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Signs of Poor Indoor Air Quality in Your Commercial Building

Updated: Feb 5

The signs of poor indoor air quality, often subtle yet impactful, can be the silent saboteurs of tenant well-being and overall building performance.

Maintaining a healthy indoor environment is more than a mere perk—it's a fundamental necessity.

signs of poor indoor air quality in your commercial building

From lingering odors that defy traditional air fresheners to tenants experiencing unexplained respiratory discomfort, these signs aren't just indicators; they're red flags waving over your property’s health.

Join us as we uncover these telltale signs, decipher their implications, and empower you, the savvy building owner, to steer your commercial property toward a fresher, healthier future.


Lingering Odors and Their Sources

Sources of Lingering Odors

indoor air quality sources of odors

Hidden Mold Growth: Mold can thrive in damp, hidden spots like behind walls, under carpets, or in poorly ventilated areas, emitting musty odors.

The EPA explains how mold can be difficult to find and may require a professional with experience investigating water- and mold-damaged buildings.

  • Specialized equipment such as borescopes and moisture meters, and in some cases special sampling techniques, may be helpful in locating and identifying hidden mold areas.

Stagnant Water Accumulation: Water leaks or standing water due to plumbing issues might foster mildew growth, emitting unpleasant smells.

Food Residue and Waste: Forgotten spills, decomposing food scraps, or poorly managed waste areas can contribute to persistent odors

Impact on Occupants

Reduced Comfort and Concentration: Lingering odors can distract occupants, impacting their focus and productivity in the workplace.

Potential Health Concerns: Prolonged exposure to unpleasant smells might cause headaches, nausea, or respiratory discomfort among occupants.

Negative Perception: Lingering odors might create a negative impression among visitors or clients, affecting the building's reputation.

Mitigation Strategies

Deep Cleaning and Remediation: Thorough cleaning, especially in hidden or neglected areas, can eliminate mold and mildew, eradicating the sources of odor.

Repairing Leaks and Ventilation Improvement: Fixing leaks promptly and improving ventilation reduces moisture, hindering odor-causing microorganism growth.

Odor Neutralizers and Air Purifiers: Using air purifiers with activated carbon filters or odor-neutralizing agents helps eliminate persistent smells, improving indoor air quality.

By understanding these sources and their impact, implementing targeted strategies can effectively mitigate lingering odors, ensuring a more pleasant and healthier indoor environment for occupants.

Respiratory Health Indicators for Tenants

Identifying Respiratory Symptoms

Coughing and Wheezing: Persistent coughing or wheezing, especially when indoors, could indicate exposure to airborne irritants or allergens.

Eye or Throat Irritation: Irritated eyes, scratchy throat, or nasal congestion can signal poor indoor air quality and potential respiratory issues.

Increased Allergy Symptoms: Experiencing heightened allergy symptoms, such as sneezing or congestion, when inside the building suggests allergens or pollutants present in the air.

Long-Term Health Effects

indoor air quality long term health effects

Aggravated Respiratory Conditions: Poor indoor air quality can exacerbate pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies among occupants.

Chronic Respiratory Discomfort: Prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants might lead to chronic respiratory discomfort or the development of new sensitivities.

Impact on Overall Well-Being: Continuous exposure to poor air quality can affect overall health, leading to fatigue, reduced productivity, or frequent illnesses.

Improving Indoor Air Quality for Respiratory Health

Enhanced Filtration Systems: Upgrading to high-efficiency air filters or HEPA filters effectively captures allergens and airborne particles, improving air quality.

Maintaining Optimal Humidity: Controlling indoor humidity levels between 30% to 50% minimizes mold growth and reduces respiratory irritants.

Regular HVAC Maintenance: Scheduled HVAC inspections and maintenance prevent air circulation issues and ensure clean air circulation throughout the building.

Implementing measures to improve indoor air quality becomes crucial in safeguarding occupants' respiratory health within commercial buildings.

Dust and Pollutant Management


Challenges in Dust Management

improve indoor air quality with better hvac ventilation

Particle Size and Persistence: Managing fine particles, such as dust mites, pollen, or pet dander, poses challenges due to their small size and ability to linger in the air for extended periods.

Constant Generation: Dust is a constant byproduct in indoor environments, originating from various sources like skin cells, textiles, outdoor pollutants, or building materials.

Difficulty in Complete Elimination: Despite cleaning efforts, achieving complete eradication of dust particles from indoor spaces is practically unattainable due to continual generation and circulation.

Health Implications of Pollutants

Respiratory Health Risks: Fine dust particles and indoor pollutants can exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies among occupants.

Potential Irritants: Pollutants in the air, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can cause eye irritation, throat discomfort, headaches, and dizziness.

Cumulative Health Effects: Prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants can contribute to long-term health issues, impacting overall well-being and productivity.

Effective Pollutant Control Measures

Regular Cleaning Regimens: Consistent and thorough cleaning practices, including vacuuming, dusting, and surface wiping, help minimize dust accumulation.

Indoor Air Quality Monitoring: Implementing air quality monitoring systems help track pollutant levels and indicates the effectiveness of control measures.

  • Low-cost Air Pollution Monitor is explained by the EPA as a device that uses one or more than one sensor and other components to detect, monitor and report on specific air pollutants like particulate matter (PM) or carbon dioxide and/or environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.

Managing dust and pollutants necessitates strategic approaches and consistent efforts to minimize their presence, thereby enhancing indoor air quality and ensuring a healthier environment for building occupants.

Temperature Inconsistencies and IAQ Impact

Identifying Inconsistencies

Localized Hot or Cold Spots: Identifying areas within the building where temperatures deviate from the set comfort levels, leading to discomfort among occupants.

Seasonal Variations: Inconsistent temperatures might vary depending on external weather conditions, resulting in discomfort or perception issues for occupants.

Equipment Malfunction or Inefficiency: Temperature inconsistencies might stem from malfunctioning HVAC components or poorly calibrated thermostats.

Occupant Comfort and IAQ Correlation

Impact on Productivity and Satisfaction: Inconsistent temperatures can affect occupants' comfort, productivity, and overall satisfaction with the indoor environment.

Air Quality Implications: Temperature variations may influence air circulation patterns, affecting the distribution of fresh air and potentially impacting indoor air quality.

Perception of Air Quality: Occupants often associate temperature discomfort with poor air quality, leading to negative perceptions about the overall indoor environment.

Addressing Temperature Discrepancies

HVAC System Balancing: Balancing airflow and adjusting HVAC systems to ensure consistent air distribution throughout the building.

Insulation Checks: Inspecting insulation in walls, windows, and doors to prevent heat loss or gain, contributing to more stable indoor temperatures.

Thermostat Calibration and Zoning: Calibrating thermostats accurately and employing zoning systems to regulate temperatures in different areas, catering to occupants' needs.

Addressing temperature inconsistencies involves understanding their sources, recognizing their impact on both comfort and indoor air quality, and implementing corrective measures to maintain a more balanced and comfortable indoor environment for occupants.

HVAC System Inspection and Maintenance

Routine System Inspections

improve indoor air quality with hvac preventative maintenance

Preventive Maintenance Checks: Regular inspections ensure the HVAC system's components, including filters, coils, and ductwork, are in optimal condition.

Identifying Potential Issues: Inspections help detect early signs of wear, leaks, or inefficiencies, preventing larger problems that could impact air quality.

Effects of Neglected Maintenance

Reduced Efficiency: Lack of regular maintenance leads to decreased HVAC system efficiency, hindering its ability to adequately filter and distribute clean air.

Increased Contaminants: Neglected systems accumulate dust, dirt, and pollutants, which can circulate throughout the building, further diminishing indoor air quality.

Optimizing Air Quality Through Maintenance

Improved Airflow: Regular maintenance ensures proper airflow, allowing the HVAC system to effectively filter and distribute clean air throughout the building.

Filter Replacement and Cleanliness: Timely filter replacements and clean ducts prevent the circulation of allergens, pollutants, and contaminants, enhancing indoor air quality.

Regular HVAC inspections and maintenance serve as proactive measures to ensure optimal system performance, reduce energy consumption, and maintain superior indoor air quality within commercial buildings.

Air Filtration and Ventilation Solutions

Enhanced Filtration Systems

HEPA Filters: High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters efficiently capture microscopic particles, including allergens, dust, and pollutants, enhancing filtration effectiveness.

MERV RatingsExplaining Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings helps users understand a filter's ability to capture particles of different sizes, aiding in filter selection.

Ventilation Strategies for Fresh Air

Balanced Ventilation: Implementing balanced ventilation systems ensures a consistent supply of fresh outdoor air while expelling stale indoor air, maintaining air quality.

Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs): ERVs help improve indoor air quality by exchanging heat and moisture between incoming and outgoing air, optimizing ventilation. Equal amounts of air are brought into and exhausted out of your commercial facility. Balanced ventilation systems are appropriate for use in all types of climates.

Advanced Filtration Technologies

improve indoor air quality with advanced filtration technology

Activated Carbon FiltersThese filters effectively remove odors, gases, and VOCs by adsorbing them onto the filter surface, contributing to better indoor air quality.

UV-C Air PurificationUltraviolet-C light systems sterilize air by neutralizing airborne pathogens, mold, and bacteria, further enhancing air quality.

Implementing advanced air filtration systems and ventilation strategies, such as HEPA filters, balanced ventilation, and innovative technologies like UV-C purification, significantly contribute to maintaining a cleaner and healthier indoor environment within commercial buildings.



Understanding the sources of lingering odors, respiratory symptoms, and challenges in managing dust and pollutants highlights the diverse range of factors impacting IAQ.

Prioritizing IAQ through meticulous maintenance, strategic filtration systems, and ventilation solutions stands as a foundational aspect of ensuring optimal occupant health and comfort within commercial spaces.

If you are in the Columbus, Ohio area then be sure to contact ETS for all of your commercial HVAC and indoor air quality needs!

common indoor air pollutants and sources

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