The Inside Outside Guys: Air quality affects home, health and comfort

Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
Special to The Detroit News

Who would have thought that the greatest danger of breathing contaminated air might come from the air supply ducts in our own homes?

According to the EPA, the potential concentrations of indoor pollutants are 2-5 times higher inside our homes than they are likely to be outside and we spend upwards of 90% of our time indoors!

Concentrations of volatile organic compounds, VOCs, like those emitted from solvents, some aerosols and even some solids, are at least 10 times higher indoors.

Additionally, those most susceptible to the negative effects of indoor pollutants including young children, older adults, people with cardio-vascular issues and respiratory disease, tend to spend even more time indoors.

So why is this even an issue?

There are a number of contributing causes that include building codes, lifestyle, geology, construction techniques and location.

In the interest of increased energy efficiency, building codes have mandated more insulation and air sealing, both of which contribute to tighter homes. Pollutants generated or accumulating in the home tend to stay there and circulate through our ducts and our lungs.

Lifestyle issues that can contribute to dirty air include indoor pets, smoking, cooking, cleaning habits and various products we use in the home.

Accumulated pet dander in carpets, drapes and furniture fabrics can house and support millions of microscopic organisms. Carbon monoxide from gas stoves, ovens and fireplaces may accumulate inside. Molds may flourish in plant soils, bathrooms, crawlspaces and basement storage areas.

Accumulated pet dander in carpets, drapes and furniture fabrics can house and support millions of microscopic organisms.

Geology, in the form of the soils under your home, may transmit mold supporting moisture and radon into the home.

Construction techniques can also impact this issue. The Guys have often said that HVAC systems, and ductwork in particular, are the “poor stepchild” of the homes mechanical systems.

Remember that air has mass. Air moving through ducts will be subject to pressure drop or flow reduction due to length of pipe, changes of direction, and friction in the pipe itself.  Where there is friction (from joints/leaks), pressure differentials, or longer runs, flow will be affected. Each joint in a run is an opportunity for leaks.

And that one room in the house that is always too hot in summer and too cold in winter? Leaks in the ducts account for a 20-30% loss in air flow. That conditioned air is “lost” in wall cavities, floor joists and elsewhere.

So, now that we have sufficiently put you on notice as to the health and comfort concerns in your home, what should you do?

The Guys have a solution in a company we have come to know and trust over several years: Amistee Air Duct Cleaning and Insulation in Novi.

Amistee leads the industry throughout Michigan in providing clean, sanitized air ducts. During the years, they have found everything from cash to critters in those dirty ducts. Accumulated dust and dander in the system can also support the growth of molds, contributing to sinus issues and allergies.

But Amistee is constantly looking for ways to enhance the experience of living in your own home.

Their new product, Aeroseal, can seal the leaks in your ductwork. What this means is that every room in the home can be comfortable year-round. When installing this product, they take before and after measurements throughout the home to show you how much or how little air is being delivered to each room.

It is an amazing step forward in the science of housing. The benefits of their expertise have been recognized by several medical care facilities needing cleaner and safer air supplies for their residents and patients.

And for those of you who live in homes where the ductwork is in the concrete of your floor slab, Amistee has a solution. Duct Armor is a new product that can be installed in those below-grade ducts to re-line them and protect them from the contamination of soils and bacteria breeding ground water.

Building tighter, more energy efficient homes is a good thing for all of us. And even though such techniques may create potentially new and dangerous consequences, companies like Amistee have solutions that work providing you with healthy air in a comfortable home.

Like all our trusted professionals, you can find them at

For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at