CO2 Monitors and Air Quality Sensors: The Alarming Truth They Reveal

Published Categorised as Personal

The sky is blue; the trees lime green in their early leafing. The sun’s light punches the clear air.

Knowledge from reading tells you the city air is cleaner than it’s ever been, that Ohio is the biggest source of pollution, that neighbouring states and Ontario have been fighting them to improve, and that they had finally made inroads to Ohio’s polluting everyone’s air for private enrichment.

Knowledge from observation tells you how clean and relatively fresh the air is. In quiet residential neighbourhoods, the birds call, squirrels squeak, roses and fragrant flowering trees tickle the nose. You feel lucky to live in a city not blanketed by smog.

And then you get a smart thermostat with an air quality sensor and an Aranet4 CO2 monitor because of the pandemic.

The latter gives you a proxy reading of ventilation levels. The former gives you relative readings of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and CO2.

You read up on them; you check out your readings.

You feel a bit sick.

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CO2 or carbon dioxide is the main molecule that’s causing climate change, though not the only one. Methane is another big source.

VOCs are what so many plastics exhale into our air, the kind of soft polymers found in wiring, fridges, non-metal oven parts or hard polycarbonates in heat pump mini-splits that blow hot or cold air into our homes. Some sources like cooking food are temporary and no big deal, but governments have failed us in allowing unfettered use of polluting chemical compounds and continual introduction of new ones without any required long-term testing. Worse, they don’t require off-gassing time before delivery to your home.

Invisibly belching VOCs poison us and our indoor air without us being aware.

Then we open a new fridge door and nearly pass out. How can a person safely store food in a fridge filled with VOCs? Yet no government has seen fit to ensure these appliances are fully off-gassed until the belching chemical materials are depleted.

Still, you figure removing all the removable parts, washing them, letting them sit in an unused, ventilated area for a week…a month if you have that luxury…will solve the problem. Then you open the fridge and nearly pass out again. You hurriedly buy activated charcoal packs and stuff them in there. Note to new fridge owners: leave the door open for at least a week and ventilate before plugging it in. Place activated charcoal bags in both fridge and freezer and leave them in there.

BTW, new ovens off-gas, too. But heat accelerates the release of VOCs, and the exhaust fan set on high can blow them outside before you use it to cook (your exhaust fan is connected to the outside, right, the way it’s supposed to be?)

You figure that’s the worst of it. Outside the air is clear; long gone are those heavy pollution days. Then you look at your CO2 monitor and, worse, the air quality sensor. Why is the latter reading poor? The former higher? Is it just too much breathing? No, not quite. Air pollution, even in an energy efficient house, seeps in. And a home with a good EnerGuide rating doesn’t ventilate indoor air pollution from VOCs without opening a window and letting out all the heat (or cool air), too.

Note: an energy efficient home also has the added disadvantage of keeping viruses indoors along with the pollution. It’s why you need HEPA and activated charcoal filters, even when UVC proves its safety and effectiveness to zap viruses like COVID and becomes affordable.

The sensors tell you what you don’t want to know: the air we breathe is a chemical soup.

Another truth the sensors reveal: when a shift in wind sweeps the pollution out, it remains indoors off-gassing from where it had settled.

Another truth: it takes a long, long time with windows open at night — the time when the air is least polluted and provides the best ventilation to clean up indoor air — to return air quality to “clean” and CO2 to decent levels (<500ppm, 600 tops).

If everyone had air quality sensors, would we believe our deceiving eyes so readily, that we’re good because we inherently trust our own eyes? Or would we become protected from those lies and demand every level of government get serious about helping people with both climate action and cleaning our indoor air of off-gassing, pollution, and viruses?

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