The Unseen IAQ Mennace

We’ve talked about all manner of Air Quality issues: pollen, viruses, volatile organic compounds, and more. There is however, one less frequently talked about devil in the air: radon, methane, and other ground seepage. These are harmful, either explosive, cancer-causing, or otherwise dangerous materials that can seep from the soil below. You’ll never know they’re there until it’s too late. How Does It Happen? Time for some science. The ground beneath you is not pure, solid dirt and rock straight to the Earth’s core. It’s not all one particular elemental composition either. There’s pockets of different materials, gasses, radioactive elements, and so on. These materials either work their way to the surface or they emit something that does. Consider for example, a gas like methane. This exists underground, in porous areas of rock or in large, hollow caves. It’s under extreme pressure from the rest of the Earth pressing down on it. All it takes is a path to the surface for it to flow out. When we do mining for it, we drill down and use a pipe to provide that path to the surface. The Methane is a low-density gas, it wants to move higher up, in the same way helium can make balloons float. There is some amount of natural seepage. The gas makes it way up through the ground and rock, tiny pores and cracks that let it slowly escape. The ground beneath you is not […]

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Cleaning With Light

If you’ve spent any time under the sun on a long, hot, clear day, you’ve probably gotten a wicked sun burn. I may have overcooked myself a bit during our nice Easter weekend too. This brings up an interesting thought: what happens to airborne pathogens exposed to the same light? A sunburn is the result of millions of skin cells being irradiated by UV Radiation. Sunlight contains UV, Ultra-Violet, which can cause skin cancer in high enough exposures. It’s not dangerous in the same way X-Rays are, those would be lethal with a few hours of exposure. UV is weaker, but it still wreaks havoc on small cells. Messing With Molecules Let’s start out with some basic physics. We’re going to ignore the whole “particles & waves” thing for now and just say that all light is made of particles called Photons. When you turn on a light, it spews out photons, that bounce off the wall, lose some energy, strike your eye, and then you perceive the ‘color’ of that photon. What happens is the photon rams a cell in your eye with a certain amount of force, it’s energy, and that tells you it’s ‘color’. To the 3 physicists reading this, shut up. I know it’s more complicated. The problem happens when we give that photon more speed, more energy. Eventually, the photon moves too fast for our eyes to detect. It’s not visible light any more. It […]

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The Disgusting Future of Water

We’re back again this week to ruin your appetite with another look into waste water. After our last few articles left lead sales guy Scott unable to eat his breakfast (the pancakes were delicious), we’ve been ordered to write about something clean this week. In that spirit we’re going to look into the future of recycling all sewage into usable water. We advise you finish your breakfast and lunch before reading. Water Shortages Increasingly we are running into a problem with having enough water to drink. Despite the Earth’s surface being about 70% water, we can only drink about 0.01% or less of it. The issue we run into is that ocean water would kill us. There’s too much salt and bacteria in it. This is why we have fresh water and salt water fish. The environments are so drastically different that few, if any fish can survive in both environments. We can only drink water which isn’t from the ocean. This is a massive restriction. It means all of society has to survive on water from lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers. The problem is exacerbated when we experience droughts, which leave us drawing on our water reserves. Unfortunately, for the past century or so, that’s what we’ve been doing. We pump water out of wells and end up draining them faster than they can be replenished. Certain large drink companies make the issue worse by buying water at less […]

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The Science Behind Insulation

Insulation is essential to a comfortable and efficient environment. The essential point of insulation is to isolate your indoor environment from the outdoor environment. We want to control the flow of heat, energy, into and out of our workspaces as much as possible. To pull this off, we need to find the worst conductors and most obstructive blockers in history. We need to make the opposite of a radiator, a blocker.   Blocking the Heat Insulation works against three basic ideas: Conduction Heat which is passed through a surface. Consider the copper pipes used to heat a home. The heat spreads through them. If you hold a torch to one end, the pipe will be hot even feet away from the heat source. It conducts the heat. Convection Heat which moves with the air. A typical gas or electric oven uses convection. The air is heated and circulated around the thing that is being heated. Radiation Put down the hazmat suit. We mean heat caused by intense light. This is the sort of heat used in laser cutters. This is the heat of the sun and all its powerful infrared and ultraviolet rays. This is the kind of heat that turns a sitting car into an oven. The most comment type of insulation is going to work against conductive heat flow. This is that fluffy material behind your walls. These insulations are rated with an R-Value, their Thermal Resistance to […]

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