The Importance of Good Indoor Air Quality.
Moving to Canada.
Having lived in Singapore most of her adult life, my sister found her recent move to Canada a very difficult venture. Don’t rightly know why she’d decided to move back, but here she is, and not happy at all. Always the neatnik in the family, she referred to her husband of 42 years as ‘sloppy Joe’ because he just wouldn’t conform to her idea of spic and span. And I would be the first to agree with him, I mean how do you sit on the sofa without moving the cushion or creasing the throw? How do you brush your teeth without even a drop of water splattering on the edges of the sink? And how do you position dishes in your cupboard with such geometric precision that she gets to know if anyone else has been in there for an item? Like I’ve had to in recent times, in spite of being so careful!!
She invested in a brand new condo in Milton, an hour and a half away from Toronto, the building at the corner of Highway 25 and Rue St. Laurent, in the same block that I live in…we’re neighbors! After having lived in a large bungalow in Singapore all these years, this sure is a downscale…. a tiny 850 sq ft space with two bed rooms, two bathrooms, and a living cum open kitchen. And to her credit, she has adjusted, having done up the place in white and dark wood with some cane elements thrown in strategically to soften the starkness of the white. And though the windows in her apartment are small, it doesn’t look closed in as she’d decided to install the Dual Roller Shades that she’d found so fascinating. They offered filtered light and a view during the day, and privacy at night. They’d never considered insulation for the windows as they felt it wasn’t necessary – high-performance windows coupled with a fabulous HRV ( Heat Recovery Ventilation) system that keeps them comfortable through the day and night was the ultimate!
She started falling ill almost from the start – mild but persistent headaches, a stuffy nose, shortness of breath, and the occasional dizzy spell. When the symptoms wouldn’t subside, she decided to consult with a GP that she decided wasn’t a quack, who put her through all the regular checks that came back clear but for elevated eosinophil levels. And she burst out, “I’ve come back home to allergies? All my years in the east never gave me allergies!” And it got progressively worse, making her consider moving back to Singapore. She would walk to her car in the basement and be short of breath. No fun, I must admit!
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Considering the huge lifestyle changes they’d agreed upon, it wasn’t really an option to go back east, especially as what induced them to come back was the fact that the kids were both working in Toronto, though they were always travelling, and busy with their own families. As they consulted with the builders and did some research, they got to find out that a lot of the prevalent ailments that are caused today are due to poor indoor air quality. According to the CCOHS (Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety) –
IAQ problems result from interactions between building materials and furnishing, activities within the building, climate, and building occupants. IAQ problems may arise from one or more of the following causes:
• Indoor environment – inadequate temperature, humidity, lighting, excessive noise
• Indoor air contaminants – chemicals, dust, molds or fungi, bacteria, gases, vapours, odours
• Insufficient outdoor air intake
Though Indoor air quality has become a significant health and safety concern, the issue is still in its infancy and so, hard to verify as many of the symptoms associated with it could be caused due to common colds and flu.
Moisture and Air.
The earth’s surface comprises 71% water; the human body comprises 60% water. It figures, therefore, that moisture is continually being released into your home: 10 to 50 litres (2 to 10 gallons) every day. In a heating season lasting 200 days, when your home is typically closed up, 2,000 to 10,000 litres (400 to 2,000 gallons) of moisture can be trapped.
There are two types of moisture problems—leaks and condensation. When warm, moist air comes into contact with a surface that is too cold, moisture condenses. The water and frost that you see collecting on windows is a visible example.
The air we breathe in should be clean if not pure. There should be a healthy exchange of air between the indoors and outdoors, without which you could experience poor IAQ. An efficient HRV system is meant to mimic the ideal situation, but there is something called the ‘sick building syndrome’ or the ‘tight building syndrome’ or ‘building-related illness’, all related to IAQ and the amount of time spent indoors.
Mold growing due humidity caused by inadequate ventilation can release spores, toxins and off odours that can make you fall ill. Add to it off-gassing and passive smoking, and the carbon dioxide from burning candles, and you have a recipe for disaster!
Operable vs. Inoperable Windows.
All this information gave her pause, and the first thing she insisted on was to get Joe to stop smoking inside the condo – it hadn’t mattered in Singapore, with the expansive interiors that had windows open to fresh air all the time! Now, the poor man had to walk all the way to Barista for a smoke. A good thing, if you ask me, though he had the benefit of the titillating sight of the co-eds forever lounging around – a sight for sore eyes and ego, I guess!
She then went through the lengthy and frustrating process of getting permission to have operable sashes fixed into her window frames – she had all the windows changed to the single-hung variety, the bottom-half of which could be pushed outwards at an angle to let in the air. It is so much better to have operable windows in a home for precisely this reason, and more so for homes with pets and children, or those homes that have many occupants, even though it is said that for seamless energy efficiency, sealed homes are to be the norm. Hmm. The thinking has to change somewhere!
It broke her heart to consider a change in window dressings, especially as she’d spend a pretty penny on the dual roller shade system, but it seemed it was a must, as she would have to insulate her windows against the apparent condensation that was bound to occur at the window level in a country as cold as Canada can be, even though it could get very warm during the day in summer. Both conditions are precursors to the formation of mold due to excessive condensation.
Why Window Condensation Occurs.
“Water vapor condensation most often occurs because the indoor relative humidity is high. Since cold air holds less water vapor than warm air, the excess water vapor will condense when the temperature of the air decreases. Saturation, or 100% relative humidity, occurs when the air cools to the “dew point temperature”. Air movement in the house that carries the water vapor with it is the most important means for transporting water vapor to the window.” – Department of Design and Environment, Cornell University.
Improving the thermal Quality Windows.
As air flows in and around windows, cold glass surfaces that are poor conductors provide the ideal opportunity for condensation. Though the double-pane windows provided a fair R-Value, energy sufficiency was a consideration in tandem with condensation. As the windows were newly outfitted, there was no need for caulking or weather stripping around them, but using insulated window dressing was imminent.
The Artisan Roman Shades.
Without further ado, my sister ordered some fabulous shades that had caught her eye – Artisan Roman Shades from Graber, a brand owned by the Springs Window Fashions that she’d heard her son rave about. She liked the idea of fabric blinds that could be insulated, offering her the beat of both worlds – energy efficiency (her research showed that Roman Shades with thermal and condensation liners, mounted an inch away from the window pane, offered one of the best insulation options for a window system) and the ever–important décor factor!
She went through the specs provided by the retailer with a vengeance before deciding on the type she wanted.
Roman Shades are traditional window dressings that are a gift of the Roman Empire that incorporates a panel of fabric suspended on a header, creases neatly into even folds when lifted by a sophisticated cord and pulley mechanism, and cascades with the splendor of drapes when lowered.
The artisan Roman shades really were something else! Unerringly handcrafted with perfection, they lend a tremendous boost to any décor possible, humble or sophisticated!
Features and Benefits of Artisan Roman Shades.
Handcrafted and packaged in the States, the Graber Artisan Roman Shades Collection is available to you in a range of styles and fabrics, customized to your window and décor needs.
– Light and privacy: Depending on fabric weaves, density, and color, the desired level of brightness and privacy can be achieved in a room. The darker and heavier the fabric, the less light and the more the privacy in a room, whereas the lighter the color and material, the more the light in a room. When a shade is fully deployed over a window, obscure shapes may be viewed from outside without revealing details of interior features. Liners may be used for blackout during the day, and against bright exterior lights at night.
– Styles, Prints, and Patterns: Various Roman styles such as the Looped Roman (with soft folds cascading down the front), the classical flat Roman (a seamed modern style), the Seamless Roman (a sophisticated contemporary style that fits everywhere), the Relaxed Roman (with a slight sag to the bottom edges of the shade), and the Balloon Roman (a swaged style that lend traditional elegance) are crafted in a way the prints and patterns are stitched to maintain a façade of uniformity, though to the critical eye, interruptions may be perceived at seams, both in the Classic flat style and where panels are attached for sizes larger than the fabric width. Block colors and stripes do best for those fussy folk like my sister!
– Lift Controls: The standard cord lift is designed for the white cord to be located at the back of the shade for an uncluttered look and for safety for homes with children and pets, and are equipped with cord cleats and cord winders for additional protection, to keep the cord out of reach.
The continuous cord loop lift is executed with a beaded chain that remains the same length at all times, equipped with a cord tensioner and clutch mechanism that controls the lift with ease, and is especially useful for broad, long shades.
The cordless lift is operated by a handle provided on the hem bar to raise and lower the shade without cords, a fantastic option for households with children and pets. One must remember to use them on windows that are easily accessible, and their design doesn’t permit with blackout liners or having multiple shades on a single header.
The motorized lift can be used to manage energy efficiency with ease as the motor can be enabled with timers and be interfaced with other home automation systems like the av unit, lighting, etc., that allow the shades to function as per requirements of security, lighting, and thermal efficacy. The low voltage motors do not require any hard wiring and is operated by wall switches and RF remotes. It’s also the most sensible choice to work multiple shades in different rooms in tandem, and for homes with children, pets and the elderly or physically challenged, it’s a convenience one couldn’t manage without.
-The Top down-Bottom up (TDBU) feature with Valances: this is a feature that allows the shade to be operated from the top downwards, along with the traditional bottom up feature, for requirements of privacy and brightness control while maintaining a view. The bottom up can be used in sync with the top down for pleasing aesthetics and the regular requirements. This feature is available only with cord controls and is provided valances to keep the header covered when the top down is enabled.
- Allows shade to be raised from the bottom up like a conventional shade, or lowered from the top down
- Available in Looped Roman, Classic Flat Roman and Seamless Roman styles
- Standard Cord Control only
- Valances are standard with Bottom Up-Top Down Corded; customer can choose 6″, 8″, or 10″ height.
- Standard operation: right cord will lift shade from bottom up; left cord will lower shade from top down; optional: reverse operation
- Not available in Balloon or Relaxed Styles
- Available in Looped Roman, Classic Flat Roman, Seamless Roman and Relaxed Roman styles
- Customer can choose 6″, 8″, or 10″ height
- Recommended valance heights based on the height of the shade are as follows:
|Height of Shade Up To:||Recommended Valance Height|
- Valance returns are recommended for outside mount shades
- Valances cannot be ordered separately
-Liners: are ever so important in a country like Canada that receives very sharp sunlight that proves detrimental to interior elements like wooden flooring, carpets, upholstery and artwork, not to mention sun rot of the shades themselves. All shades come with a standard protective liner that is white to the street side. A special thermal liner that has an insulating layers increases the energy efficiency of the window system; a water repellent liner prevents the penetration of moisture that doesn’t allow condensation to occur on the glass from the inside, preventing the chance of the glass panes cracking, and the growth of mold and bacteria: a blackout liner that has a special coating that prevents the light from passing through it.
-The fanciful differentiators: I say fanciful as they are specialty items that make for endlessly fascinating interior ideas. You can coordinate your shade fabrics to blend in or contrast with the collection of artisan sheers and drapes, square, rectangle and round pillows with welting, flanges and trims, for sofas, the beds and for the floor. Very exciting cornices, swags and cascades, board mounted valances and rod pocket valances help elevate your window styling for contemporary classic looks of the quiet traditional elegance.
My sister decided on the seamless Roman style in a brown, white, and peach striped polyester blend for her living room windows, framed by board mounted London Valances in white. For the master bedroom, she had the looped Roman in a gorgeous jade silk and a scarf swag in a paisley printed silk. This looked amazingly beautiful as here, she has French doors. In the guest bedroom, she opted for the relaxed roman in a printed polyester, with a fabric wrapped curved cornice. Of course, she had the thermal and water repellent liners on all her shades that would hopefully protect her from the allergies that had been bothering her. And, motorized Roman Shades! She decided to go the whole hog with creating a wonderfully efficient window system that would be trouble free while saving her energy dollars!
Her no-smoking territory combined with operable windows for better ventilation and her thermal, water-repellent backed Roman shades should give her respite from her distress. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding – I have adopted a wait and watch policy!
Please refer to for more information on condensation on windows.