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How CO2 Monitors Help Us Understand Air Quality

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is part of everyday life. It’s in the air we breathe in and breathe out, it is frozen into dry ice that keeps mail order perishables from melting, and it gives sodas their bubbly fizz. Carbon dioxide is also important to the air quality of your home. Did you know CO2 monitors are available to help you better understand your home’s air quality? 

People give little thought to carbon dioxide, outside of buying a few houseplants knowing that help remove CO2 from the air. There are bigger worries like pollen, mold, mildew, and even bacteria and viruses entering your home. There is also the more well-known threat of carbon monoxide. When unnoticed gas leaks allow it to build up in a home, carbon monoxide is deadly. (A carbon monoxide detector is a must-have for each level of your home!)

But is it really worth a homeowner’s time and attention to properly manage CO2 levels within their home? Current research suggests that carbon dioxide levels in the air matter. Using CO2 monitors to maintain the air quality and health of a home is important to better indoor air quality. 


The Dangers of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide levels increase with the number of people in a space. Levels also depend on the size of the place, as well as how ventilated it is. The CO2 build up inside a closed room is measured in parts per millions (PPM). The Wisconsin Department of Health Services offers a scale of how much carbon dioxide is in the air and what health effects it has on a person. The scale goes from 250-400 ppm, which is considered a normal amount for an outdoor area, 400-1000 ppm for an average room occupied by people, and increases all the way up to 40,000 ppm and beyond which is listed as “immediately harmful” because there is a high risk of oxygen deprivation.

The highest levels of carbon dioxide are found in places that house chemical processes or other extreme scenarios. You will most likely be dealing with lower levels. At 1,000-2,000 ppm, people may experience drowsiness and at 2,000-5,000 ppm complain of headaches and sluggishness. Note that, according to OSHA, people experience the effects of carbon dioxide differently. Some people are more sensitive, while others do not seem bothered. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health services further explains that high levels of carbon dioxide can lead to poor reflexes, the inability to focus, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, and a “pins-and-needles” feeling in your hands and arms. 


How to Measure CO2

There are personal CO2 monitors available for purchase online. These monitors can be carried from room to room or mounted on a wall, allowing you to establish a permanent monitoring station in each room. Most models feature a digital display that allows you to see the parts per million measurements at a glance. They may also feature other information, such as the relative humidity and temperature of a room. 

If you wish to monitor the carbon dioxide of a room, leave CO2 monitors in a set position. When you note the parts per million reading, take note on your phone or keep a nearby notebook. This allows you to track details like time of day, the temperature of the room, how many people were in the room at the time, and if there were any changes in the room’s ventilation (like an open window). After a few days you will see a pattern of the room’s carbon dioxide saturation and decide if you need to take action to alter the air quality of the room. 


Fresh Air Through Ventilation

One of the most important aspects of controlling CO2 levels is removing the existing air in a space and replacing it with fresh air. If you want the air in your home to be constantly refreshed, you need proper ventilation. The easiest solution is to open a window or door to allow fresh air to enter, but this is a short-term solution at best. Open windows introduce new issues like allergens and unwanted odors, as well as undoing your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system’s work in making your home a comfortable temperature.

Modern homes are served best by a good HVAC system that offers more fresh air through mechanical ventilation. Exhaust fans offer spot-ventilation, while an HVAC system provides whole-house ventilation as it works to maintain your home’s temperature and humidity levels. Installing an in-duct air purifier ensures the air drawn into your house is fresh and clean. An in-duct air purifier works to remove unwanted particles from the air before it is allowed into your home. 

SEE ALSO: How Important is Air Ventilation for a Healthy Home?


Take Charge of Your Indoor Air Quality

You don’t need to fear carbon dioxide. However, it is good to be aware of the effect it has on your home’s air quality. Hand-held CO2 monitors can be a useful tool for tracking the air quality of your house. Opening windows and using exhaust fans help provide immediate relief if required. Your best ally in maintaining proper carbon dioxide levels is good ventilation provided by an HVAC system. Contact your local, licensed HVAC service provider to inspect your home’s current system and any ventilation or air health concerns that may arise. Don’t hold your breath, improve your home’s air quality today!

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