Poor Air Quality - High AQI

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mountainFrugal
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by mountainFrugal »

Indeed @WRC. Nearly all terrestrial ecosystems have a fire cycle. These other ecosystems outside of the forests usually have shorter natural fire cycles (grasslands as the classic example). Forests that severely burn may not ever come back fully as forests again. We have managed fire as "put it out at all costs". This is coming back to haunt us as there are several natural fire cycles of fuel that have accumulated in areas that have not been allowed to burn. The natural cycle (especially in the Western US) was generally smaller fires that occur more frequently creating a fire patchwork. A fire patchwork with overlapping timelines of previous fires, as well as differing severity, makes the area more robust against future fires. Large catastrophic fires on the other hand are harder to recover from because it can completely kill the seedbank in the soil and literally sterilize the organic layer. The larger the area severely burned, the less likely the nearby unburned plants and seed banks will be able fully move back into the severely burned area.

We have also introduced various invasive species of plants that change the fire cycle. As an example, cheat grass was introduced from Europe to the Western US. It has a very short life cycle where it grows quickly in the spring in dense clumps, sets seed, and then leaves a bunch of standing dead material. Ecosystems like high-desert sage brush are now have enormous fires because the cheat-grass is acting as a fire "wick" between the naturally spaced sage brush.

The general drying trend with a warming planet is making these factors worse and harder to predict. We are seeing that trends can counterintuitively be both drier (average) but very wet for a smaller portion of the season (or downpours like that in Chicago). For example, in California, the wet winters and springs cause the scrublands and grasslands to grow more during the spring leaving more standing dead material to combust when it dries out in the summer and fall. So, for fire at least, you have to consider when the precipitation is coming, how that is changing, and how that matches up with the natural and invasive species life cycles (also many other factors).

chenda
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by chenda »

@wrc yes this seems to be a problem which won't be possible to entirely relocate away from, as the smoke can travel across continents. Or just from localised burnings which are becoming more common.

In places like Beijing and Delhi with horrendous air pollution, the wealthy have expensive air filtration systems in their homes to ensure they get to breath clean air, and travel by air conditioned car to malls with purified air.

Scott 2
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Scott 2 »

Closing the circle:

1. I activated gym membership to exercise indoors.

2. I pulled the trigger on a Winix 5500-2 air purifier. Amazon currently has a sale that was $127 delivered. Runner up models were Coway Airmega AP-1512HH and Blue 211+ Auto. The sale decided for us. At retail prices, I was leaning towards a returned Blue 211+ Auto, plus new filter. In general, because replacement filters are 25-33% the cost of a new unit, there's not a great value in buying used.

3. My wife and I had a bike ride at AQI near 100. She had some congestion later that day. We're going to see if a clean room approach with the air purifier helps. The thought is to reduce total daily pollution load, especially on those borderline days.

4. I found we have MERV 8 furnace filters. With a standard 1" filter slot, going to high MERV options requires being selective. The most clearly recommended are 3m Filtrete 1900 or 2200 models. $20 a piece. 2-3 month lifespan. Suggestion is to change monthly during heavy pollution periods. When high AQI becomes an ongoing problem, I'll make this shift.

5. For a whole house air purification strategy, I lean towards small units in each room. I don't think the problem is bad enough yet to warrant this. But we'll probably standardize on a single model, due to the need for annual filter replacement. Furnace based solutions look more intended to protect the furnace.

6. There's a higher tier of home air purifier, in the $1000-$1500 range. Warranted for medical conditions IMO. Likely more effective and quieter. But it caries various disadvantages due to centralization. Filter expense. Overall household air circulation. Single point of failure risk. Less cost efficient, due to lower demand. All solvable, but way more than I think we need at this time.

7. I concluded consumer level AQI meters in the $100-$300 range are not reliable. They also have short lifespans. 6 months to 3 years, depending on the contaminant being detected. I'm instead using a rough rule of thumb, that untreated home AQI will be ~50% of outdoor AQI.

sky
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by sky »

Which source do you use for air quality information?

I have been using iqair: https://www.iqair.com/us/

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Seppia
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Seppia »

I've always used https://waqi.info
you can also download the page of your choice location on your phone and access it as an app, ie here's Miami https://aqicn.org/city/usa/florida/miam ... tation--5/

For some reason it switches from waqi.info to aqicn.org

I read from the about page that the project started in china so maybe it spies on your phone lol
https://aqicn.org/contact/

Scott 2
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Scott 2 »

I'm using the AirNow app, published by the EPA, based on this article:

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/revi ... y-monitor/

I'll also check the PurpleAir website, to see if values differ. Sometimes they are higher.


For the most part, I haven't found multi-day AQI forecasts very reliable. That was a major factor in our AQI 100 bike ride. It was supposed to be closer to 50. We already got up early and plans were not flexible, so we decided to go anyway.

Smashter
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Smashter »

I have had a minor air filter obsession over the past couple years, and I learned a lesson during this high AQI time.

It all started with the blogger Dynomight, who has a great, in-depth post about indoor air quality that I think people here would like.

The same site also has a post about how to build a very effective DIY air filter.

And he wrote a withering, brutal review of an Ikea air purifier.

His writing that most captivated me was in the DIY air purifier post, where he ran some tests using a filter he built called “The Cuboid.”

He shows it to be very effective at cleaning the air. He implies it should be longer lasting and cheaper than big fancy multi-hundred dollar units, and probably as effective. 


Every time some organization runs a bunch of tests, they find that some of the purifiers work well, some work badly, and almost none of them meet the specs they are claimed to meet. If you take the top pick from the Wirecutter and read user reviews carefully, you’ll see that roughly one person a week reporting that their unit exploded.

Why don’t manufacturers publish tests to show their products work? It’s not that hard – I, random internet person, did it here as a hobby. I think the reality is that people are suckers, and assume (incorrectly) that if they give Dyson $600, they’ll get something in return that works better than a janky DIY device.) I say: Until manufacturers provide evidence, give no quarter.
I built the cuboid and used it for about a year. I just replaced the filters. It worked well. Life was good.

Then the horrendous air quality hit Milwaukee a couple weeks ago. It was some of the worst in the world. Even with cuboid going going plus two small Levoit filters, our PMI 2.5 levels in our one bedroom apartment stayed in the unhealthy range indoors. (I use this device for measurements)

The thing that instantly knocked the levels down to “moderate” (a PMI 2.5 level of around 25 if I recall) was turning on our 2 year old Coway Airmega AP-1512HH, one of the fancy brand name air filters that Scott2 mentioned above. It’s the type of machine that Dynomight would probably scoff at me for owning. 



The filters in the Coway were over a year old, so I wasn’t sure how effective it would be. We hadn’t used it up to that point because DW thought it had been giving off a weird odor. But we were desperate, so I cleaned the filters and let it rip. Then I watched in amazement as the air quality rapidly improved. This thing worked like a beast. If my measuring device is to be trusted, it was more effective than my all my other air filters combined.

I feel kind of silly for going all in on the cuboid, and for telling many people about how great it was. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely works. It’s just not in the same league as the fancy unit we owned. Sometimes the giant corporations with their R&D departments, their decades of experience, and their highly paid engineers really can make a better product than an overconfident outsider with no domain expertise. Who would have thunk it.

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Seppia
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Seppia »

When I was back in HK, it was very common for expats with kids to have air purifiers.
I was puzzled as the air quality was typically not very different from any big city (actually in Tseung Kwan O where we lived it was usually pretty good to great) but it was the heritage of when Shenzen was an industrial hub and HK would get the terrible smog.

A lot of people had the iQAir products, those are very expensive ($849 on Amazon now) but they are medical grade (they were used in HK hospitals during covid for example)

Maybe this is one of those instances where you buy something once in your lifetime, but want to buy the best.

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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by jacob »

Smashter wrote:
Thu Jul 06, 2023 9:03 pm
I feel kind of silly for going all in on the cuboid, and for telling many people about how great it was. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely works. It’s just not in the same league as the fancy unit we owned. Sometimes the giant corporations with their R&D departments, their decades of experience, and their highly paid engineers really can make a better product than an overconfident outsider with no domain expertise. Who would have thunk it.
Hehe, have you done a similar investigation on the measuring instruments? What's the difference between paying $49.95 and $299.95 if anything? (Maybe they contain the same cheap electronics and one just has a better design or includes a certification/calibration fee)

Smashter
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Smashter »

@jacob [deleted because I read the question too fast and misunderstood it. Answered below!]
Last edited by Smashter on Sun Jul 09, 2023 6:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

Smashter
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Smashter »

On a related note to all this, I thought I'd share that a hobby of mine is taking my air quality measurement device out and about to measure the air in different places.


Here is a smattering of results. The number reported is the PM 2.5 level, which apparently is the one you want to really watch out for:

- Southwest airplane, in the sky — 3
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC — 3.5
- LaGuardia Airport Southwest Terminal — 4
- JFK Airport in NYC — 9
- Prospect park in Brooklyn, NY outdoors — 5-18
- The kitchen while frying onions with oil in a pan — 69
- Random NYC subway stop, underground — 140
- The bathroom while my wife uses a fancy curling iron — 170
- The kitchen while frying buckwheat pancakes in a pan with oil — 999 (or higher, that's as high as it goes :shock: )
- My friend hitting a vape pen and exhaling into the machine — 999

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Seppia
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Seppia »

Re: airplane in the sky
It’s remarkable how effective HEPA filters are

jacob
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by jacob »

@Smashter - The question was about the quality of the measuring instruments, like your Temtop, and whether that matters. They come at a rather large price range.

ertyu
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by ertyu »

a factoid i've picked up while expatting: china uses a different formula for calculating aqi numbers. if your device is chinese or made in china, the figures will look much nicer than they actually are.

sometimes, air filter devices come with the ability to measure the aqi (e.g. to sustain auto mode, where the machine uses the aqi meter readings to initiate "hard mode" when the reading exceeds some threshold). the common expat wisdom is that these on-device measurements are underestimates as well.

i have an air filter in my bedroom - you have to, in second world countries. it might amuse you to know i once set it off farting :lol: now there's an underappreciated bit of wisdom about keeping the air clean :D

while around here the advantages to living in a smaller space and well known and understood, there's yet another link here between dwelling size and ease of air cleanup. smaller spaces are easier to clean - you need a less powerful machine, or with a fancier machine, you need to change the filter less often.

Smashter
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Smashter »

@jacob ah, sorry! Totally misunderstood you there. I haven't done any investigations on different measuring instruments. That would be super interesting to do.

I chose the Temtop because it was recommended by a writer/youtuber I like and it got gets good reviews.

Scott 2
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Scott 2 »

@Smashter, that was a good article thanks. My wife has an ultrasonic humidifier to reconsider, and I'm going to look into a HEPA filter for the car. Having ridden trains quite a bit, I'm not surprised about the underground air quality. Glad I don't do that anymore.

I can see measuring air quality would be great fun. I requested my library purchase one for its tool library. It's an odd request, but maybe the recent wildfire issues will lead them to approve it.

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C40
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by C40 »

Here's a 100% legit looking guy (AQI measeurer, lab coat, wall of books) showing us how to do it 12 years ago:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH5APw_ ... anMedicine

Walwen
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Walwen »

Smashter wrote:
Fri Jul 07, 2023 7:46 am
On a related note to all this, I thought I'd share that a hobby of mine is taking my air quality measurement device out and about to measure the air in different places.

[snip]

- My friend hitting a vape pen and exhaling into the machine — 999
:lol: :lol: :lol:


I bought a little honeywell purifier on some sort of flash sale for 20 dollars. If I were a different sort of person, I would have bought all that were left and flipped them. The exact same model goes for 65 dollars online.

I don't have any way to measure it, but it really does seem to make a difference. Biggest issue in my place is the cat dander. Other rooms smell musty, mine doesn't. Also seems to be less dust build-up in my room than the rest of the house, but it's really hard to tell if that's because of the filter or factors.

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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by jacob »

Inspired by Smashter's links, I made my own.

It's based on an inline duct fan and four HEPA filters. W/o the filters it moves 240 cubic feet per minute. This means it should be able to cycle the house air in about 45 minutes. The fan is mounted on the top behind the hardcloth chickenwire. The top holds the filters in place with a press fit. To replace the filters, simply lift the top off.

Image

Scott 2
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Re: Poor Air Quality - High AQI

Post by Scott 2 »

The wood makes it looks much higher end than consumer models. How often do you think filter replacement will be required?

Most of the commercial solutions are 6 months or a year, but they generally have a screening filter in front of the HEPA filters. Those are supposed to be cleaned or replaced more often.

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