While winter can bring chilly temperatures, deep freezes, and the elements of ice, snow, sleet, and hail to your property, there’s one unsuspecting place it also impacts: your building’s interior. While the winter winds may be whipping outside, you likely have your heating system cranked up. And this is a good thing for keeping your building’s tenants safe and comfortable and your water pipes from freezing. But what does it mean for your indoor air quality? Let’s talk through some common issues facilities may face during the winter months and how to improve indoor air quality in winter.
Before we address any indoor air quality concerns related to the winter season, let’s talk about what IAQ is and why it’s so important. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality refers to “the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.”
When air quality is not consistently monitored, purified, and therefore improved, it can wreak havoc on your building tenants’ health and well-being. From infectious diseases to airborne viruses or harmful pollutants, the air you breathe may be filled with threats. Fortunately, you can take steps to minimize these issues by putting a solid indoor air quality monitoring and purification program in place. Let’s address what factors can negatively impact indoor air quality in winter.
Ventilation is the key ingredient for diffusing and diluting harmful pollutants in your indoor air. Proper ventilation reduces these pollutants, dispersing them and minimizing their risks. Additionally, properly functioning filtration systems can minimize issues related to the presence and buildup of harmful pollutants. Outdoor air intakes associated with a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system must be kept clean and free from debris in order to do their job optimally.
Air cleaners, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers, and other filtration systems can also help to filter out dust, pollen, and other allergens that cause respiratory and other health issues. Plus, with flu season, cold season, and RSV and COVID risks all increasing during winter, it’s important that your indoor air is adequately filtered to prevent serious illnesses that result in absences, lost productivity, and health issues for your tenants. We’ll discuss more about air purification, specifically through The Budd Group’s BreatheWell Program, below.
How does winter affect indoor air quality? VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can be immensely hazardous to your health. Don’t let the word “organic” here fool you—while these gases are naturally occurring, they are a result of a chemical reaction. VOCs are commonly emitted from everyday industrial or household products like cleaning solutions, paints, waxes, polishes, pesticides, and aerosol sprays. Unfortunately, VOCs are present at a much higher rate indoors, where proper ventilation is typically a challenge, versus outdoors where there is plenty of fresh air to help diffuse these chemical gases.
High levels of VOCs can cause many health issues upon exposure, some more immediate, some longer term. According to the EPA, these might include eye, nose, and throat irritation, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and skin problems. Higher concentrations may cause irritation of the lungs and potential damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system.
Have you noticed how your skin feels dryer in the winter months and hydration is increasingly important? If you find yourself with cracked skin, dry eyes, nosebleeds, or excessive thirst, this could be an indicator of the effects that your heating system is having on your body—or your tenants’.
Forced air heating systems are a common culprit for excessively dry indoor air during the winter. Sealing your space’s drafty or leaking areas and properly insulating them can help to prevent the amount of heating needed to properly warm the room. Running a humidifier in particularly dry areas can also help prevent some of the physical discomfort that can come from excessively dry indoor air during the winter.
Heating an entire building is no small feat, and regulating temperature can be challenging, especially in multi-purpose facilities like schools, factories, restaurants, or healthcare facilities, where different temperatures may be needed in different spaces. For instance, a school’s libraries and classrooms will likely need to have a heat setting that is very different from that same school’s gymnasium or cafeteria. Medical labs where chemicals are stored and tested will have different heating requirements than those in the patients’ rooms.
How can you keep your restaurant’s kitchen cool for food safety and sanitation purposes while ensuring your dining area is comfortably warm for your patrons and free of drafts? Regulating temperatures in different areas of your building—especially during the winter—can be a full-time job. Programmable thermostats for each room, optimally placed for proper sensing, are a crucial part of tackling this challenge. An HVAC zoning system that allows you to set specific temperatures in different rooms, or zones, of your building may also be a wise investment.
While not directly related to the health, safety, or comfort of your building’s tenants, high energy costs are just one more factor to consider when it comes to assessing the success of your indoor air quality. During the winter, electric bills can skyrocket as you turn your property’s heat mechanisms on full blast. Not only does this relate to your HVAC systems, but also your water heating and boiler systems.
Even if you keep your thermostats set to the same setting all year, the time and energy it takes to heat your building and your water when the air outside is much colder will naturally be greater than when the air is warm. Common ways to mitigate high energy costs during winter are to increase your building’s insulation mechanisms, replace old or inefficient HVAC and boiler systems, cover drafty areas that let cold in, and manage your thermostat’s settings for optimal use of energy.
With all of this said, how can we improve indoor air quality in winter? We’ve discussed how harmful poor indoor air quality can be to your and your tenants’ health and safety. But how can you counteract these issues and prevent them from happening in the first place? Start with an air purification program that has your property covered.
The BreatheWell Program from The Budd Group involves the use of state-of-the-art air monitoring and purification equipment to increase your building’s air quality and stay on top of checking the air quality index within the building daily. This includes identifying the air particle sources in the occupants’ breathing zone, a three- to seven-foot radius around each person where it is most essential to mitigate carbon emissions (CO2), VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and particulates (PM pathogens) from the air.
The Budd Group utilizes high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers that can capture approximately 99.7% of particles 0.3 microns and larger in size, making for a much healthier internal environment. We also use activated carbon filters to trap gases, chemical emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), odors, and more, as well as negative ion air filtration to trap allergens, dust, and other hazards. Additionally, we establish a system of 24-7, real-time air quality monitoring with specialized equipment that takes the onus off of you to audit your indoor air quality. Through the appropriate placement of these monitoring and purification devices, plus our team of highly knowledgeable subject matter experts, you can reap the benefits of pure, breathable, non-harmful air in your facility.
Keep your building’s indoor air safe for all occupants to breathe! The Budd Group is your partner for all things indoor air quality, including considerations of high energy costs during the winter. Not only do we offer the BreatheWell Program, but we can inspect your spaces for drafty areas, poor ventilation, and broken HVAC systems or boilers that could be causing you trouble. Our team of experts has been in the business for over 60 years, serving clients throughout the Southeast United States. The Budd Group offers ample facility support solutions ranging from landscaping and disinfecting to repairs, maintenance, and janitorial services to clients across multiple verticals, including educational, healthcare, industrial, commercial, restaurant, retail, apartments and HOAs, and more.
We’re so confident in our ability to deliver top-notch facility maintenance services that we also offer our “Make It Right” Guarantee. This is a promise to you, meaning that we vow to provide thorough, professional, and timely service. If we complete a job and you’re unsatisfied in any way, we’ll “Make It Right.” Our clients trust us with all manner of facility maintenance services, adequate staffing and training, state-of-the-art equipment, prompt project completion, and stellar customer service. The Budd Group is a trusted name in facility management services, and we’re happy to provide case studies and references so you can see what our satisfied clients have to say about the services they’ve received.
Ready to partner with an experienced facility maintenance provider? Reach out to The Budd Group today to speak with one of our friendly representatives who can talk you through the next steps to get started.
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