Healthy air depends not only on your air being clean, but also keeping relative humidity below 55% so mold and bacteria cannot grow in the cooler spots of your home. This article covers air filtration, air purification and most importantly, decreasing humidity in your home.
TO BE CLEAR ABSOLUTELY NO FILTER IS ADEQUATE TO HELP YOU WHEN THERE REMAINS A WATER SOURCE FOR GROWTH OF MOLD. The machines can’t keep up!
Water damage causes bio amplification in the form of bacteria and mold within 48 hours. A common mistake is believing when the water appears to have evaporated that the risk has disappeared, but these little bio-farms can become airborne. The source contamination must be removed, negated and or diluted in order to restore a normal fungal ecology that you can then maintain a healthy home and body.
HVAC equipment gathers elements of biological growth and spreads them through your ENTIRE home. This chart below is from an HVAC (heating, venting and air conditioning) company.
Basically, the smaller the contaminates are, the harder they are to remove and in many cases often impossible to remove.
Cleaning Your Air
The contaminant you are trying to remove and it’s size will determine whether you need air filtration or air purification, or both.
This chart below illustrates the particle size of typical contaminants you wish to filter out of your home. Once you get below about 0.3 in size an air filtration unit will not be very effective.
The big take away here is that most particulates below 0.3 microns are the ones that can make you sick or kill you. Those particulates are smaller than our red and white blood cells. Whereas the larger particulates are often considered irritants because our body is better able to filter them.
Airborne particles can enter the nose and mouth during normal breathing.
- 10 microns diameter and less will pass through the nose and throat, reaching the lungs.
- 5 microns or less can penetrate into the gas exchange region of the lungs and take a long time to settle from the atmosphere.
- Anything less than 2.5 microns is highly likely to end up on the blood stream and fatty tissues. According to the American Lung Association these particulates can remain in the body for a long time.
Here is a chart to give you a better idea of the relative size range of the particulates that may be of concern to you. (Click to view larger image.)
Most people get air cleaners, if anything, for their indoor spaces to filter their air. Yet they don’t realize that they also need air purifiers to sanitize the air for the ultra-fine particulates.
Typically you won’t find both filtration and purification in one machine without compromising performance. A filter is designed to pass large quantities over the filter quickly, where as air purification requires air to linger in order for it to be treated.
I have looked at about a dozen filtration units. Here’s a list of some reputable manufacturers, so you can do the research yourself. I chose the AirDoctor because it had the highest level of performance and the best prices on replacement filters.
I have no marketing relationship with them, but I did call with a customer service question and found them very helpful. You will also be very pleased to know I found a link for a $280 discount on the unit from a Buyer’s Review Guide website.
Besides efficacy and price point, I really like their particulate sensor that automatically increases fan speed when there are more pollutants in the air. For example, I cooked bacon and the fan kicked into high for 20 minutes or so. During normal operation it is reasonably quiet, which is an important factor to consider.
Air purifiers will not treat the air from the things that make you sneeze, but rather treat the things that make you sick.
This is a difficult topic and I haven’t landed yet on my choice for a unit because their is no easy answer. Each technology seems to pose some risk. Purification is usually achieved by emitting ions or ozone, or by utilizing heat or UVC lamps.
I listen to podcasts by Michael Schwartz called IEP Radio (CLICK HERE FOR LINK). Each podcast features luminaries in the field of health and indoor air quality. The sessions are well structured and worth the time to listen to.
Podcasts #17 and #18 discuss air purification technology and provide a couple good options to consider. (I will update this page when I have more to share on the topic.)
Controlling Relative Humidity
Often this factor is overlooked in the war against indoor air pollution, yet it is often the MOST EFFECTIVE area to improve air quality. — That is because you want to PRIORITIZE THE REDUCTION OF TOXINS produced by thriving mold and bacteria colonies!!!
All indoor air professionals and doctors will tell you that to get better you MUST avoid water damage because water and cellulose colonization is exactly how mold and bacteria replicate… and produce the toxins which are EXTREMELY hard to remove from our bodies and buildings.
To access and prevent colonization the measurement benchmark that is of most interest is dew point. That’s the point at which the water is 100% saturated. Warmer air can hold more water than cold. (See this video for an explanation.)
Since our monitoring devices don’t easily provide that information, a generally accepted standard for assessment is the monitoring of relative humidity in a home which should be below 55%.
Sometimes, as is the case with my current home, my relative humidity is consistently 15-20% above the outdoor levels. It usually hovers in the 60-65% range. THAT IS VERY, VERY BAD!
I have no leaking pipes and we are suspecting it is coming from poor ventilation and a slab foundation with excess moisture. I tell you that so you can know water damage isn’t just from leaking water pipes.
REGARDLESS OF WATER SOURCE, you have to get the water OUT of your home. Here are a couple tools I recommend to do so:
- Humidity monitors Get a temperature and humidity monitor with an alarm. Evaluate risky or unknown areas of your home so you can handle accordingly. I have one inside and one outside, so I have a basis for comparison. Here’s the data logger I use. I also find it interesting to monitor what the weather service provides on their 10 day forecast for comparison, which varies based on time of day.
- Automatic ventilation fans. The best type turn on and off automatically based on relative humidity. (Very important for your bath and kitchen. Panasonic has one of the quietest motors according to several professionals. Here’s the Home Depot links: With light 50-110 CFM $289 or without light $199 50-110 CFM
- Dehumidifier. (UPDATE: Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can be a breeding ground for mold, especially in a water damaged building. So if you do not have a normal fungal ecology in your home and a commitment to cleaning and maintaining these devices, then DO NOT USE THEM!!!) —-A basic and important tool that is required for basements or in humid climates. A dehumidifier is like running an air conditioner, so expect it to cause a jump in your utility bill. You could run at night which is when the environment is most humid.The type you get depends on your square footage and proximity to a drain.
If you ever have a sudden water damage event, get on it within 24-48 hours or you will have mold and bacteria colonize which will make remediation exponentially difficult. You must remove drywall 2 feet beyond the water mark or as determined by a moisture meter. You must also lift all floor covering, hard or soft. — People think putting fans on a damaged spot is enough. DO NOT MAKE THAT MISTAKE PLEASE!!!!! You can’t effectively dry quickly enough to avoid biological colonization with just a fan.
If you don’t do this immediately, when you do take dry wall down, WITHOUT containment, you will spread a ridiculous amount of mold spores and other contaminates throughout your home.
Also on a related note, no insurance, either owner’s or renter’s, will cover your losses on a slow leak. You will only be covered on sudden water damage events, so don’t waste your time with insurance or your expectations in that case.
Please take excess water seriously, act quickly and prevent moisture inside your building from ANY source.
Stay Tuned for Future Lessons
Future newsletters will explain why the longer the water damage festers the worse the outcome. I will also share how to look for signs of a water damaged building, health tips, improving indoor air quality, digitizing documents, and more.
These are lessons that will help ANY immuno-compromised person or any one wishing to live their best life possible without brain fog or other symptoms from toxins in your environment and body.
Here is an index of topics on this subject that will be updated with each new series of lessons offered.
Please donate, if you can. I have a lot of expenses from medical, moving, and storage to replacement of damaged items. For any donation, I am offering you a mask lanyard as a thank you gift (LINK HERE).