The Role of Smart Monitors in the Detection of Harmful CO2 Levels

smart CO2 Monitoring
Illustration: © IoT For All

Levels of carbon dioxide concentrations have been rising dramatically for the last 50 years. Statistics show that we now consider air to be fresh with 420 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 and 21 percent of oxygen levels. However, the norm used to be no more than 350 ppm. With this rise of almost 100 points in 50 years, it becomes clear there is a need for the constant monitoring of indoor levels of carbon dioxide. Smart CO2 monitors may be used as a potential solution, and critical aid, in the increasing need to track levels of CO2.

How Dangerous Is CO2?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the primary gases. High levels of CO2 can lead to negative consequences for human wellbeing. CO2 monitors offer an inexpensive and effective solution to classify the current risks posed by potentially infectious aerosols. Buildings, in particular, generate a great deal of CO2. The level of carbon dioxide is based on our exhale. Therefore, the more people are present in an enclosed space, the higher the carbon dioxide level will be. People’s daily exhalations can cause a significant amount of carbon dioxide, significantly decreasing indoor air quality. When this happens, people can no longer breathe fresh air and are more susceptible to infection risk.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, this becomes an acute problem. When the indoor concentration of carbon dioxide reaches 800 parts per million, then each time you breathe in, one percent of the air you inhale has come from the exhalations of others. During a pandemic, that’s an alarming thought, which calls for a stronger focus to continuously monitor CO2 levels to keep us healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Above the Norm CO2 Concentration

Air quality guidelines suggest that indoor CO2 should be less than about 650 ppm. However, considering air pollutants displacing oxygen, recommended levels of CO2 within a closed space should be within the range of 1000-1200 ppm. Nevertheless, according to recent studies in many classrooms, CO2 would easily exceed 1400, and even up to 5200 ppm, if they are not regularly ventilated.

Public Health Associations around the world have found that such stagnant air can be a precedent for sick building syndrome, which decreases cognitive function, provokes headaches, and has a negative effect on the overall physical state of a person’s health.

Here are some additional facts about the hazard of high CO2 levels:

  • CO2 levels above 15,000 ppm could lead to panting. It also dispenses oxygen from our bloodstream and acts as a toxin.
  • A concentration of around 10,000 ppm may lead to unconsciousness and tremor.
  • CO2 can reduce or toxify oxygen and other essential substances.
  • Increased levels of CO2 are linked to headaches, reduced performance, absenteeism, and other more serious ailments.
  • Values above 40,000 ppm may result in death or other severe conditions.

These risks call for installing demand-controlled ventilation systems in indoor public places.

Where Do We Need Improved Ventilation?

#1: Schools

Many studies have shown that the concentration of CO2 in schools is higher than in the average building. The current data shows that usual CO2 levels in the classrooms reach 800 ppm, which means 1 percent of the air is re-used in a typical classroom with 25 kids. This level is reached within five to ten minutes if the space is not ventilated. At the same time, when the learning space with a standard number of 25 students is not ventilated for 15-20 min, then CO2 levels reach 1800 ppm, meaning that approximately 10 percent of the air is re-used. Additional data collected in Canada is also alarming for children’s safety. The Anglophone North School District in Ontario, Canada has 29 schools, but only three have fully integrated mechanical ventilation systems.

According to recent research, at 1800 ppm children and teachers feel tired, and it takes them two times longer to learn new concepts as their cognitive functions are reduced by approximately 70-80 percent. Such indoor air quality is detrimental to the normal functioning of a person. A smart CO2 monitor with the ability to measure indoor air becomes a necessity.

On a positive trajectory, the Department of Education is committed to improving school ventilation and air quality. Additionally, battery-powered CO2 solutions are also available for schools. These devices can be moved to rooms or placed in areas where high CO2 levels are hazardous for safety. The technology is wireless and can be monitored remotely, so school administrators can be informed of unhealthy peaks of temperature, occupancy, and air pollutant levels.

#2: Office Environments

Many people are unaware that their workplace may be at risk of high CO2 levels. In fact, many health experts now suggest that the amount of CO2 in an office building may be up to eight times higher than the safe level calculated for normal occupancy.

The problem of high CO2 levels in working environments is well-documented. Businesses all over the world face the problem of poor air quality. Researchers have found that high CO2 levels in office environments may have negative effects on productivity, energy efficiency, and motivation to work. This has been shown through several studies, including a recent one conducted by Oxford Brookes University. The study showed that employees working in offices with low CO2 levels were up to 60 percent more productive, and test scores increased by 12 percent. Additionally, if the CO2 levels in an office are kept under 500 ppm (measurements close to outdoor air quality), workers will be more alert and productive.

Some people may be more sensitive to CO2 and other toxic gases, and these should be addressed immediately. Aside from risks related to workers’ wellbeing, workplaces with high CO2 levels may also pose a significant liability in an event of an emergency. This could lead to death or injury.

The Benefits of Smart CO2 Monitoring

Using smart CO2 monitoring equipment in the office, educational institution, or any other public space is beneficial in many ways.

  • Monitoring allows you to be aware of the level of carbon dioxide exposure in your environment from other people’s respiratory systems.
  • Detecting the CO2 level allows you to adjust ventilation rates based on the activity, temperature, and occupancy in the room.
  • If the office environment is not very large, one sensor on the wall will be more than enough to provide precise measurements. If you have a large office, it would be best to install several sensors on the different sides of the room to be sure that measurements are precise.

Such a system of monitoring indoor levels of CO2 will give you the necessary knowledge for automating ventilation and setting a fixed ventilation strategy, which can even help you save on energy costs.

Improved Safety and Quality of Life

Monitoring the quality of air and sending alerts when there is a health risk will give people the opportunity to breathe fresher air. It also aids in the protection from other potential health problems connected to inadequate ventilation. The benefits of smart CO2 monitors should be strongly considered, as the need for demand-controlled ventilation systems in indoor public places rises.

Author
TEKTELIC Communications Inc.
TEKTELIC Communications Inc.
TEKTELIC Communications is a premier supplier of complete end-to-end IoT solutions. With a focus on providing total solutions, TEKTELIC leverages its world-class IoT gateways, sensors, and software to create enhanced value for its clients. With a ...
TEKTELIC Communications is a premier supplier of complete end-to-end IoT solutions. With a focus on providing total solutions, TEKTELIC leverages its world-class IoT gateways, sensors, and software to create enhanced value for its clients. With a ...