The new guy

Michael HebertHi, I'm Michael Hebert, the new summer marketing intern here at Aprilaire. When I'm not busy loving my new job, getting coffee, and generally sucking up to my superiors, I'll be helping the marketing department with blogging, other forms of communications, advertisements, and videos.

I'm a student at UW-Madison studying Philosophy and Communications with an emphasis on film. Yes, this does afford me a vast sea of knowledge regarding dehumidifiers, humidifiers, thermostats, air filters, and the like, that's why I'm at Aprilaire! Just kidding, I'm probably more like you, I've got some basic knowledge. I like things such as mold control and I know that there's a big machine in my house that needs a new air filter everyonce in a while (how often again?!). I guess it's a start.

It's good to be aboard the team, and I'm looking forward to learning more and spreading that knowledge. Keep posted!

Outlet Mall Shopping

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 by Michael Hebert
 This weekend I was dragged along to an outlet mall. If my first statement wasn't a good enough clue, then I'll just come out and say it, I'm not the shopping type.

The shops lined a massive parking lot, and the whole mall was pretty busy. As we pulled in there was a funny smell in the air I recognized very well. 
I used to load that smell fifty pounds at a time into people's cars at my old job, it was asphalt sealant. The smell was fairly overpowering, the parking lot had clearly been redone the night before.

It was amazing what a relief it continuously felt to enter a store and get out of the parking lot just to get away from the smell. and what a headache it was to go back outside. We were more than aware that the bad smell was accompanied with bad chemicals. Despite my usual tendency to hang out outside, while people get their shopping done, I found myself accompanying them into the store.

It was clear which store's were running better air cleaners. Some stores still smelled of the parking lot, but others managed to smell fresh and clean despite only a door seperating its air from the parking lot's air. We forget about air quality so easily, but when it's staring us in the face we remember not to take it for granted. I'm fortunate to say I survived the shopping trip, and I survived the parking lot smells and chemicals, and have returned with another reminder of the importance of indoor air quality.

"Vac Hack" gets robotic vacuums to test indoor air quality

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 by Michael Hebert
At my house we have a pretty weak vacuum. You have to roll over the same carpet spot, with little to no speed, several times to make sure you've picked up half the dirt in the carpet. Because of this weakness, nobody likes to use the vacuum, and for some reason that means nobody uses the vacuum until it is desperately needed. It's annoying, but we shrug it off as a college norm.

I remember seeing the first commercials for a robotic vacuum cleaner that would roll around your rooms on its own. I remember thinking the idea was fun when it first came out, I must have been in middle school then. There have been a few advances in technology since, and I'm sure the machines have gotten much better at their jobs, but now students from the Rhode Island University of Design have just made those little robotic vacuums even more functional.

The students have equipped the Roomba robotic vacuum with an air quality sensor so while it's cleaning up the mess in your carpet, it can let you know about the mess in your air. They already roll around full rooms at a time, so they're an ideal machine to test your air quality as well. The tricked out roomba will test for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as it sucks up dirt, pretty slick.

See the project page here.

The project was funded by Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) which funds projects that are environmentally or socially progressive. The Roomba is now looking pretty legit! Now if I could only convince my roommates it's a necessity...

Google Science Fair Winner takes on Air Quality

Monday, July 25, 2011 by Michael Hebert
Google's getting into the science fair business now, and their first fair couldn't have been more exciting. Out of 10,000 contestants from 91 different countries, the winners were three American girls! The competition brought a ton of extra attention to the leveling playing field for boys and girls in the science world.

Naomi Shah, winner of the 15-16 year old age group, had a project on air quality. Naomi comes off remarkably articulate as she describes multiple portions of her project...

Background: "Environmental studies have consistently shown an association between air pollution and exacerbation of illness in people with respiratory disease..."

Goal: "The goal of my project is to uniquely quantify the effect of environmental pollutants on the lung function as measured by the Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF) rate."

Future Research: "There is a saying amongst environmental professionals: 'The genetic make-up is like loading a gun. The environmental pollutants represent the trigger!'

"Triggers cause one death every 20 seconds! The project is my sincere hope to increase awareness amongst all stakeholders in order to eliminate the environmental 'triggers' that take these innocent lives."

Check out her full project here.

Monitoring Air Quality

Thursday, July 14, 2011 by Michael Hebert
Last time I posted China and Europe were worried about the air quality, now it looks like some people in Canada are taking a second look. In the post, Ron Dembo, makes a good point,

"I propose that we monitor the air in our homes, schools, and offices in addition to our neighborhoods... it will save us large amounts of money in the long run. It is technologically feasible and it could make a large dent on the government's bill for health care, something that is getting out of hand."

The Canadian government, like the United States, estimates annual government spending on issues of air quality in the billions. Constant monitoring would definitely add to some immediate costs, but maybe it would be good in the long run. What do you think?

Helping ourselves and the environment

Monday, June 20, 2011 by Michael Hebert

Human health and the health of the planet. It seems obvious that these two things would go hand in hand, yet somehow we've watched a different tale unfold over the past century. On the one hand, we've made massive medical advances, dramatically increasing human health. Life expectancies have sky rocketed, and self-health movements have created a more aware populace with an increasing culture of preventative medicine. Unfortunately, on the other hand, we've watched the health of the planet decline, and our preventative medicine is aimed too often at the diseases we've created and exacerbated with air pollutants.

Urbanization has sadly acted as a catalyst for increased greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and let's be real, urbanization isn't going away, but it doesn't have to be destructive to human health. China and the European Union recently announced a massive study on how strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will effect human health. It's about creating intelligent, pragmatic plans for sustainably shaping society. A simple idea, with some incredibly complex lines running through it. 

An excerpt from the study announcement:

Professor Clive Sabel, from the University of Exeter’s Geography department and European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) and leader of the project, said: “If we don’t start reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cities, the planet will get hotter and hotter, but every policy to tackle those emissions has a potentially profound effect on human health.

“That could be positive or negative, so in order to make that assessment we have to look at all the evidence and relate that to the on-the-ground technical, social, economic, political and cultural realities. This research aims to integrate data from a large variety of sources to inform key policy decisions to ensure city life is a healthy, positive experience that is sustainable for the future of our planet.”

Brilliant right?

There are clearly more human health issues than those caused by air quality, but often preventative measures for things like obesity and diabetes come down to individuals and everyone can choose their own lifestyles. But, we all breathe the same air. That's why Aprilaire has always prided itself on intelligent, whole home solutions to Indoor Air Quality that makes sense for human health and Earth's health, and if that's not enough, it makes fiscal sense too.

It's about time the health of the planet and the health of humans walked hand in hand again, but it takes a whole culture of awareness and desired improvement. Ultimately it feels right to help the environment and human health at the same time, and when we can make it happen it's incredibly empowering. Knowledge is power, stay informed and do your part.

A (so far) useless app and an intriguing idea.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 by Michael Hebert
I'm a bit of a social media/tech nut. I love watching (and let's be honest being active in) Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. change the world. And further, I love that my smart phone can track and post to it all now. My mother, in her infinite wisdom commented that the day would come people forget life without smart phones. I'm already there.

I stumbled on a crazy app today for Droid phones called "Allergy Tracker." I have spring time allergies that are really just starting to subside as summer rolls in, so I wouldn't really need the app right now, but since I'm still so close to that dreadful time of year, I was intrigued. Essentially the app creates a network of people who 'touch inform' the app about their allergy conditions. The app locates you every time you tap into it, and effectively tracks allergen levels by creating a real time allergy map from everyone's responses. Pretty sweet, but does it work?

By the looks of it the answer has to be - not really - bummer. With some horrible reviews, I won't be downloading the app, however it does bring up a good point - if you have allergies, your best weapon is information. While we're never going to be able to stop allergens from existing in general, there are things we can do to keep them from existing in our homes, but you've got to be informed. It's easy to see these small air purifiers and see a solution, but fixing a room isn't as good as fixing your home. There are better, holisitic solutions for your home. Central Air Filters, dehumidifiers, and humidifiers all have their place in fixing your indoor air quality problems.

Check out the informational link from eMedicine health and then some information from us at Aprilaire. After all, information is your best weapon.

eMedicine health