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The Role of Ventilation in Workplace Indoor Air Quality

Causes of Poor Air Quality

The air quality in your office is a major factor in the overall health and wellbeing of your employees – not to mention the productivity levels at your company.

A workplace can be negatively affected by a lack of fresh air circulation, pollution drawn in from outdoors, indoor pollution with no means of escape, air that is circulated too fast, or humidity that is high enough to promote the growth of mold.

Read on to learn more about poor indoor air quality and its negative effects, as well as how you can start improving the air in your office today.

Oftentimes, poor ventilation is the result of an effort to go green.

Ventilation may unfortunately be sacrificed in the process of building energy-efficient, air-tight offices. Within these offices, recirculated air can trap chemicals, allergens, mold, and other contaminants that begin to weigh on the building’s air quality.

Poor indoor air quality can by caused by a great range of factors, including:

  • Bacteria and microorganisms in the ventilation system
  • Ozone and radiation from copiers and building insulation
  • Off-gassing and emissions from carpets, cleaning compounds, glues, and particle board
  • Carbon monoxide from traffic, smoking, and over-occupied or poorly ventilated areas
  • Moisture due to high humidity, leaks, or water damage

Health Effects of Poor Air Quality

Poor air quality can cause symptoms that seem to be present only while you’re at the workplace and abate once you’ve left for the day.

“Sick building syndrome” is a phenomenon that encompasses many of these issues and can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including prolonged allergies, cold symptoms, eye and skin irritation, and difficulty breathing. This syndrome commonly emerges in workers employed within buildings and offices that do not have proper ventilation. Other times, the health effects are more serious.

The particulates, allergens, and airborne contaminants that become trapped inside a poorly ventilated office can exacerbate asthma and other breathing conditions, and off-gassing and emissions can also cause headaches, trouble concentrating, and increased absenteeism among exposed workers.

Fortunately, these health issues can be alleviated by implementing proper ventilation within the workplace.

Testing and Improving Air Quality

Creating and adhering to a routine air-quality checklist can help maintain adequate ventilation and indoor air quality within the workplace.

Check your air quality by reviewing the temperature, humidity, airflow, presence of odors, water damage, dirt, dust, and standing water throughout the building. Review contaminant-causing operations like maintenance and remodeling work, as well as changes in personnel and employee habits.

You may also want to look into different ventilation systems or check up on your existing systems:

  • Natural Ventilation: Ensure there is adequate natural ventilation throughout the workplace to remove moisture that can foster mold.
  • Mechanical Ventilation: The filtering process of HVAC systems helps to trap small particles and allergens. Electronic air filters and HEPA filters can capture small particles and contaminants, removing them from circulating air.
  • Dehumidifiers: In warmer climates, a dehumidifying ventilation system helps keep relative humidity to a reasonable level: 30% to 60%. Dehumidification is also important in cooler climates, where indoor activities can increase humidity behind closed doors, without the aid of natural ventilation.
  • Low-VOC/HAP Products: When painting, carpeting, remodeling, or using cleaners and other substances within the workplace, elect to use low-VOC and low-HAP products.

Proper ventilation is vital to good indoor air quality. Ventilation brings in fresh air, helps circulate stagnant air, and removes particulates, allergens, and pollutants, increasing the daily productivity and health of your valuable workers.

Contact Bob Jenson Air Conditioning and Heating today and speak to our expert team about the indoor air quality needs at your workplace.

Where To Locate Your A/C Vents?

Why It Matters

Here’s the thing many homeowners don’t realize about air conditioning — where you place vents in your home has a big impact on the efficiency of the system.

Whether you’re looking to replace your A/C unit, or add new ductwork to your home, it pays to think about where in your home the vents will be located. Take a look at the science behind why we place air conditioning vents and units where we do, and why that contributes to the most efficient and comfortable space possible.

Keep Air Ducts Near the Ceiling

You’ll notice that in most older homes, the vents are placed near the floor. The problem with this is furniture tends to get pushed over the top, blocking the vent from working properly. Another drawback is that things like dust, toys, and moisture can find their way down into the ducts, resulting in air restrictions and mold. Vents cut into floors lack the size needed for modern airflow requirements as well.

Placing your air conditioning vents high keeps that cool air circulating throughout the room. In this setup, the air is pulled back into the system by way of a large return air vent placed low on a central wall in the home. This solution cools or heats your home evenly without uncomfortable hot and cold spots, reducing your energy use and therefore saving you money.

Install Ducts to Complement Your Lifestyle

The height of your air conditioning vents isn’t the only thing to consider. You should also think about where these vents will be most useful in complementing your lifestyle. For example, you may want to place a vent above your bed, or pointed toward your couch so you can easily cool your body when it’s needed most. That way, you don’t have to wait for the entire room to cool in order to be comfortable.

Keep in mind other layout aspects of the room; not just where you’d like to feel the cool air most, but also where the cool air could be blocked or interrupted. You don’t want an air conditioning vent installed right where you might place a bookcase, or behind a door that could block the airflow. You should also avoid placing units directly above electrical fitting, or in areas that are difficult to reach for cleaning and maintenance.

Determine not only where in the room to install a vent, but also which rooms to place the vents in — since not all units will blow air into every room. If you spend most of your time in your home office, it’s a good idea to have cool air circulating throughout that room. If you don’t work from home, you might be better off blowing the cool air through your bedroom, so you can sleep better at night.

Place Ducts Based on Your Home’s Layout

In addition to assessing your lifestyle, and which rooms you use most, it’s also important to take a look at how the system will work with the overall layout of your home. The goal is to balance your unit or vents from room to room, so the whole house becomes comfortable.

Finding the right location to place your air conditioning vents and units isn’t difficult if you have a licensed installer there to help you. He or she should be able to find the best location for the unit, based on your personal situation. Keep the abovementioned tips in mind when working with your installer, so you can decide on the most efficient solution for your home and lifestyle together.

Why Proper Attic Ventilation Is Key In Warm Climates

The Hidden Potential of Your Attic

For many homeowners, the attic is a place to store unwanted furniture, old clothes, and bulky luggage. But for people who want to reduce their energy expenditure, extend the longevity of their roof, and cultivate a more comfortable home, the attic has a lot to offer. In fact, many new building codes now call for increased attic insulation and ventilation – emphasizing that a well-ventilated attic is essential in both cold and warm climates.

Ventilation is all about temperature control and consistency. In cold climates, attic ventilation is necessary for maintaining a warmer roof temperature – which is essential for venting condensation and preventing ice dams. In hot climates, ventilation is just as important for the opposite reason; keeping the attic space cool. If you live in a warmer climate, the best way to avoid problems like wasted energy, mold, and peeling paint is to install better attic insulation and ventilation.

Insulation Alone Is Not Enough

In warm climates, cooling a home to make it more comfortable uses a lot of energy. Proper insulation and sealing keeps the heat and humidity surrounding the property from entering the home. After all, in a hot climate, there’s a greater natural force driving warmth into your cool, dry home.

While proper insulation is important, without ventilation, the system is critically lacking. No matter how much extra insulation you add to an attic, heat can still seep into the adjacent rooms of your home. Proper attic ventilation cools temperatures by controlling the rise of heat through (and out of) your roof. Not only can proper ventilation remove excess heat build-up, but it also reduces the workload of your air conditioning system, saving you money on energy costs.

How Does Ventilation Work in Warm Climates?

Ventilation is a system of exhaust and intake mechanisms that create a steady flow of air around a property. In hot climates, ventilation expels hot air from the attic space – meaning it takes less work to keep the area cool. Proper attic ventilation is the solution for year-round benefits in all kinds of roofing systems – cooling attics in hotter weather, protecting against damage to structures and materials, and aiding in the reduction of energy consumption.

Many climate experts and handymen recommend that homeowners seek out proper ventilation to combat high levels of humidity and extreme heat. Without good ventilation, hot and humid climates can lead to a massive buildup of moisture and heat in the attic space, leading to various problems – including damage to roofing shingles and roof decking. Too much heat over time can actually warm or deteriorate the roofing materials prematurely, damaging your home.

The Benefits of Ventilation

The importance of proper attic ventilation can be summed up in two simple words: heat rises. If you live in a warm climate and go into your attic on even a mild day, you’ll likely find that it’s incredibly hot inside – more like a sauna than a room. That’s why roofing industry experts agree that maintaining a consistently cool temperature in your attic not only saves on energy costs, but can also extend the life of major components in your home.

A well-ventilated attic:

Reduces your energy costs – Air circulation removes hot air, preventing it from seeping into other rooms, and saving your AC units, refrigerators and other appliances from having to work harder. The reduced temperature in the attic will also assist the air conditioner by keeping internal air and ductwork cooler.

Extends the life of your roof and other components – When your attic heats up, the underlayment beneath the roof shingles warm up as well, and over time this will cause them to become brittle and ineffective. Lowering attic temperatures can save on the expense of premature replacement and repairs.

Removes harmful moisture – A hot climate with any level of humidity can result in a buildup of moisture within your attic space; and if the temperature begins to drop, that moisture will condense, which can cause a number of issues. Ventilation removes moisture, preventing dangerous mold and mildew in your home.

Proper attic ventilation facilitates the continual flow of air at a manageable temperature within a home, making a huge difference to the comfort level of the property and the people who live there.

Simple DIY Solutions to 5 Common Household Odors

Curb the stink, breath easy

From your kids’ funky gym shoes to nasty cooking odors to the icky stench of cigarette smoke, your home can collect an unpleasant array of bad odors. There’s no need to expose your family to harmful chemical air fresheners, which do little more than mask the bad smells. With some natural odor eliminators and a little common sense, you’ll have your house smelling fresh and your family breathing easier in no time.

Cooking Odors

Whether you’ve been chopping onions, boiling cabbage, or frying fish, the kitchen can be the main source of some funky air pollution. One of the simplest ways to avoid smelling up the entire house is to ensure you’re set up with good ventilation while cooking. Open a window if possible and always use the fan in your range hood (if you have one) to draw smells, smoke, and heat away. Keep your vents and filters clean to prevent buildup and keep the air in your kitchen and home smelling fresh.

One more solution to try is to take a cut potato, place it in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of vanilla, and set it on the counter near where you are working. The potato will soak up the odors, while the vanilla will provide a more pleasing replacement.

Tobacco Smoke

Even if your guests are courteous enough to use the patio, porch, or balcony, the smoke from their cigarettes, pipes, or cigars can enter the house through open windows and doors. An easy way to quickly dissipate cigarette smell indoors is to soak a towel in white vinegar and walk through the room with it. Hold it in both hands and waft it in front of you. The damp towel will trap most—if not all—of the smoke in the air, removing both the smoke and its accompanying smell.

Pet Problems

When Fido’s eau de wet-dog-smell and Fluffy’s litter box are getting to be too much for your sensitive nose, don’t lose heart. There are solutions to both problems.

For Fido, make up a spray bottle with 3 parts water, 1 part vodka, and 10 to 20 drops of essential oil (favorites include citrus, eucalyptus, lavender, and rose). When applied to bedding and carpets, the spray traps odor and then evaporates quickly, whisking the bad smells away. For stinky dog fur, regular brushing and bathing will eliminate the build-up of stink-causing bacteria.

For Fluffy’s potty, try a clay clumping litter, daily scooping, and a weekly emptying and cleaning with your preferred household cleaner. Spraying the empty box with your vodka-essential oil concoction before filling it with litter can help it from acquiring lingering odors as well.

Bathroom Funk

Regular cleaning with mildew- and mold-killing products can keep the damp, musty odors away. Using your bathroom’s ventilation fan when using the toilet will help clear the air when you’ve finished. Keeping a lit candle in the powder room during parties will keep guests’ odors from wafting their way under the door while also providing a bit of ambience.

Garbage Bin Gag Factors

Your garbage bins can become some rather unpleasant sources of stench, simply by their very nature as deposits of detritus. If the bag is not full enough to remove but still smelling up the place, dump some fresh coffee grounds in. They will soak up some of the odors. If the garbage can has lingering scents from its recent inhabitants, wash it with a mixture warm water and white vinegar. To suppress odors caused by leaking bags, keep a thick layer of baking soda in the bin under the bag. Wash the baking soda out and replace it as it becomes wet.

Remember, a clean-smelling home is a home with proper ventilation and good air quality. One of the best ways to keep your home smelling fresh is to ensure that your HVAC system is properly maintained and circulating clean, filtered air throughout the space. This, along with a regular cleaning regimen and trying these simple DIY tips, will allow your home to take a nice, deep breath of fresh air.

How a Comfortable Environment Affects Productivity

How Your Office Space Contributes to Employee Productivity

In the workplace, productivity has a direct connection with efficiency and profitability, but the average office has countless forms of distraction, from whatever’s heating up in the microwave to notifications on your phone, that can reduce productivity.

Creating a productive, efficient work environment that also cultivates fun and employee growth is a difficult balancing act. Let’s take a look at some simple ways you can foster a productivity and happiness at work.

1. Check your ventilation.

When you think about it, you’re breathing in the recirculated air of the other employees in the office. It’s no wonder that germs spread so quickly, and older office buildings are susceptible to harmful molds and toxins, like asbestos. Employees can’t be productive if they are constantly ill.

Stale air alone is enough to hamper concentration. Poor air quality often means high humidity and low oxygen. In other words: uncomfortable. Studies show that increased carbon dioxide levels impair cognitive abilities, like decision making.

Make sure your HVAC system is regularly maintained and that the filters are regularly cleaned. Crack open your windows or keep some plants in the office to invite some fresh air in.

2. Mind the thermostat.

Climate control is one of the greatest developments in modern history, but since its inception and integration into commercial spaces, the thermostat has caused a great struggle between two factions: those who are always cold and those who are always hot.

The problem comes from the fact that most office buildings have a one-size-fits-all temperature design. How you deal with temperature is based on all kinds of factors—age, weight, body type, activity levels. And generally, air conditioning systems don’t affect all parts of the office equally.

Temperature has a significant effect on employee productivity. Being uncomfortable is a distraction, so at least some part of your attention is focused on how cold or hot you are instead of on the assignments at hand.

Various studies consider the “optimal” temperature for the average office. Cornell University believes that 77° F is the best temperature for offices, while OSHA recommends an optimal range of 68° to 76° F. It may seem better to take the average and go with 75° F, but a difference of just a few degrees can reduce productivity up to 5%.

Your best bet is to err on the warmer side. Cornell’s study showed that colder temperatures led to greater typing errors.

Make sure your air conditioning system is working properly. The thermostat may not indicate the actual temperature. Furthermore, you can encourage employees to bring mini-heaters and blankets or fans.

3. Rethink lighting.

Lighting has an immense effect, not only on productivity, but also many of the basic functions going on inside your body. Sunlight is the best light around. Fluorescent lights, which are the most common choice for offices, have unfortunately been linked to a variety of issues, including migraines and eye strain.

Artificial lighting also has a harmful effect on your natural sleep cycles. Light directly affects your body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that keeps your biological clock in check and is most important in the realm of sleep. At night, your body floods with melatonin, making you feel sleepy. While light should have the opposite effect, the human body is designed to respond to natural sunlight. Fluorescent lighting suppresses the production of melatonin, essentially causing you to feel sleepier as the day goes on.

Over-illumination also increases your stress levels and can even contribute to anxiety disorders and depression.

To combat these negative effects, you should consider replacing your fluorescent bulbs with LED lights, which are warmer, offer a better color temperature, and provide greater energy efficiency, saving you money in the long run.

Most importantly, try to get as much natural light as possible, whether it’s opening the blinds or encouraging employees to go outside for walks.

4. Reconsider your work culture.

Your work culture defines your company and comprises your goals, values, policies, style, and behaviors. Productivity plays off of workplace culture, and a poor workplace culture can lead to declining sales, high turnover, and displeased employees.

No matter how much they live and breathe their jobs, employees want to spend time with family, friends, and loved ones. Many companies offer that opportunity with flexible schedules, allowing employees to work from home or set their own work hours.

While that sounds out of reach, telecommuting isn’t as difficult as it once was. Studies show that flexible hours lead to greater productivity and satisfaction.

That’s just one idea of many. Work culture differs from office to office. Culture is present in your workplace whether you created it purposely or not—so you might as well enjoy the benefits of playing an active role in establishing a company culture you’re proud of!

With some simple modifications around the office and in your company policies, you can find ways to foster a positive, engaging environment for your employees. Good luck!

Why You Need Proper Attic Ventilation Now!

Why is Attic Ventilation so Important?

Attics tend to be one of the more unexplored parts of the home. Sometimes creepy, often dusty, attics don’t usually get much attention. However, attics play an important role in the comfort and energy use of your entire home. One of the most important elements of attics is ventilation. It often goes hand in hand with insulation, climate control, and other elements of your home and can make all the difference in how your home feels and operates. Let’s take a closer look at ventilation and your attic.

Deep Breathing

Ventilation involves the flow of air within your home. Your home’s ventilation pulls in fresh air from outside and pushes out the stuffy air inside your home. Lo and behold, most of your home’s ventilation system revolves around your attic. Without enough outdoor air, pollutants, allergens, and even excess gases from stoves and fireplaces can accumulate, leading to potential health problems, safety issues, and an overall uncomfortable place to live. Too much moisture in your home can cause structural damage and lead to mold growth. Humidity poses some of the same problems while forcing your cooling system to work doubly to keep things at a nice temperature.

Why the Attic?

So why would you even need to vent your attic? Why not just focus on the areas you actually use and live in? Well, the attic plays a crucial role in your home’s temperature and well-being. It’s the first room affected by heat. As the sun radiates directly onto the roof, the heat generated passes into the attic. Trapped heat inevitably raises the temperature in your entire home, so you have to get your air conditioner working harder and longer. In other words, properly venting your attic can keep your bills down and make for a more eco-friendly home in the process.

Bad ventilation poses problems in the winter as well. When the cold has nowhere to go in your attic, it causes condensation, creating moisture that can lead to wood rot, mold, and deterioration in your roof and attic structures. Excess moisture also decreases the effectiveness of insulation.

The Many Vents

Your home has a few means of bringing fresh air into each room.

  • Infiltration is when air enters the house through cracks, joints, and small openings in the walls, floors, and ceiling. You generally don’t want this kind of ventilation as it’s not something you can control nor is it especially environmentally friendly. Cracks in the attic are also a bit too inviting for potential pests.
  • Natural ventilation is what happens when you open a door or window. Before the onset of technology, this was the most common ventilation method, and it’s still relatively effective today. It’s a simple, straightforward way to refill your home with fresh air, but it also relies on wind and temperature differences between the indoors and outdoors.
  • Spot ventilation attempts to move air through localized fans that get rid of moisture and pollutants on the spot. Think of bathroom fans or the range hoods over stoves. Spot ventilation is pretty effective for small, contained areas, but for a robust solution you should consider…
  • Whole-house ventilation uses a complex network of fans and ducts to get rid of stale air and supply filtered, conditioned air back into the home.

Venting the Attic

Venting the attic generally uses a combination of all of the above. First, you need to seal up cracks and openings that have formed in and around your attic. This will prevent air leaks, which defeat the purpose of having a good ventilation system.

From there, most attic ventilation systems use a series of soffit and ridge vents to keep air moving through the attic. Soffit vents, located along the underside of the roof, pull air up and into the attic space. Ridge vents are strips of ventilation placed along the top of the roof, allowing stale air to rise out of the attic. It’s a constant cycle that requires unimpeded air movement.

That’s where whole-house fans or attic fans come into the picture. While many soffit and ridge vent systems can work fine on their own, fans can ensure that air moves consistently, drawing air out of the attic and spitting it out of the home. You’ll also want to find a way to control the moisture in your attic.

Depending on your home, you can look into a boat load of other options. Contact ventilation specialists like Bob Jenson Air Conditioning and Heating for an audit and to find out what options would work best for your home.

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