From COVID to CO2: The urgent need to rethink our home ventilation!

Over the course of history, most big cities have lost sizeable parts to fires. In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed a third of the city and left 100,000 people homeless. The Great Fire of Tooley Street in 1861 destroyed over 600 buildings. There have been countless other such calamities in cities around the world.

Today, thanks to planning, advanced materials, and robust regulations, city-wide fires are no longer such a threat. Occasionally buildings catch fire, but they tend to be localized and extinguished before they can consume entire blocks. Regulations and laws regarding fire control are doing what they are supposed to do.

Ventilation regulations however, have yet to receive the same level of attention and urgency. That’s partly because air pollution has not been perceived to be a problem on the scale of all-consuming fires. Increasingly, however, it is. Statistically, humans spend 90% of their time indoors. Remote working is on the rise and we spend increasing amounts of time in our own homes. Especially in the northern and central part of Europe.

Gert Valdek, CTO

The next fire in the city is not a fire – it’s disease, pathogens and particulate matter

COVID19 was mainly spread indoors and is a prime example why we need to start focusing on ventilation and indoor air quality in our homes.

A study conducted in 2020 found that the flu virus was able to replicate more efficiently in human cells that were exposed to high CO2 levels. The researchers believed that such levels may promote the spread of the Influenza A virus by suppressing the immune system and making cells more susceptible to infection.

These studies add to the growing body of evidence that poor ventilation can enable the spread of disease and pathogens.

Why do we need Mechanical Ventilation in our homes to begin with if I can open the window?

If you live in an urban area in Europe and want to let in some fresh air, then there is a high chance that you’ll also let a substantial amount of particulate matter into your home with it. And of course, in northern and central Europe, opening the window means throwing money out of it, because of the heating energy loss.

Modern buildings are built to be energy-efficient. Among other things, this means that they are tightly sealed environments that are designed to keep heat in and cold out. Today’s homes, when built correctly, have close to zero natural airflows. Every degree of generated warmth remains inside during cold winters and the cool air from air conditioners doesn’t escape during summers.

However, this airtight design comes with a health price. Without proper ventilation mechanisms in place, the air inside our homes can quickly become stale and lead to different health and comfort issues.

The importance of good ventilation goes beyond just ensuring fresh air circulation. Inadequate ventilation can create an environment for the growth of mould, bacteria, and other pathogens. Without proper ventilation a home could become a breeding ground for diseases.

Residential ventilation systems should be able to bring fresh air in on demand, not just move it around.

Most mechanical ventilation systems that are sold today are dumb, to put it mildly. They operate in predefined levels and do not take account of indoor climate events which happen all the time in your home: cooking, showering, having guests over, using hairspray, drying laundry and so on. Modern ventilation systems should dynamically respond to the real-time needs of the indoor environment.

99.9% of ventilation devices do not react to the increase in CO2 levels

Humans produce CO2. This is one of the things that, as living organisms, we are designed to do. Traditional ventilation systems operate independently of CO2 levels, often leading to suboptimal indoor air quality.

However, modern mechanical ventilation, equipped with CO2 sensors, can react in real-time to CO2 build up. By adjusting airflow in response to these readings, such systems ensure that levels remain within a healthy range.

CO2 controlled ventilation devices are healthy and energy efficient by design.

If a ventilation device uses CO2 readings to calculate airflow, then it operates very energy efficiently. Ventilation should not run at the same speed for the length of the day when you are not home. If your device can read CO2, then it knows when you leave the house and switches to energy saving mode. Over a longer period this can accumulate to significant energy saving costs which are good for the wallet and also good for the planet.

Particulate matter is a special type of concern in big urban areas.

Particulate matter, especially PM2.5, has been a significant concern in urban environments due to its adverse health effects. A recent investigation published by the Guardian reveals that most of Europe lives in high PM polluted areas.

Modern mechanical ventilation systems equipped with PM sensors can detect the presence of these particles. They can let you know to close the windows (via a mobile app) and let the system do its job. Also it’s important to remember that PM’s will be produced in the household too, so these systems are able to automatically react to the increase of PM levels.

VOCs are a modern problem which can be very dangerous

Along with Particulate Matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are present in every modern home. They are emitted by a wide range of products, from paints to cleaning agents. These compounds can, at elevated levels, pose health risks ranging from minor irritations to more severe respiratory problems.

The integration of VOC sensors in ventilation systems offers a solution. By continuously monitoring indoor VOC concentrations, these systems can trigger increased airflow when thresholds are breached..

One of the main factors of personal comfort (and health) is humidity

Humidity plays a big role in determining indoor comfort and health. Excessively dry environments can lead to skin irritations and respiratory discomfort, while high humidity can promote mould growth and spread of allergens.

Smart ventilation systems, with integrated humidity sensors as well as a humidity recovery function can help to maintain an optimal moisture balance. By adjusting ventilation based on real-time humidity readings, these systems can ensure that indoor conditions remain both comfortable and health-conducive.

Ventilation standards and laws need to be renewed in order to keep up with the modern building codes

For industry experts and policymakers, the message should be clear: the standards for residential ventilation and indoor air quality need revisiting and revamping. Just as fire safety standards evolved to address the pressing concerns of their times, our era demands a renewed focus on air quality standards.

Over recent years some manufacturers have started to develop devices that can react to different indoor climate events in your home. They can measure and react to CO2, PM, VOC`s and humidity changes. We have a proven way to automatically improve indoor climate conditions and there is no reason not to put this developed technology to use.

You can find out more about Airobot here.



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6 months ago

All good mand correct, thank you – but what if every time you open your kitchen or bedroom window, yo get a face-ful of the neighbour’s wood smoke?

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