Measuring CO2 Levels in Schools and Creating Healthy Environments for Growth
One important factor when providing for the health and well-being of students is the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) present in classrooms. Typical outdoor CO2 levels are around 400 ppm. Due to human respiratory activity, indoor levels are higher than this, at approximately 600 to 800 ppm. Over time, in occupied spaces, this level can increase to 1000 ppm or more, leading to symptoms such as headaches, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating. In children, this effect is exacerbated because they breathe a larger volume of air in proportion to their body weight, as well as the fact that classrooms are often more densely populated than office spaces and multi-use buildings. Numerous scientific studies show correlations between poor ventilation and poor student performance.
Creating Balance with Demand Control Ventilation
CO2 monitoring and Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) offer an efficient solution to the buildup of CO2 in classrooms. DCV works by continuously monitoring interior environmental conditions and adjusting the ventilation to maintain proper indoor air quality.
Accurate environmental monitoring is crucial for a good DCV system. Sensors continuously measure CO2 levels, temperature, and humidity, and send this data to a control system. The data presents a complete picture of the indoor environmental quality over time. The control system is programmed with threshold levels for CO2, temperature, and humidity, and it triggers the ventilation system when any of these values are out of acceptable range. In a CO2-based DCV system, the control system looks at CO2 levels, rather than temperature or humidity, to drive ventilation activity. In this way, human occupancy throughout the day determines how much ventilation is needed. As long as CO2 levels are within preferred limits, only interior air is circulated. When CO2 levels increase beyond an established threshold, the ventilation system draws in outside air to correct this. Since the thermal conditioning of outside air increases costs associated with the HVAC system, it is more efficient to perform this step only when necessary, rather than following some fixed formula, such as time-controlled programs. DCV, therefore, helps to lower energy costs for the building.
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