What is Offgassing? How to Prevent Offgassing SourcesService Champions
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What is Offgassing? How to Prevent Offgassing Sources

January 19th, 2018

The best way to avoid offgassing in the home is to avoid products that emit VOCs and dangerous gasses in the first place. Many building materials and household products are treated with chemicals that are slow to release dangerous gasses.

In addition to avoiding certain products, it’s important to have the proper amount of ventilation in the home. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Ventilation is extremely important, especially when it comes to more airtight homes.

New materials and design have drastically improved building insulation levels. While this is great for saving energy, it introduces a whole new set of air quality problems: offgassing, radon, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).

What is offgassing?

Offgassing, sometimes called outgassing, is a term that describes the release of gases, chemicals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air from cleaning products, building materials, and other stuff that we have inside our homes and buildings.

Have you ever opened product packaging and enjoyed that “new” smell? That smell comes from the airborne particulates and chemicals that are being offgassed from the materials.

Our products and furniture don’t just sit there. The chemicals slowly turn into gases and float into the air where they are ingested by anyone in the building.

High-levels of exposure to VOCs and other airborne particulates can cause lasting respiratory, reproductive, nervous system, and brain damage.

Offgassing Sources

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contains a list of nearly all common household products and what’s in them. Look up your products here.

Another great way to prevent bringing in contaminants is to take your shoes off before entering the home. Create a mudroom (or a “genkan” as the Japanese call it) to keep outdoor contaminants, such as pesticides, out of the home. It will also reduce the amount of time you spend sweeping, vacuuming, and dusting.

Cleaning Products and Air Fresheners

Have you ever cleaned your home and then started to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous?

Reduce your risk of VOC exposure by reading the labels before purchasing. Look for nontoxic, biodegradable, phthalate-free, and fragrance-free labels. Better yet, DIY your own household cleaners. There are amazing things you can do with vinegar, baking soda, salt, seltzer, and lemons.

Building Materials, Paint, Carpeting

Many building materials, paints, and boards contain toxic materials, such as formaldehyde,  benzene, ammonia, and toluene. Whenever designing a remodeling project, always consult with an HVAC professional for proper ventilation.

Offgassing is strongest during the first few years of its purchase or installation. Offgassing tails off after a couple of years.

Other potential sources of offgassing in the home include:

  • Electronic devices
  • Pure Acetone
  • Dryer sheets

How to Prevent OffGassing

  • Clean often. Keep dust and dirt levels down. Take off shoes in a mudroom before entering. Wash hands frequently.
  • Hardwood floors and furniture are better than carpet when it comes to indoor air quality. Choose hardwood furniture and floors when you can. Avoid pressed wood, plywood, and particle board.
  • Avoid foam items if possible.
  • Choose natural fibers that are fire-resistant such as polyester, wool, hemp, or cotton. These probably won’t have toxic fire retardants.
  • Purchase a HEPA-filter vacuum.
  • Buy non-toxic cleaners or make your own.
  • Always follow the manufacturer and waste disposal instructions. Keep paints and other chemicals in a storage area with proper ventilation.
  • Speak with a professional about ventilation and air quality, especially before a large insulation improvement or remodel.

Speak with an HVAC Expert

While your nose can help you identify an indoor air quality problem, it won’t be able to help with odorless chemicals and gases, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde, pesticides, VOCs, and many types of bacteria and fungi. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide alarms throughout the home and schedule two HVAC appointments every year, once in the fall and once in the spring.

Every home should have proper whole-home ventilation. In addition to spot ventilation in the bathrooms, kitchens, and hobby areas, you should also have a heat (or energy) recovery ventilator. HRVs and ERVs hook up to your HVAC system to provide fresh air without any significant energy loss.

Other IAQ solutions include:

  • Duct Cleaning & Sealing
  • Air Scrubbers
  • Whole-Home Humidification
  • Whole-House Fans
  • Heat Recovery Ventilators
  • Energy Recovery Ventilators

In addition to toxic chemicals, your home is also susceptible to mold and fungi growth. A professional HVAC and indoor air quality expert can set your home up with the ideal ventilation and humidification levels. Contact Service Champions to make your indoor environment as healthy, safe, and efficient as possible.

Learn more about How to Improve Indoor Air Quality.

Contact Service Champions for your Free In-Home Air Quality Consultation.

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