With winter starting here in Australia, people are now starting to shut up and heat up. We make sure the doors are shut, windows closed, and we are kept warm and snug.

But at the same time, we are stopping fresh air from circulating.

And in office blocks, often a similar thing is happening behind the scenes. The air-conditioning systems determine the mix of outside air to recirculated air. As the outside temperature becomes more extreme (too hot or cold) then the simplest way of reducing your heating and cooling costs is to recirculate the air.

And it makes sense because as my father always said “it is easier to heat the lounge room then all of Wagga” (yes, I’m from Wagga) so we made sure that we didn’t have fresh air coming in the front door.

But it is at a cost – air quality.

If the air is continually recirculated then the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels build up as well as other by-products of people breathing. When these levels get too high then people start to get head-aches, or feel drowsy. Their concentration ability is impaired.

Up until now there was no simple, inexpensive way to know how good or bad the air was. The good news is that now there is.

The keep alert range of CO2 meters and loggers have desk top displays as well as portable CO2 loggers.

I work in a number of offices and hospitals. It is great to have a CO2 meter showing me the quality of the air. In one office I regularly work at they had excessively high CO2 levels. I was able to prove they had a problem and a simple adjustment led to an instant decrease in CO2 levels. The result – staff aren’t experiencing fatigue and headaches like they were before.

When running training courses I find it ideal to place it on the table in front of me. When levels rise too high, everyone has a break and it gives us a chance to leave the doors and windows open (if possible).

So as we start to lock ourselves in for winter, just keep in mind that it may be impacting on your health. It may be that a bit of fresh air is exactly what the doctor ordered.