Indoor air quality (IAQ) has come into greater focus over the past year and a half due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After all, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and its variants primarily spread through the air. To keep their doors open, retain a steady stream of customers, and keep all occupants safe, many businesses have redoubled their efforts to purify the air inside their buildings. Improving IAQ is a multi-faceted effort, requiring an integrated approach between various systems and devices -- without proper IAQ monitoring, though, the entire endeavor is bound to collapse. Whether your primary focus is promoting air disinfection for coronavirus or simply improving IAQ overall, you must invest in suitable commercial indoor air quality monitoring.
In this article, we’ll explain what IAQ monitors do, how they differ, and what to look for so you can select the best monitor for your building.
What Are Indoor Air Quality Monitors?
Indoor air quality monitors gather key data on the quality of a building’s interior air to track trends, identify issues, and make necessary adjustments. These monitors are attuned with various parameters in mind, such as particulate matter present in the air, humidity levels, temperature, etc. With accurate IAQ monitoring, those in charge of building maintenance and occupant wellness can better reduce risks associated with airborne health threats, such as viruses, bacteria, dust, fungal growth, chemicals, and more.
IAQ monitoring consists of three basic facets: hardware, software, and services. The hardware refers to the physical build of the monitor itself, including its outer shell, electronics, screen, sensors, and detectors. The software within the device is responsible for gathering, analyzing, and displaying the IAQ data. And IAQ services refer to the processes by which this data analysis is used to fix specific air quality problems and improve the building’s air quality as a whole.
In-Duct vs. Interior Air Quality Monitors
It’s worth noting that IAQ monitors come in more varieties than one based on their intended location and purpose. Interior air quality monitors, for instance, are primarily meant to measure IAQ within a built environment (i.e., a room) to improve the comfort and well-being of occupants -- they typically track common indoor pollutants such as CO/CO2 and also keep track of temperature and humidity. In-duct IAQ monitors, on the other hand, are placed inside ducts to track air quality inside the HVAC system itself (as opposed to the room). While these in-duct devices are also designed to improve occupant comfort and health, they also aid in optimizing HVAC systems and saving energy.
What to Look for in a Commercial IAQ Monitor
These minor differences between IAQ monitors only scratch the surface of what separates one device from another. As such, it’s important to know which factors to look for in an IAQ monitor.
What It Measures and How Precisely
As mentioned earlier, most IAQ monitors measure the same basic parameters. That said, some monitors are more focused on specific pollutants (or a wider range of them), and some monitors are more accurate than others. Ideally, the monitor you install in your building will collect accurate data on a vast array of pollutants on a continual basis, especially those that are most common in your facility. If your office is adjacent to a parking garage, for instance, you must pay special attention to carbon monoxide (CO) levels for proper facility maintenance.
If your building must comply with certain standards or certifications (i.e., LEED, RESET, WELL, etc.), you must take even greater care selecting an IAQ monitor. Indeed, in order to maintain LEED certification, your building must adhere to its Minimum Indoor Air Quality requirement, which pays close attention to CO2 and TVOC measurements. Generally speaking, carefully monitoring CO2, TVOC, and PM2.5 (in the built environment) will help you maintain most IAQ-related certifications.
Data Collection and Storage Capabilities
Different IAQ monitors have different ways of gathering, storing, and analyzing data. It’s important to invest in a device that offers reliable data collection and storage for your specific needs. As far as collection goes, a given IAQ monitor will gather data at specific intervals (this can often be adjusted, too) -- different building certifications require that this data capture take place over a certain span of time. In terms of storage, you may need your device to maintain and/or transmit a certain amount of data over a given interval. As you assess different IAQ monitors, pay attention to their built-in storage capacity and means of storage, their connectivity to other devices (i.e., Wi-Fi, bluetooth, USB, cloud), and more.
Calibration and Control
Proper calibration and regular recalibration are key in an IAQ monitor. After all, inaccurate calibration results in inaccurate IAQ readings, which can result in negative outcomes for your building and its occupants. In most cases, IAQ monitoring devices should be recalibrated at least once a year. Of course, some monitors are more difficult to reset than others. In some cases, a monitor must be removed, packed, shipped, and recalibrated by the manufacturer (this can take weeks on end, if not months). Ideally, your system will be easily calibrated without uninstalling it, saving time, money, and headaches.
Type of Display
The data collected and analyzed by your IAQ monitor isn’t worth much if you can’t easily see or understand it -- this is where a high-quality, customizable display comes in handy. The best monitors feature bright, high-definition displays with large text, a consolidated dashboard, notifications, touch capability, easy-to-read graphs and analytics, and more. And if your IAQ monitor’s info can be viewed remotely via an app, all the better.
Compatibility with Air Filtration/Purification System
Lastly, your IAQ monitor should be easy to integrate with your existing HVAC and air filtration/purification systems. Otherwise, you’ll need to take additional steps to make key changes to these systems after gathering data from your IAQ monitoring device. With a compatible, comprehensive IAQ system, problems can be quickly addressed -- sometimes even automatically, reducing the need for human intervention and error.
Which IAQ Monitor Is Best for Your Building?
So, which IAQ monitor is right for your facility? While we can’t deliver a specific answer, keeping the above factors in mind will help you select the best device for your needs. If you have further questions or concerns regarding your building’s air quality, The Budd Group is here to help. Maintaining clean interior air is a major part of our COVID disinfecting services, and we’re committed to helping our clients achieve their clean air and health/safety goals in every way possible.
To learn more about our services and values, give us a call today at 800-221-8158! And for more detailed information on IAQ, COVID-19, and the Delta Variant, visit the CDC’s website here.