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Indoor Air Quality

Our homes and buildings have become more energy efficient and more resistant to air leaks. Leaky walls and leaky windows have been replaced by better products and processes. Tighter homes and buildings have led to the need for comprehensive mechanical ventilation systems in any indoor environment. In a residential setting, typical design practice is to calculate ventilation rates using the size of the space, and number of bedrooms (as a proxy for number of occupants). This approach can sometimes result in under-ventilating occupancies with high indoor pollutant levels, creating an air quality concern. It can also result in over-ventilating in occupancies with low pollutant levels, wasting fan and heating/cooling energy.


A better option may be available – a dynamically controlled ventilation system, which is activated/deactivated based on actual pollutant concentrations – improving indoor air quality and decreasing energy use. Tested, and reliable, air quality sensors with the ability to detect pollutants are available and many have been tested to the Federal Reference Method (FRM) or Federal Equivalent Method (FEM) standards. These sensors can often cost many thousands (or many tens of thousands) of dollars, making their inclusion in a buildings ventilation system impractical.

Lower cost sensors do exist, but there is currently no standardized test for analyzing the quality and performance of these sensors. Newport Partners is partnering with the Home Ventilating Institute/Health Air Research and Certification Authority (HVI/HARCA) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to develop technical support and content for what is intended to become a set of ASTM Test Method for Indoor Air Quality Sensors. This effort is currently funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program.

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