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We installed a new A/C in the corner room of our house a little while back, because we wanted to use it as a nursery. Installation went fine and the little one sleeps in there every night. A few months later we decided to get a baby cam, which happens to have an air quality monitor build in. I noticed strange things happening to the air quality in the room, which reaches concerning levels at times, hence my question:

What affects air quality indoors after home improvement?

Could the A/C unit itself blow in bad air? Could the carpet or the ceiling cause bad air quality? Could furniture (mattress / sofa / closet / drawer) cause bad air quality?

Now, I am obviously aware that keeping the windows closed and consuming air should gradually worsen the air quality, but what has been happening the last nights is more weird than that - the air quality suddenly goes from pretty good to bad in a matter of a few minutes. Now it could be a problem with the sensor, of course, but I did confirm with a secondary sensor, who gave similar results.

So, any idea what could cause sudden bursts of pollution into the air? Is that an indication of mold or would you expect an A/C to be able to actually worsen the air quality (I generally thought it would improve it)?

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    What "air quality" does the cam monitor? I saw one that claims it can detect VOCs; is that what you mean? Either way, I wouldn't treat the "air quality" measurements of a baby cam as gospel. – Daniel Griscom Mar 10 '16 at 15:41
  • Yes, it is measuring VOCs and probably it's not entirely accurate, but should I assume it's random? I would expect it has a reasonable error margin. I haven't seen anything like that in manual, but since they are selling and advertising it this way, then they do have a responsibility to test it and also be able to live up to their claims? – Chris Mar 14 '16 at 9:03
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"Air quality" is an ambiguous phrase.

This baby monitor that you bought, on what basis does it determine the air quality in the room? Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, radon, particulates, pollen, VOCs, smoke?

There are literally thousands of things that can affect air quality. I don't think I would get too worried about a baby monitor, that doubles as an air quality sensor, giving you an overall poor reading without knowing why it is showing a poor reading.

Open the room (and your house) once a week and get fresh air into the room. If you are really concerned get a better piece of equipment to monitor your air quality that shows specifics about the content of the air. That would give you a better idea how to remedy poor air quality.

Good luck!

  • Yes, I should have mentioned - it's measuring VOCs. – Chris Mar 10 '16 at 12:41
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I'm presuming "installed AC in just that room" means a Window or Wall AC unit or a Mitsubishi split type blower module was installed. I'd suspect it's the cooling unit itself (plastic, rubber, glue, spray foam or caulk) & the VOC's spread only when it blows.

A few things you can try with your monitor is to not run the AC, no fan no nothing to see if you get the same or no air change. If nothing, then run just the fan to see if that changes anything. If nothing, then run the AC's cooling a change might indicate a refrigerant leak & should be repaired.

Now, if you get changes without the AC running at all, then it definitely could be the unit's construction materials. Or, anything else in the room ...insulation, weather-stripping, waterproofing materials, room paint, carpet, carpet padding, furniture, toys, window treatments.

If this is a wall or Window unit that you can swap out with another in the house. Then, try the swap & see if that not only cleans that room, but also that the problem went with the AC unit into its new room. Additionally, VOC's may only release at certain temperatures or as the room's air cools or heats, they would rise or fall toward or away from the monitor.

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VOC's according to a 50 cent sensor... Which won't directly map to the government's definition, nor to actual human toxicity. There will be a lot of overlap with things like...

Baby flatulence.

Seriously. We have a VOC sensing air filter, and, well, flatulence makes it kick up to high.

Yes, consumer products, new furniture, new carpet, new paint do off-gas VOCs for a few months. That's precisely what "new car smell" is. However they generally don't spike, unless they transition into direct sunlight. And the majority of humans are not sensitive to them, but I have known humans who are.

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