Tag Archives for " pollution "

Optimizing Your Window Air Conditioner for Maximum Clean, Cool Air

Optimizing Your Window Air Conditioner for Maximum Clean, Cool Air

Global average temperatures have exceeded recorded highs several times in the last month, and articles on ways to keep cool are proliferating!  In this article, I don’t have any “new” way to keep cool, but if you are among those blessed with a simple window air conditioner, let us help you make it work just as well and as efficiently as the day you bought it!

Window air conditioners are the humble yet hard-working appliances that many households can’t do without.  As one of the oldest cities in the US, New York City has an abundance of window units because about 75 percent of the buildings throughout the five boroughs were constructed before 1960, according to the NYC Department of Buildings.  (Why about a quarter of US households are stuck with ugly and loud window AC units)  The cost of retrofitting these old buildings with central air conditioning is way too high, so window air-conditioning units are the solution, and continue to be for many households across the US.  However, even if your window air conditioner is an older unit, a little time and effort can go a long way in helping it cool better, work less (lower your energy bill), and put out better quality air! 

If you have the option of upgrading your window air conditioner, there are many worthy options out there, including those with inverter motors, which save a lot of energy and control humidity better.  (To understand better what inverter technology is, check out our article here.)  Unfortunately, no one has combined an inverter air conditioner and premium filtration, but you can get premium filtration on a new air conditioner with the Friedrich Kuhl units.  These units cool (and some also heat) rooms by heat pump, with smart controls (wifi enabled and smart home compatible) AND they have MERV 13 filters available (a MERV 13 bracket kit is needed).  Until manufacturers put inverter units and premium filtration together, we have to put premium filtration in priority!

If your existing window air conditioner has a few more years of life, it helps (although not necessary) to know how a window air conditioner works.  In the first part of our article “What kind of air conditioner do you have?” we explain the workings of this type of unit.  A key lesson is knowing that unless you have a ventilation lever on your unit, there is no mixing of indoor and outdoor air.  (Check out this video to find out how to find and operate a ventilation lever.)  Therefore, the air conditioner is not pulling in outside air, it’s only recirculating indoor air.  Whatever dust, pet dander and microbes are floating around your apartment can get lodged in the air conditioner and grow into disgusting science experiments that will negatively affect your air quality!

Therefore, a clean evaporator coil is super-important.  The evaporator coils are what change your hot and humid indoor air into cooler and drier air.  Because most window air conditioners come with a flimsy clean-able filter that would qualify somewhere between MERV 1 through 4, what really ends up filtering the air is the coil–because after a season of running constantly, so much dust and dirt go through the cheap filter and get lodged in the coil!  This is not only disgusting, it’s unhealthy.  Therefore, if you’ve operated your window unit for more than one summer and never cleaned the coil, please start with this step to eliminate the majority of grime that’s lodged there.  (Be sure to have help removing the air conditioner from the window, especially if you live on an upper story!) 

After you’ve cleaned your unit (and the included filter), check that it is blowing cold air well.  It should blow air that is 15-20 degrees colder than the air it takes in.  To measure this, simply use a portable temperature gauge above the unit (out of the stream of cold air) as the intake temperature, and then move the thermometer directly into the cold air coming out, and note the difference (it’s also helpful to note the difference in humidity, to know that it’s actually removing moisture as well!).  Our portable humidity sensors will give both temperature and humidity.  If the difference in inlet and outlet temperatures does not approach 15 degrees F for a clean AC unit, then you can check into getting the refrigerant topped up.  This is best done by a licensed HVAC technician.

Next, it’s not too hard to upgrade your current filtration so that the air coming out of your air conditioner is cleaner than the air that goes in!  Here are some options:

  • Frigidaire now offers MERV 14 filters for some of its models.  Check the link in the overview for compatibility.
  • You can cut a regular HVAC filter to fit as per this video (make sure you use painter’s tape around the edges to prevent air leaking around the filter), or 
  • You can have a custom filter bracket made for your window AC, and change the filter in it often. Since the louvers in front just thwart air flow, you can actually remove the louvered panel and fit the filter inside (if it has a rectangular filter), or you can fit the filter over the louvers and secure it to the front with double-sided tape.  In order to specify the correct size for your window unit, determine which louvers are the “intake” (moving air into the unit), and measure the area covering and slightly outside of them, so that the frame and tape will seal but not cover a lot of the louvered space. 
  • You can make your own frame from 1” aluminum “u-channel” and rivets, and purchase the filter material in bulk or cut to size (these media pads are equivalent to MERV 8 and will filter a lot more dust than the cleanable factory filter!)

Finally, placing a Germ Defender or Mobile Air Angel near the air conditioner will not only help to freshen the room as ions are carried with the fresh air, it will also help to keep the coils cleaner as ions are sucked into the air conditioner by killing microbes and mold spores inside it.

If your space is feeling stuffy from being closed up all the time due to hot weather, chances are CO2 levels are rising.  Fresh air ventilation is important, so go ahead and use that ventilation lever on your window air conditioner, or crack the windows in the morning or evening when temperatures are more tolerable.  If you live in an urban or dusty area, use our window ventilation filters to get fresh air without the particulates.  May our window air conditioning units live long, cool lives!

How does the amount of oxygen in the air affect us?

How does the amount of oxygen in the air affect us?

We mostly take air for granted.   It’s a (boring) mixture of 78 percent nitrogen and 20.9 percent oxygen with small amounts of other gasses such as carbon dioxide, neon, and hydrogen.  (10 Interesting Things About Air)  Even though the news headlines seem to revolve around increasing carbon dioxide, let’s look at the gas humans are most in need of: oxygen.

The majority of the world’s oxygen levels are the same: 20.9% if the humidity is 0%.  Water vapor in the air displaces oxygen, and oxygen can go down to 20.1% if the relative humidity is 100%.  This holds true at sea level and high altitude, where the air is said to be “thinner”.  At high altitude, the percentage of oxygen in the air is the same, 20.9%.  However, lower pressure of the atmosphere causes all molecules of air to spread out. That means you get less oxygen in every breath you take, compared to sea level.  (Living in Thin Air)

According to scientists, oxygen levels in the atmosphere in prehistoric times averaged around 30% to 35%, compared to only 21% today – and that the levels are even less in densely populated, polluted city centers and industrial complexes, perhaps only 15 % or lower. (The Oxygen Crisis)  Fifteen percent sounds extreme, first of all because OSHA has defined atmospheric oxygen concentration below 19.5 percent to be unsafe.  We can only take 19.5% as a guideline, because oxygen in our blood is measured in partial pressure, which may vary slightly according to altitude and the CO2 our bodies are attempting to expel.   In general when figuring in humidity, there’s a margin between normal and unsafe of only 1.3%!   And, in populated areas, this margin is getting even smaller.   

A 2021 study showed that oxygen deficiency can happen in large cities due to a number of factors: increased combustion in vehicles and factories consuming oxygen, lack of green space restricting oxygen production or replenishment, and stalling weather patterns that can stop the flow of fresh air into the city.  The study correlated 391 global large cities (with a population of more than 1 million people) using the oxygen index (OI), which is the ratio of oxygen consumption to oxygen production. Results showed that the global urban areas, occupying only 3.8% of the global land surface, accounted for 39% (14.3 ± 1.5 Gt/yr) of the global terrestrial oxygen consumption during 2001−2015. It was estimated that 75% of cities with a population more than 5 million had an OI of greater than 100. Also, cities with larger OI values were correlated with more frequent heatwaves and severe water withdrawals.  In fact, oxygen in large cities has been declining by 4 ppm per year since the 1980’s, and that rate is actually accelerating. 

When the oxygen in air gets too low, as in high altitudes or confined spaces, the body can enter a state of hypoxia, where low levels of oxygen in your body tissues causes symptoms like confusion, restlessness, difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, and bluish skin.  (Hypoxia)  Unfortunately, many people in mountainous regions around the world suffer from hypoxia and other effects of high-altitude, which are together called Chronic Mountain Sickness (CMS).

To restore proper tissue function, you’ve got to get more oxygen.  Getting more oxygen in your lungs has a long-recognized stimulant effect, allowing you to focus, concentrate and generally perform better mentally.  In your lungs, more oxygen causes the blood vessels in your lungs to dilate, which improves cleansing and tissue repair within them, and helps them exchange gasses more easily.  In the rest of your body, more oxygen lowers blood pressure and heart rate (your heart doesn’t have to pump as much blood to get the correct amount of oxygen), your tissues heal faster, and digestion is improved. (Surprising Health Benefits of Getting Fresh Air)

Whether it’s increasing levels of carbon dioxide (check our article here) or decreasing levels of oxygen, our bodies are not made to live in cities or houses without adequate ventilation!  Ventilation restores oxygen levels to a safe level above 20% and flushes out harmful gasses like carbon dioxide, radon and VOCs.  It’s interesting to note the differences between fresh air and exhaled air:

Fresh Air

Exhaled Air







Other gases



Carbon dioxide 



(The composition of inhaled and exhaled air. What should and shouldn’t contain?)

A note on rescue breathing: although 17% oxygen is less than the OSHA safety minimum of 19.5%, it is more oxygen than unconscious victims who are not breathing are getting (0%), so rescue breathing does help to save lives.  The problem is that anytime we are conscious (breathing on our own), we should be getting oxygen levels at close to fresh air levels (21%)! 

Unless you live in a major city during a heat wave as described above, low oxygen levels in our air at home shouldn’t be a cause for worry.   Why?  Because even if you lived in a sealed room for 12 days, you would die of carbon dioxide poisoning before running out of oxygen.  Thus, carbon dioxide levels are the greater concern, and more so if your home is really well sealed.  Note that furnaces and gas stoves require oxygen to burn their fuel.  If you operate a furnace or gas stove in a space that’s not well-ventilated, you’re going to get high levels of carbon dioxide first, and when the oxygen level drops enough to cause the furnace to have incomplete combustion, carbon monoxide is produced.  There is a simple fix for this: ventilate the space continuously, and install CO and CO2 monitor(s). 

There may be several other scenarios where oxygen concentration in your home suffers, and these are real, life-threatening situations.

  1. If you live in the mountains, you know that although the percentage of oxygen in the air is the same, the same volume that you breathe in contains less oxygen than at sea-level.  Our bodies compensate for the lower oxygen by increasing heart rate and respiration rate in order to cycle more air through our lungs.  Athletes sometimes train at high altitudes to gain “an edge” while competing at sea level.

  2. Fire requires at least 16% oxygen to continue to burn.  This is not a problem for most wildfires; as the air within a wildfire heats up dramatically, fresh air is sucked from surrounding areas.  If you live in an area prone to wildfires, you may experience high winds bringing fresh air–until the wind changes and smoke is the major problem.  In this case, smoke inhalation is deadly because of extreme heat of the smoke, oxygen depletion (hypoxia), and inhalation of noxious gasses carbon monoxide (CO), cyanide or hydrogen cyanide (CN or HCN), phosgene, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), formaldehyde, and acrylonitriles.  (Smoke Inhalation Injury: Etiopathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Management)  In this case, the presence of toxic gasses may be more life-threatening than low oxygen.

  3. As we mentioned above, living in a city during extreme heat or even inversion (many times this occurs during the winter), oxygen at ground level becomes depleted and this layer becomes more polluted and less oxygenated.  

Each of these situations can become life-threatening.  If you find yourself living in risk of any of them, the first step would be to monitor oxygen (and other pollutants for situations 2 and 3).  Unfortunately, most web-enabled monitors do not have oxygen sensors.  In fact, the only multi-sensor home monitor I could find that included oxygen is by Airovita, which is made in Europe and not sold in the US.  Don’t let this “hole” in the market stop you from being informed, however; handheld meters like this one ($100) that measure O2, CO, H2S, and explosive gasses are accessible so that you can be aware of how the atmosphere outside is affecting your home’s air.  In the case of high-altitude air, however, be aware that oxygen levels will register as “normal” (20-21%) but because of the low atmospheric pressure, you still may have trouble breathing!  

Unfortunately, making your air more breathable costs money.  The Washington Post notes that during wildfires, wealthier families flee smoky areas, staying in second homes or renting expensive hotels or vacation residences. Not all families can afford air purifiers, which start at about $200 and clean only one room. During frequent power outages that happen during fire season, only wealthier families that can afford expensive backup generators will still be able to run their purifiers.  Nonetheless, here are some solutions for making life safer and more comfortable: 

  • If you desire to add more oxygen to any room in the home (especially the bedroom, where your body repairs itself while you sleep), then companies like ACT (Altitude Control Technology) offer “altitude control”, meaning that with their controllers, ventilation and oxygen generators, you can change the atmosphere of that room to mimic living at a lower altitude.  Athletes can even use the system to change their workout room to a higher “altitude”.  Selecting a lower altitude creates an artificial “pressure” so that your lungs will receive more oxygen with less work.  Their equipment also includes particulate air filters to eliminate dust, viruses, bacteria, and fine particles as small as .3 microns to keep the air pure.  Truly, this system is the gold standard in creating the desired altitude, because of its oxygen machines, control system and custom designs for each room.  Alarms notify the user(s) of any unsafe conditions, and the air separation units are under low pressure.   

  • Since toxic gasses and particulates can be even more likely than low oxygen during a wildfire event, it’s best to start using air quality monitors to plan your days during these events.  When air outside is bad, closing up your home and using air filters can make it better.  As shown in the graphic below, indoor air sensors (left) are better than outdoor air sensors (right). (How much wildfire smoke is infiltrating our homes?)  Also, check out our article on how to prepare for wildfires and keep your air quality safe.

  • Ultra-filtration and oxygen generation technology can be adapted to any shelter, provided you have the budget!  “Bunkers” are not what they used to be.  Nowadays the mega-wealthy have underground swimming pools, gardens, and entertainment to escape whatever is happening above-ground.  Some developers are also acquiring decommissioned military bunkers and missile silos built by the United States or Soviet governments – sites that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build today. The fortified structures are designed to withstand a nuclear strike and come equipped with power systems, water purification systems, blast valves, and Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) air filtration. (Billionaire bunkers: How the 1% are preparing for the apocalypse

So, although oxygen depletion rarely happens at lower altitudes, if you have concern about it, make sure to measure it and then take action.  As John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” or in our case, the time to prepare our air is now!  Don’t wait for that extreme event to buy an air filter, learn how to control your home’s ventilation, or search for a getaway spot, because that’s what the majority of people will be doing.  Now’s the time to get ahead of the curve!

Photo by Jason Hogan on Unsplash

How to help seniors avoid Alzheimer’s and dementia through better air quality

How to help seniors avoid Alzheimer's and dementia through better air quality

HypoAir has many generous customers!   We frequently get orders for multiple purifiers with different ship locations, because once our customers see how well they work, they want to gift them to friends and family who don’t know about their benefits, or may not be able to afford them.  Inspired by this generous spirit, I want to let you know a few more reasons and ways to help those who need it most, the elderly.

Whether or not you have a senior in your family, it’s likely you know someone who because of age or infirmity has more difficulty cleaning their home than they used to.  Anything that involves a ladder may not be safe for them to do, and heavy vacuums take a lot of energy to maneuver.  They also may not have access to better vacuums and air purifiers with HEPA filters, which are important for filtering out fine particulates from indoor air.  So, the dust piles up and this not only leads to a sense of discouragement; it can affect their physical mental abilities.  At least one study found that air pollution exposure later in life is a risk factor for dementia.  A study published in February 2022 “found that greater improvement in long-term AQ in late life was associated with slower cognitive declines in older women. “  Exactly how was this assessed?

First of all, the researchers reference the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which were created in 1970 by the EPA through the Clean Air Act.  Six pollutants were identified as “criteria” pollutants, which are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (in which two categories of less than 10 microns and less than 2.5 microns were identified), sulfur oxides, and ground-level ozone.  (Britannica.com)  Since the enactment of the NAAQS 50 years ago, significant reductions in the average pollution levels have been seen across the US, but not in every location.  This new air pollution study used a subset database of 2,232 women aged 74-92 who were already participating in the the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Memory Study (WHIMS)-Epidemiology of Cognitive Health Outcomes (WHIMS-ECHO) study, which began in 2008.  The air pollution study correlated the pollution levels at each participant’s address in the first 10 years (2008-2018), according to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitoring data, to estimate annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 (in μg/m3) and NO2 (in parts per billion [ppb]).  Then they controlled for other variables such as age, education, geographical region, ApoE e4 genotypes (a gene specifically found to increase dementia risk), and cardiovascular risk factors, and excluded others with prevalent dementia and missing data.   The association of the cognitive decline of the remaining 2,232 women to the levels of air quality improvement where they lived showed that residing in locations with greater AQ improvement was associated with slower rates of decline in both general cognitive status and episodic memory.  These benefits were equivalent to slower cognitive declines in women who were 0.9 to 1.6 years younger at WHIMS-ECHO enrollment, meaning that their brains acted 0.9-1.6 years younger.

Whew, that’s a lot of information (the study was quite rigorous to read) but our customers (and really anyone interested in air quality) are seeking ways to live with the best quality of life, if not also the longest life possible.  Therefore, slowing down mental decline by 0.9 - 1.6 years is nothing to sneeze at!  It all adds up.  It just confirms what we’ve been writing about regarding the location of your home–if you are moving, it’s very important to choose a location that is low ambient air pollution.  Higher outdoor air pollution translates to poor quality air inside, if better ventilation and HEPA filters are not used.  

Fungi in the brain has been studied as a possible cause of Alzheimers and dementia patients.  This summary of recent studies, as well as a 3-part series on mold and its journey through the body on Citrisafe.com, a manufacturer of safe mold cleaning products, show how exposure to mold is a big risk to our brains.  This is another reason it’s important to investigate for mold in the homes of the seniors you know.  

Unfortunately, many seniors do not have the choice to move into better locations to improve air quality, but we can help them by making small improvements inside.  You can do what you can for your aging parents, your neighbors, and anyone else you are able to!

  • Help to identify the big “leaks” that may be letting outdoor pollution into their home.  Some of these are attic doors, leaky fireplace dampers, holes in the subfloor under bathtubs, large holes around plumbing or gas fittings, etc.  Sealing these will help to keep the ultra-fine particles and nitrogen dioxide at lower levels.

  • Encourage and/or help to change their furnace filter regularly.  Often the air return filter is under a ceiling grille, requiring a ladder.  Although it can be expensive to relocate the filter, you can suggest that they use the highest MERV filter possible for their system (up to MERV 13, check out our selection including activated carbon options here).  If renovation is possible, adding a box for a thicker filter will decrease the frequency of changes so that each filter will work longer.  

  • Suggest they buy, or give a gift of a HEPA filter.   In addition to the furnace filter, this filter can be placed in the room they use the most, so that they can breathe comfortably for most of the day.  Some filters are easily transportable to their bedroom.  If they are restricted in movement such as a recliner or bed, a small filter may be best.  IQAir’s new “ATEM” filter directs purified air in their breathing zone, and is quite portable.  HEPA filters reduce cleaning frequency and intensity by trapping dust, but the filters will need changing (a maintenance cost of running them).

  • If particulate air quality is quite good in their home but bacteria and viruses are a concern, you can suggest or gift an Air Angel.  Air Angels are also portable units that deactivate microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and mold with polarized ions.  Air Angels require very little maintenance, in fact only a replacement AHPCO cell once a year. 

  • Advocate for better ventilation.  We are BIG on fresh air ventilation, because it dilutes pollutants that come from inside (CO2, VOCs, etc.).  Our Window Ventilation Filters allow anyone to open their windows for more fresh air, but keep out pollution, pollen and dust.  They are easy to install and remove.  

  • Check for water intrusion and mold.  That “musty smell”, so often a stereotype of older persons’ homes and belongings, in reality is probably not their choice of scent–it’s an indicator that mold is growing somewhere in the home.  Mobility is often a limitation for seniors, so they may not be able to stoop and inspect under sinks, in closets or in the attic, basement or crawlspace.  If you have been reading our website, you’ll also know that if mold occurs, choosing the right contractor is not easy!  Help them to make difficult decisions of who to contract, how to deal with the remediation and what to clean and what to dispose, in order to have a healthy home going forward.

  • Have a conversation about cleaning products.  Of all of these “changes” this might be the most difficult one, because seniors often have preferred products that have been on the market for decades but in reality are toxic to their indoor air!  If you want more information on why these are toxic, and what products to use in place of them, check out our post and our own non-toxic cleaner TotalClean

Our kindness towards seniors counts, because it shows that we value life from the beginning to the end.  It also shows how we want to be cared for when we reach the same age.  Regardless of your financial ability, it’s the time and actions that show you care!