Take a look back at the years before 2020 and you’ll realize carbon dioxide(CO₂)monitoring was not something many businesses and organizations would think about. But, like social distancing, flu vaccines, and mask wearing, CO₂ monitoring is now a big thing that most companies begin to quickly familiarize themselves with.
But, what is carbon dioxide?
Carbon dioxide or CO₂ is a colorless and odorless gas that is soluble in water and is commonly present and visible as the bubbles in soft drinks. It is also a greenhouse gas that is released when materials containing carbon are being burned, and also a gas formed during metabolic processes of animals and humans.
Temperature levels below -79 °C or -110 °F make carbon dioxide solid and become dry ice which is commonly used by the medical industry to keep supplies, test samples, and even organs at an even temperature; by the food industry to keep products fresh, and; the shipping and cargo industry to keep perishable items stay cold throughout the journey.
Carbon dioxide and indoor air quality
Indoors, carbon dioxide commonly comes from cigarette smoking, respiration or breathing of occupants, and poor ventilation. Since carbon dioxide has no color and smell, it usually goes unnoticed indoors such as schools, offices, and commercial spaces. Even though it seems invisible, it does not mean that carbon dioxide would cause no harm.
ASHRAE or American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has recommended indoor CO2 concentrations be maintained at—or below—1,000 ppm in schools and 800 ppm in offices. But, how do you know if the levels of carbon dioxide exceed permissible levels? It’s through carbon dioxide monitoring.
The benefits of CO₂ monitoring
Carbon dioxide monitoring is the process of tracking and collecting information on the presence and levels of carbon dioxide in the air, and the easiest way to do this is through the installation of CO₂ monitors.
Some of the most important benefits built environments can achieve by monitoring CO₂ are:
Reduce virus risk
Carbon dioxide monitors provide an indication of how well-ventilated a building is. The less it’s ventilated, the higher the space becomes a good breeding ground for viruses.
We all know humans breathe out carbon dioxide, and someone who has an airborne virus like coronavirus will also breathe out particles of this virus. If a room is poorly ventilated, these particles will tend to remain and even multiply in surfaces and in the air, which will then be inhaled by other building occupants.
Carbon dioxide monitoring helps identify areas in a building where there are unsatisfactory ventilation rates, allowing owners to make necessary changes to keep the air fresh and flowing whether via mechanical ventilation or opening doors and windows.
Carbon dioxide has an impact on the way the brain functions. This claim is supported by a report from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health where they studied the effects of carbon dioxide on cognition. The study has found out that test scores were higher by 40% in green built environments with lower levels of carbon dioxide. The study also concluded that better air improved decision-making scores by 101%, which transcribed into a $17,000 annual productivity for every employee.
Identify the concentration of other air pollutants
Air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a common factor that contribute to Sick Building Syndrome or SBS which are typically characterized by dizziness, headache, nausea, and difficulty concentrating.
Carbon dioxide and VOCs have similar patterns of concentration, this means that when carbon dioxide is high, the levels of VOCs is also high, and one of the effective ways to manage both pollutants and their impacts on health is through ensuring proper ventilation.
Because of CO₂ and VOCs’ relationship, carbon dioxide monitoring will also let you determine the level of volatile organic compounds in a space. By regulating both of these substances, you can maintain healthier indoor air quality and prevent the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome.
Discover HVAC system inefficiencies
As stated above, one of the most effective ways to manage carbon dioxide levels is through maintaining proper ventilation. If the carbon dioxide levels indoors are still high even if your HVAC system is on, this may mean that your HVAC system is not enough or is not working properly. In this case, it is important to have your system be fixed to improve ventilation rates and save yourself from unnecessary energy expenses.
What type of carbon dioxide monitor should you get?
There are a wide range of carbon dioxide monitoring systems on the market but a report by the Scientific Advisory Group of Emergencies or SAGE recommends NDIR (non-dispersive infra-red) sensors and that other types of monitor “should be avoided due to potential inaccuracy. It also adds that “sensors using NDIR technology are widely shown to give more reliable readings.”
uHoo Aura, the most comprehensive indoor environmental quality monitor uses Dual-channel NDIR technology for measuring carbon dioxide. This sensor works by using specific wavelengths of light to measure the amount of CO2 in the air. The higher the light that is absorbed, the higher the CO2 concentration in the air.
Aside from carbon dioxide, uHoo Aura also measures parameters such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, PM4, and PM10) , volatile organic compounds, light, and sound. Users also have the option to add two more sensors namely nitrogen dioxide and ozone or choose one among sulfur dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia, depending on their specific industries and/or requirements.
The carbon dioxide data collected by uHoo Aura can be used for analyzing values or trends over time and for alerting on and resolving specific indoor environmental issues. The data can also be integrated into any existing Building Management Systems (BMS), allowing these systems to be turned on or off based on actual real-time usage of spaces.
Monitoring your building’s carbon dioxide helps maintain your wellbeing and keep your employees safe and healthy. For more details about uHoo Aura and the ways it can help you improve your indoor environment, feel free to contact us.