Indoor Air Quality Testing: A Comprehensive Guide for Property Owners

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Indoor air quality (IAQ) screenings evaluate the air quality within a building to determine its level of contaminants and irritants, such as airborne particulate matter.
  • IAQ screenings usually assess the air’s humidity level, temperature, and total counts of particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide.
  • Poor indoor air quality can lead to physical complications like asthma, headaches, dizziness, and poor sleep.
  • Property managers are responsible for ensuring safe and comfortable IAQ for their occupants. Routinely checking IAQ is an excellent way to guarantee regulatory compliance and resident satisfaction.

Understanding Indoor Air Quality Testing as a Property Owner

Since Americans spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, IAQ can significantly affect their health status. If a building has poor air quality, its inhabitants can experience uncomfortable symptoms like asthma, poor sleep, dizziness, and headaches. 

Indoor air quality (IAQ) assessments evaluate the air quality within a dwelling to calculate the level of airborne contaminants and irritants. Usually, IAQ screenings assess parameters such as carbon monoxide levels and the total count of particulates in the air. During most IAQ examinations, environmental services companies will also survey your property’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems since they significantly contribute to your building’s IAQ.

Since they are the building’s overseer, property managers are expected to provide comfortable environments for their residents with safe IAQ. Property managers should have a qualified environmental services company check their property’s IAQ to ensure ventilation-related regulatory compliance and occupant satisfaction.

Regulatory Compliance and Standards for Air Quality

Organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have varying expectations for IAQ. Residential property managers and business owners should educate themselves on IAQ regulations to avoid penalties and ensure the safety of their occupants.

IAQ Regulations for Residential Properties

Although EPA does not federally regulate IAQ in residencies, many states and cities have local ventilation standards that promote healthy IAQ. For example, every livable room in Portland, Oregon, must have a total openable window area that is at least 2.5% of the room’s total area unless another authorized ventilation device is present—regulations like this provide residents fresh air, which is crucial because indoor air has approximately 2 to 5 times more pollutants than outdoor air.

IAQ Regulations for Commercial Businesses

The OSHAct’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide workers with a safe workplace without any known hazards likely to cause severe injury or death. Considering that long-term exposure to poor IAQ can cause harmful respiratory and heart diseases or cancer, places of work should have healthy IAQ to comply with OSHAct’s General Duty Clause.

OSHA classifies good IAQ as inside air with a comfortable temperature and humidity. Good IAQ also requires a sufficient supply of fresh outdoor air and control of pollutants inside and outside the building.

Property managers for residential buildings and businesses can incur fines if they do not comply with local standards. Scheduling routine IAQ examinations and monitoring is essential to keep occupants healthy and happy.

Best Practices for IAQ Testing and Monitoring

To guarantee accurate readings and achieve clean air, you should always have qualified professionals perform your IAQ examination. Environmental services companies take different approaches to IAQ assessments, each of which involves collecting a sample from inside the building.

The most common IAQ examination methods are:

  • Bioaerosol sample collection – Sample pumps pull indoor air through filters or sorbent materials during this process. The filters or sorbent materials are then checked for pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Sampling of surfaces – This process involves using tape, swabs, or wipes to collect samples of dust and particles from interior walls, floors, and furniture. The sampling device is then examined for asbestos and other contaminants.
  • Vacuum sampling – Sometimes, vacuum cleaners are equipped with a special filter to collect large dust samples inside a building. The sample is usually taken to a facility and assessed for lead and other chemicals.
  • Moisture assessment – While collecting dust and particulate matter, temperature, humidity, and wall moisture are calculated with hygrometers and thermometers.

Some property managers buy their own aerosol dust monitors or hygrometers for DIY indoor air quality testing, but this is not recommended—user error, lack of experience, and device malfunctions can lead to inaccurate readings. 

Having a highly qualified team examine for indoor air quality pollutants is the best way to keep your building’s air supply safe and comfortable. Plus, professionals can help you improve your air quality if it is not up to standard.

What Can I Do to Improve Indoor Air Quality

If you have poor IAQ, you should have each room inspected for proper ventilation and air filtration. Purifying the existing air or letting fresh air in are excellent ways to boost your IAQ, considering VOC counts indoors are usually at least ten times higher than outdoors. The following techniques are great for improving IAQ in homes and offices.

Ensure Natural Ventilation

Depending on weather, building design, and human intervention, natural forces like wind and thermal buoyancy can push outdoor air through purpose-built openings, allowing fresh air into your dwelling. The most common purpose-built openings in homes and offices are: 

  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Wind towers
  • Solar chimneys
  • Trickle ventilators

Ensure your rooms are equipped with purpose-built openings that function properly to keep a natural, consistent flow of outdoor air piped into your building. If your climate or the building’s construction prevents you from having these types of openings, you should consider using mechanical or hybrid ventilation to force fresh air in.

Implement Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical fans can be installed in windows, walls, or air ducts to drive air in and out of a room. The style and placement of mechanical fans vary across climates. 

If your building is located in a warm climate, be careful to avoid infiltration or the accidental flow of outside air into a building. Unwelcome openings can allow outside air to enter the building through walls, floors, and roofs and cause condensation build-up.

For the same reason, if your building is located in a cold climate, you should avoid exfiltration or the escape of inside air to the outdoors.

Balance Natural and Mechanical Ventilation

Many buildings use a hybrid form of ventilation that incorporates purpose-built openings and mechanical fans to circulate air in and out of the dwelling. Most hybrid systems require the user to provide a desired flow rate. The mechanical fans usually boot up when the natural ventilation is insufficient, and the room falls below the desired flow rate.

Install or Maintain Filtration Systems

Most modern buildings have built-in HVAC systems with filtration components to help remove contaminants as they circulate air. When adequately maintained, HVAC systems can catch irritants and pollutants like particulate matter or VOCs.

Nevertheless, HVAC systems require consistent maintenance to preserve a good IAQ. The most important forms of recurring HVAC maintenance are:

  • Filter replacement
  • Air duct cleaning
  • Humidity control
  • HVAC inspections

Sometimes, people supplement their HVAC system with standalone air purifiers that they can place throughout their house or office. Air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters are a great way to enhance your IAQ further.

If you install and maintain your building’s HVAC system, fans, purifiers, and purpose-built openings, you can achieve better IAQ, which can lead to easier breathing and better health. 

Still, outside factors like seasonal changes can affect IAQ. So, if you are experiencing respiratory irritation, musty odors, or stale air, you should contact a trusted environmental services team to check your IAQ.

How Alpha Environmental Can Help 

Property managers should schedule recurring IAQ screenings to support the health and well-being of their occupants. By having experienced professionals gauge your building’s air quality, you can figure out if you are meeting regulations or if you have to make improvements to your ventilation or filtration systems.

The experienced environmental services team at Alpha Environmental is proficient in detecting indoor air pollution. Through our thorough inspections and helpful guidance, we can make improving indoor air quality effortless. Our screenings assess particulates, VOCs, humidity, temperature, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide using one unit for simplicity, easier replication, and affordability.

For over 21 years, we have provided reliable IAQ screening and other remedial services to the people of Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding area. With our help, you can ensure that you are meeting regulations and promoting the welfare of everyone inside your property.

Contact Alpha Environmental today for expert-level IAQ assessment and remediation services.

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