Conundrum is the book that explains why efficiency does not solve our environmental problems, but makes them more intractable, and therefore worse. Highly recommended.

The Efficiency Trap is another thoughtful exploration of how to avoid superficial fixes that hurt more than they help. In terms of energy in buildings it means that site-derived renewable energy (SDRE) is really the only option that matters, but it is viable only with adequate efficiency.

Here is a review of the issues covered by these books.


IAQ Monitors, Stationary

The Kaiterra Laser Egg is one of the simplest solutions to measure air quality. It measures the air quality directly with a laser beam. On some days I can see upto a 50 point difference between inside my apartment (very good) and in the hallway of the building, especially at dinner time, when everyone is cooking. It has two fancier versions one with CO2 measurement, and another with TVOC and Temperature, as well as fine dust . This family of devices which is on the market in the US under the name of Kaiterra, was first launched by Origins in China and launched in 2015. If you are interested to know more about the technology and the history, this article can fill in the gaps. You can always get a week of history, if you connect it to the internet via WiFi. Another good option is the BRWISSEN A18, which has an extensive feature set, including collecting history on a MicroSD card, though it is formatted as a text file, and you will probably want to convert it to a .CSV in order to import it into a spreadsheet.

IAQ Monitors – Handheld

In the handheld category, my favorite is probably the Temtop M2000C 2nd generation monitor, it has most relevant measurements: CO2, PM10, PM2.5, Particle count, HCHO, Temp, Humidity, and offers reasonable precision. It offers a super convenient way to record and download history, and you can set the intervals from 1 minute to 60 minutes. Then you can download via USB direct to your PC or laptop. Another good option is the LKC 1000S+.

If specifically fine dust is your focus, the Temtop Airing-1000 2nd generation offers somewhat higher accuracy, an nice histogram function and also has download capabilities. The histogram is amazing, I can see a bulge every time I cook (with gas), or recently when a plumber was working in my bathroom and breaking a floor open and sawing through pipes, creating a lot of dust.

Regardless of any of the specs of these meters, it pays to remember that the accuracy of these meters for PM2.5 is +/- 10 points, so that at the low end of the range, you have to take the readings with a grain of salt, which is important since the “good” range for PM2.5 is 0-12 micrograms/m3 and the “moderate” range is 13-34, with 35-150 being increasingly “unhealthy.” In other words a reading of 10 could mean anything from zero (very ” good”) to 20, in the middle of the “moderate” range. So for the most part, you want to focus more on the relative measurements.

Ventilation and Plants, Plants, Plants

Ventilation is typically regulated, so facilities need to follow the code. Ventilation serves to exchange CO2 (Exhaled by people), for Oxygen, which they like to inhale. There are also man-made chemicals that typically occur inside and that get dissipated by ventilation, TVOCS, Total Volatile Organic Chemicals is the typical measurement and Formaldehyde (HCHO) is often provided as a separate measurement. by IAQ monitors. But aside from ventilation, it is plants that can be a great help in both producing oxygen and removing some harmful chemicals. Books have been written about it.

We cannot underestimate the importance of plants that can often help out with the other areas of air quality, improving the balance of Oxygen to CO2, and even removing various common toxins from the air. So unless there are very unique problems going on, plants are your best friends. There are two books, both titled How to Grow Fresh Air, but one is based on some research that was done for NASA, and is subtitled 50 Houseplants that Purify, and the other India’s Top Experts Teach. There are videos with both listings if you use these links. First lesson, do not put Sanseveria in offices or classrooms, for they produce CO2 by day and Oxygen at night. So put them in your bedroom!

Here are all Air Quality books and tools in one place. Note that even Amazon has entered this space with a residential Air Quality Monitor, which is very usable for stationary applications, but not for field use, because it has a long calibration period.

Business Process

Having had some interesting experiences in the Information Technology world, I tend to be partial to the rare good tools that one finds. In the 80´s I designed a strategic information system for an $2bn company, which lasted twenty years. I also had Linux dual-boot on all my Windows computers since the first beta versions. Finally, when Windows 10 Anniversary Edition crashed my lovely HP desktop, I switched to Linux for good (Mint). That machine is still in active service.

Something extraordinary came along and I recently switched my business to run on Zoho. This is an extraordinary software suite, very modular in conception. Zoho has clearly been designed for greatest utility and value to your business, and not for the purpose of harvesting your information and reselling it. I can seriously recommend it, you can find it here: Zoho link.

An other pet-peeve of mine is accounting systems. More on that later… stay tuned.