higher the MERV, the better the filtration; a MERV 16 will provide a 99 percent particulate removal.”

Eaton doesn’t recommend the hardware store variety of filters, which claim to last three to six months. “They are trying to accomplish the effectiveness of a media filter, which is four or five inches thick, into a one-inch space, so that filter is very dense. What happens is that when that filter gets plugged, it’s detrimental to the performance of your furnace blower motor.

“My advice is, if you like the one-inch filter and you don’t have room for the media filter, buy the cheapest one-inch filter, but change it every month. Your system is going to function better, and you won’t have the mechanical breakdowns. You may not get the air purification and particulate removal you are looking for, but you’re also not going to get the annoyance of a blower motor going out.”

In lieu of a media filter, electronic cleaners typically run at about 94 percent efficiency and attach to the side of the furnace as well. However, electronic cleaners require maintenance. “There are large cells in the electronic cleaner that have to be either cleaned in your dishwasher or your stationery tub and it has to be done monthly to maintain the 94 percent effectiveness. If you don’t clean monthly, the efficiency goes down drastically,” Eaton said.

Other IAQ options include germicidal lights, ERVs, HRVs, and humidifiers. “These are items that are tied to a duct system to induce pressure and to remove stale air from the home to accommodate a much healthier environment,” Droegkamp said.

HRVs and ERVs are similar devices in that both supply air to the home and exhaust stale air while recovering energy from the exhaust air in the process. The primary difference between the two is that an HRV transfers heat while an ERV transfers both heat and moisture.

Germicidal lights (or ultraviolet lights) control and kill contaminants like viruses, bacteria, yeast, and mold that build up in your home when you have inadequate air ventilation or high humidity. Installed inside your duct system, a germicidal light improves the air in your entire home.

A home’s humidity level also impacts air quality. Air that is too dry causes problems such as skin irritation and respiratory problems. Whole house humidifiers install directly on the furnace. Moisture is circulated through the ductwork and distributed throughout every room in the house.

With these concerns and the abundance of contaminants, it would seem that homeowners would be embracing IQA products with a passion but that is not the case.

“IAQ is a huge issue and it’s not addressed as it should be,” Droegkamp said. “It’s something that is downplayed. People may be aware that there are options, but when it comes to valuing that, I don’t think they fully understand what good IAQ can do for their lives.”

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 745 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.

For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414-771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.

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