NIES: 3 – Main risks of poor air quality

So what are the biggest risks of poor air quality?

Getting sick off course in the long run… But so is eating a hamburger with to much bacon or drinking to many beers, that’s also fantastic for your health, especially in the long run…

But how about concentration problems, headaches at home or or a bad night sleep, ever think of that?

Some of the risks we are all aware of, smoke for example. Whether it is created by a fire or from cigarettes, it’s not good for your health, we all know this. Or to open a window when a lot of people stay in the same room, get some fresh air in. Or to ventilate when cooking.

But how about mold or bacteria, are we even aware of that?
Or Radon gas, I never heard of that before I started digging in yet it is a common pollutant in most household’s and offices…

And we are not even talking yet about comfort, think about room temperature or getting some daylight into your home.

But it can get serious and scary once you start reading…

Let me quote 2 paragraphs from the United Status Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website:

Immediate Effects
Some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure or repeated exposures to a pollutant. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person’s exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants, symptoms of some diseases such as asthma may show up, be aggravated or worsened.

Long-Term Effects
Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.


The Sick Building Syndrome

Not so long ago I saw a news item coming by about the latest hype for hypochonders. Since everybody has a burn-out these these days and we are collectively taking Prozac to stay happy, perhaps it was time for something new so we can all feel special again:

The Sick Building Syndrome

I asked around a bit and nobody really seems to know what it is or why people seem to suffer from it (or they just needed a day off at the beach, I don’t judge). But it seems like a real plausible problem.

The World Health Organization (WHO) even wrote a paper about it stating “Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) describes a medical condition where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or feel unwell for no apparent reason”.

Perfect, I feel sick already. My boss is going to have good laugh about this when I call this one in on Monday morning. But enough with the jokes, it is real and apparently a lot of people are experiencing symptoms like having a frequent headache or sneezing every 5 minutes, related to the room they stay work of live in.

According to the Wikipedia page, the causes are mostly heating & ventilation and maybe air conditioning systems, they are not sure yet…

And then there are the pollutants we are talking about:
“Other causes have been attributed to contaminants produced by outgassing of some types of building materials, volatile organic compounds (VOC), molds (see mold health issues), improper exhaust ventilation of ozone (byproduct of some office machinery), light industrial chemicals used within, or lack of adequate fresh-air intake/air filtration (see Minimum efficiency reporting value). “

So there you go, another reason to know what’s in the air tonight…

And then there is this video snippet:


NIES: 2 – Air quality and comfort

What is air quality? What is comfort? What do you think is important to stay healthy and comfortable at home?

Easy questions, difficult and also personal answers…

Luckily, the rest of the world asked these question before and they where so kind to provide many standards:

Most of the mentioned standards are designed for outdoor environments but I really wanted to list they as indoor and outdoor air quality are pretty much linked to each other…

I found some good read’s about the available standards and how they compare on these website’s:

The folks at KMCControls give us a good descriptions about what IAQ and IEQ really is:

Indoor Air Quality is actually a subset of Indoor Environmental Quality. IAQ focuses on, not surprisingly, air. IAQ is a measure of the building’s interior air in terms of the occupant’s potential health and comfort. Nasty chemical, physical, and biological contaminants can cause symptoms ranging from discomfort to serious illness. Potential contaminants can include things like dust, cigarette smoke, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, radon, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and various other chemical compounds from outgassing of building materials and cleaning supplies. Careful selection of building materials and cleaning agents, as well as having air filters and sufficient ventilation increases air quality. Ideally, the quality of the indoor air should be equal to or even better than that of the air outside the building.
IAQ is about what we breathe. IEQ, more comprehensively, is about what we breathe, see, hear, and feel inside a building. IEQ includes IAQ as well as other physical and psychological aspects of life indoors. IEQ is a measure of multiple aspects of an indoor environment on human health and performance, including indoor air quality, lighting, visual quality, acoustics, and thermal comfort.

And business is booming ladies and gentlemen…

Indoor Comfort

Regarding indoor comfort I could find a lot of websites promising more comfort ass long as you bring them money, preferably whole shipping containers full of it. And most of the information I read was more focused on air quality.

So I focused on US Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ).
This index focuses on 4 main elements:
– Thermal comfort
– Indoor air quality
– Noise levels
– Illumination levels

A lot of the items mentioned under de IEQ index is related to the building methods, design and used materials. Some of it can be changed after the building has been completed, most can not.

More information can be read about this subject on the website of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). I do recommend to read this if you are interested, as it is to much to bluntly summarize on this website:

Most of the information I read was more focused on air quality.

Reading the provided links and documentation, I am going to focus on 3 main area’s for this project:

  • Indoor air quality (IAQ)
  • Thermal quality
  • Lighting quality


The N.I.E.S. Project

And so it begins, the “N.I.E.S.” project!

For some time now, I want to know a bit more about the air and comfort quality in my house. Also, as it is subject more spoken of these days, I want to know more about the subject. At first it was more about air quality, but as I recently moved to a new house I also wanted to see if I can measure comfort in my home.

I already measured things like temperature and humidity before, but I want to know more. Partly because others around me started to ask me questions like ‘Have you been breathing the same air as me?’ and most famously ‘What the hell have you been smoking?’, but that is a different story…

And so, a new project is born…
Dubbed “N.I.E.S.”, stands for “NodeMCU Indoor Environment Sensor”.

In the end my goal would be to have a working sensor in place in my living room that measures some important environment factors related to my health and well-being with an indicator of some sort that warns me to ventilate or take other actions. It also should be ecstatically pleasing but I guess that is something that will probably be kicked down the road once or twice during the project.

Ow, and it should work together with my home domotica platform, currently Domoticz.

Ow again, i really want to use a NodeMCU for this project. Not only because this leads to a really, really cool project name (‘nies’ is a Dutch word for sneezing and a common first name for a female in my country) but also because I like the filthy-cheap board from China with the ESP8266 SOC slapped on it. It’s in reach for everybody and it supports ESPEasy out of the box, what more do we want!

I hope to keep the project under the € 100,– if possible…
(Men can have dreams right?)

So with a bit of groundwork I chopped the project up into a few different phases:

  1. Introduction
  2. What is air quality and comfort?
  3. What are the main risks of poor indoor air quality?
  4. What to measure for and how to interpret the results, based on the main risks?
  5. What do other product on the market offer and for what price?
  6. Settings the rules for N.I.E.S.
  7. Theoretical concept, drawings and kitlist
  8. Proof of Concept
  9. First results
  10. Making it available for everybody…

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