Blog Spotlights Home IAQ Overview

October 30th 2018

Most of us spend the majority of our lives indoors, which puts the importance of indoor air quality research in perspective. Brett Singer's recent presentation about indoor air quality research, given at this year's Westford Symposium on Building Science in Westford, Massachusetts, has inspired a series of posts at the Energy Vanguard's blog. Singer, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab's Energy Technologies Area, offered an overview of the current insights and challenges related to indoor air at home.

Graphic from Brett Singer's presentation on home indoor air qualityOne of the posts on the blog, which covers home performance, focuses on the amount of time we spend in indoor environments. In his presentation at Westford, Singer cited the “code” of researcher Rich Corsi, who teaches this important concept by talking about the years of our lives that we spend indoors, in our homes, in bed, and in vehicles. Another post discusses the work by Singer and colleagues to identify the air pollutants that we breathe in our homes that have the most impact on public health. While secondhand smoke will be most important in a home with an active smoker, and radon could be most important if very high in a single home, across the population, the most important pollutant is fine particulate matter, or “PM2.5

Singer not only listed the most concerning indoor air pollutants, he also showed a graph ranking their health impact per year per 100,000 people. "Thinking about improving your indoor air quality in the abstract is all well and good," writes Energy Vanguard's Allison Bailes, "but it helps when you have a chart like [Singer's]."

Singer also talked about the problems with kitchen ventilation, one of which is that range hoods can have a low capture efficiency. "Unfortunately, you can't go out and comparison shop based on this metric," Bailes writes. "The researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, including Dr. Brett Singer, are spearheading this work." As follow-up, Dr. Singer noted that Berkeley Lab researchers recently created a standard test for range hood performance and they expect some players in the industry to start using the test in early 2019.