A Guide to Safe Indoor CO2 Levels

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Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a natural byproduct of breathing and other biological processes in humans and animals. It’s only natural that there will be some CO2 in your building. However, when indoor CO2 levels get too high, they can impact your health and well-being, and that of everyone in your building. 

Having a handle on safe CO2 levels helps you monitor your space and deal with indoor air pollution before it becomes a health issue. Learn more about how to maintain safe CO2 levels and why it’s important. 

CO2 and Its Impact on Health

During human respiration, we transform oxygen into carbon dioxide and exhale it into the atmosphere. It’s also produced when people burn fossil fuels and wood and from decaying plants. When too much CO2 builds up in the air, it can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, fatigue, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. Indoor carbon dioxide rarely causes CO2 poisoning in well-ventilated buildings, but it can cause a coma and even death. 

Health Risks Associated With High CO2 Concentrations

When you’re constantly breathing in too much CO2 in an improperly ventilated building, it can impact your health. At high levels, CO2 replaces your blood oxygen and causes asphyxia. 

Living or working in a building with poor ventilation and constantly being exposed to CO2 can cause a variety of health effects. It can make it harder to concentrate and impact higher cognitive functions. It can also cause your bones to mineralize and your kidneys to calcify. 

You shouldn’t confuse CO2 poisoning with carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide and CO2 are different. Carbon monoxide has only one carbon atom, and it’s flammable. At high levels, carbon monoxide also replaces oxygen in the blood, but it does so more efficiently than CO2. For comparison, carbon monoxide levels above 70 parts per million can cause severe side effects, while carbon dioxide levels up to 1,000 ppm are considered safe. 

Ideal CO2 Levels for Different Indoor Environments

Air-quality monitoring helps you keep carbon dioxide levels in check, but it helps to know what’s safe as you look at your monitoring data. Buildings with more cubic feet and adequate ventilation don’t tend to accumulate CO2 in high levels. Indoor carbon dioxide levels can become elevated in buildings in which people are smoking or cooking

Recommended CO2 Levels for Residential Spaces

Multiple factors determine how much CO2 will build up. If you’ve ever been in a crowded, old building with poor ventilation, you may have become uneasy. Even if you’re not claustrophobic, this is a prime scenario for elevating CO2 levels beyond what’s considered safe. 

Residential spaces tend to house fewer people. You and your family aren’t creating as much CO2 as an office building or commercial building full of people. Generally, CO2 levels under 800 ppm are considered ideal for residences. 

Recommended CO2 Levels for Commercial and Office Spaces

Like residences, office buildings are usually considered safe when the CO2 level is lower than 800 ppm. Schools and retail buildings should aim for levels between 1,000 and 1,200 ppm. If you’re in a building with gas stoves or other combustion appliances, or you’re working in a poorly ventilated industrial building, you risk being exposed to higher CO2 levels. 

Tools and Strategies for Monitoring CO2 Levels

There are plenty of ways you can monitor indoor carbon dioxide levels and manage air-quality problems before they get out of hand. The best way is to install CO2 sensors to maintain the indoor environmental quality. 

Choose a monitoring system that gives you data on CO2, carbon monoxide levels, and other air pollutants to create a healthier building. Some new sensors also monitor volatile organic compounds and other potential air-quality hazards. When you notice significant changes in these levels, it could mean something is wrong with your ventilation system. 

If you pick a smart monitor, you can sync it with your mobile phone and keep an eye on your buildings even when you’re not there. Before you install your sensors, take a measurement of the outdoor CO2 levels. If you live in a city with road congestion and other pollutants, it can impact the indoor air quality. 

Once you have a CO2 sensor, pay attention to trends within your building. Since human respiration produces CO2, you can expect the levels to fluctuate throughout the day as people move in and out of your building. For example, if a group of people gather in a small conference room and close the doors, the CO2 level will likely be higher toward the end of their meeting. 

Take measurements throughout the day at various points in your building and consider your ventilation rate. If your building falls within the safe range throughout the day, you don’t need to make any changes. However, if you notice the levels increasing too much, you could look at your HVAC system to see what you need to change. 

Pay attention to occupant complaints. Your tenants may let you know if people in the building are groggy or experiencing poor concentration. At higher levels, CO2 can cause a burning sensation in your nose. If your tenants are complaining of odd or noxious smells, check out your CO2 monitors and look at your HVAC system. 

Ensure Optimal Indoor Air Quality With Attune IoT

Air-quality problems not only impact building health, but they can also affect your ability to rent spaces in your building. If your building is making people sick, they probably won’t stick around, and they aren’t likely to give you a referral. 

Attune’s IoT solution for monitoring indoor air quality gives you everything you need to keep your indoor air clean. Our smart sensors sync with your phone and other mobile devices so you can receive alerts in real time.

This tool also offers data visualization solutions that make it easy to monitor your sensors. Know your indoor air-quality levels at a glance without having to read through multiple reports. 

Keep your occupants healthy with Attune. Schedule a demo today and learn more about how we can help you stay on top of your building’s air quality. 


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