Saturday, August 1, 2015

New Home InSPECKtion

by Beatrice Dias, Team Speck

As with most people, my husband and I were really excited about buying our first house.

We did all the usual checks – structural engineering, location, school district, bus access, aesthetics, etc. But we never thought to check on anything related to air quality. Using the Speck in our home really opened our eyes to the invisible space we lived and breathed in each day. Fortunately, our home is located in a neighborhood that enjoys relatively good air quality on most days. In addition, we have central heating/cooling, which certainly helps maintain good air quality in our home. The major issue we had though was our kitchen.

As I learned more about indoor air quality, I came across a useful resource related to ventilating your home during cooking. A range hood was recommended and I thought “Yes – I have one of those!” But my happy bubble was burst pretty quickly. First, I realized I actually only have an over-the-range microwave, rather than a standalone range hood. On top of that, after using the Speck in our home I learned that just turning our vent on, even without cooking, produced a bunch of fine particles. Why? Well, probably because I had not cleaned the grease traps in over five years – yuck! And the ultimate blow was discovering that even with cleaning, our vent was still ineffective at ventilating the house.
By moving the Speck around, I was able to trace the trajectory of cooking emissions from the kitchen, all the way up the stairs and into our child’s bedroom – yikes!
So, clearly our microwave hood did NOT vent to the outdoors and was essentially useless.

Although this was distressing news we didn’t give up there. Instead, we used the Speck to figure out what alternative ventilation methods we could use for our home. After some trial and error, we worked out a combination of opening the basement door plus kitchen window, and adding a window exhaust fan in the kitchen. This did the trick!

Now I breathe easier when I fry those yummy onions or indulge in some fried chicken :-) Come winter, of course, we’ll need to devise a new ventilation strategy, but I am pretty confident we can figure something out, now that we can see the invisible world around us through Speck!