Indoor air tests offered

Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Kenai residents yearning to breathe free are in luck.

Wisdom and Associates, a Kenai company that specializes in air quality inspection, recently received a grant to test indoor air quality in homes across the Kenai Peninsula. And, according to the company's owner, Steve Wisdom, this could be a good time for homeowners to find out if they've got issues with indoor air.

"People that think they have indoor air quality problems can definitely benefit," Wisdom said Friday.

Because his company received a grant to test 100 homes, Wisdom said the testing is free. That's quite a bargain, Wisdom said, as he usually charges between $700 and $1,000 for a thorough inspection.

"I think it's an excellent program," he said. "It's not just some little walk-through."

Wisdom said his company will monitor homes for 48 hours, recording temperature and humidity, as well as levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, radon and microscopic particles.

He'll use the data he gets as part of a study for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, which awarded Wisdom the grant.

But as a beneficial side effect, some area residents will get a chance to find out what's going on with their indoor air. And although it's not something people spend a lot of time thinking about, Wisdom said indoor air quality can make a huge difference in people's lives.

He pointed to a case study he did of a home he looked at several years ago. He said the family living there mother, father and two children were having a wide variety of unexplained health problems.

"The parents were exhausted by 8:30 p.m.," he said. "The children were having unexplained health problems. The little girl was getting migraine headaches, the boy asthma."

Wisdom said he began investigating the home and right away noticed some visual clues that told him something wasn't right. There were soot marks around the appliances in the garage, as well as some condensation and visible mold in a couple places in the home.

He ran a ventilation test and found the home's ventilation system wasn't pulling enough fresh air into the home. In fact, the pressure situation was so bad the home was actually sucking radon gas up into the home. In addition, the home had high levels of carbon dioxide, was too humid and had ultra-fine particle levels that were off the charts.

"The house was extremely tight," Wisdom said.

The good news for the family, he said, was that most indoor air problems are relatively simple to solve.

"The fix on this house was very simple," he said.

Wisdom said fans were installed to move the air, some of the home's air vents were adjusted and before long the family's health problems disappeared.

"The parents are wide awake at 10:30 now," he said.

Wisdom encourages anyone interested in having an inspection to give him a call. He needs to inspect 100 homes for the study and said he plans to begin work in a month or so. That's because when it gets cold, people are indoors more and air quality becomes a bigger issue, making now the perfect time for local residents to find out how to clear the air.

"We can inspect the home, find out what's happening and give people a set of solutions for their particular house," he said.

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