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What is carbon dioxide and why should you care?

What is carbon dioxide?

We all know what carbon dioxide is. It’s a trace gas in the atmosphere, it’s what we breathe out and plants breathe in, and there’s too much of it around, and that’s bad for the planet, but why does that matter to us individuals, day to day?

As well as being bad for the environment, carbon dioxide is very bad for us. It only makes up a tiny percentage of the air, so you can’t sense when the CO₂ levels increase, but it has significant and measurable effects on the human mind and body.

CO2 exists in the atmosphere, and typical outdoor air contains around 500ppm of CO₂, which is perfectly harmless, but modern buildings have been designed to seal off the outside world to save energy. This reduces natural ventilation and leads to a build-up of CO₂ wherever people congregate.

Take a look at the results from this study.

The participants were given a variety of tasks to perform in nine different areas while exposed to different concentrations of CO₂.


You can clearly see the pattern here – higher levels of CO₂ clearly have an affect on our decision-making abilities. Take a look at the “initiative” graph in particular – when exposed to just 2500ppm of CO₂, our ability to use initiative drops to almost zero! 2500ppm is high, but not unheard of. A stuffy and poorly ventilated room can easily exceed 3000ppm, with a massive effect on the performance of people working in that space.

Academic performance is also massively affected. A Harvard study found that increasing CO₂ levels by just 400ppm can impact a student’s cognitive function by 21%.

A costly trade-off

When we exchange the air in a building with outside air, all of that air has to be heated or cooled in accordance with the required conditions in the building, so exchanging air can have a huge impact on the energy requirements of a building. Without measuring the air quality, it’s impossible to know how much ventilation is required. Some buildings have air handling units to absolute overkill levels, wasting huge amounts of energy swapping clean air with clean air!

Not an obvious connection

Not many people think of a CO₂ sensor as an energy saving device – but if you measure what is in the air, not only can you ensure that you get the best possible performance out of anyone working in that space, but you can also ensure that the ventilation is running at the optimal level, without wasting any more energy (click to read our case study).

With Pressac’s CO₂ sensors, you can track your CO₂ levels in real time, and adjust the ventilation accordingly. Keep your air quality high, get the best performance out of your staff, and save energy all at the same time. By analysing the data from air quality sensors, you can make live adjustments in the HVAC systems to ensure the maximum possible comfort levels, and watch your productivity increase.

Place CO₂ sensors around your office space to see where the problem spots are in your ventilation system, and make sure to keep your office air clean and your staff comfortable.

Optimising EPC rating through energy monitoring

Chris Green

A customer-facing Technical Support Engineer, passionate about delivering innovative solutions to complex problems through the use of IoT. With nearly two decades of experience in the electronics industry, Chris has developed a customer-first approach and his product expertise, combined with his sense of humour makes him a well-respected authority on intelligent workplaces.

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