the air we breathe

Withings air quality monitorthe air we breathe

There’s been a lot of news recently about the dangerous air quality in our cities – according to government figures, the number of premature deaths attributed to particulate pollution has risen since 2013, but little has been said about the internal air quality of our homes.

It was touched upon in the excellent Story of Stuff movie – highlighting the huge number of toxins that are emitted from synthetic chemicals. But this website outlines the real scale of the problem, from cooking with gas to mould growth due to poor ventilation…

The design and specification of our homes tackle each of these potential health risks. We minimise the amount of “off-gassing” of toxins into the home by selecting products that contain zero or very few VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are a large group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. They are a good indicator of the overall air quality and the ventilation of the room. Examples of the carefully selected products we use include our VOC-free natural paint and varnishes by Auro, skirting using Medite’s Ecologique (MDF with no added formaldehyde) and Alternative Flooring’s Eco Collection.

To combat humidity, our MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) system includes an integral humidity sensor that increases the speed of the fan in proportion to relative levels and a condensate drain to take away the excess moisture. The MVHR unit also filters the outside air.

In addition to explaining the connection between the use of very high quality of materials in regards to performance and longevity, we can now confidently demonstrate how this also results in exceptional internal air quality.

Over the last year we’ve been testing the Withings Home monitoring system. Although this product’s most obvious feature is an HD camera, it also incorporates air quality sensors that gives real-time feedback to help you build a healthier environment. It keeps watch over indoor air pollution, which is invisible and can be ten times higher than outdoor air pollution. An easy-to-understand graph, available in the app, shows you past and current levels of Volatile Organic Compounds. If they reach unhealthy levels, Home blinks red and sends a notification. With this data at hand, you are able to make timely decisions, like opening the windows when using cleaning products or after assembling a piece of pressed-wood furniture.

Withings also have an excellent blog that includes a number of articles specifically related to air quality.

We’ve been checking our levels, measured in PPM (Part Per Million); 450 – 1,000 ppm is classed as being good; 1,000 – 2,000 ppm is medium; 2,000 – 3,000 ppm is bad; and anything over 3,000 ppm is very bad. We’re happy to report that our Manchester show home has consistently measured an average of 470ppm. This is excellent, especially considering we’re also on a very busy road – apparently the busiest bus route in Europe!

The MVHR unit ensures Carbon Dioxide levels remain low and we have a Nest Protect to alert us of any potentially lethal Carbon Monoxide or smoke.

All-in-all we have a very healthy home, now with sensors that continually monitor the air quality… all at a very affordable price.