Simultaneous measurement of ventilation using tracer gas techniques and VOC concentrations in homes, garages and vehicles


Air exchange rates and interzonal flows are critical ventilation parameters that affect thermal comfort, air migration, and contaminant exposure in buildings and other environments. This paper presents the development of an updated approach to measure these parameters using perfluorocarbon tracer (PFT) gases, the constant injection rate method, and adsorbent-based sampling of PFT concentrations. The design of miniature PFT sources using hexafluorotoluene and octafluorobenzene tracers, and the development and validation of an analytical GC/MS method for these tracers are described. We show that simultaneous deployment of sources and passive samplers, which is logistically advantageous, will not cause significant errors over multiday measurement periods in building, or over shorter periods in rapidly ventilated spaces like vehicle cabins. Measurement of the tracers over periods of hours to a week may be accomplished using active or passive samplers, and low method detection limits (<0.025 μg m-3) and high precisions (<10%) are easily achieved. The method obtains the effective air exchange rate (AER), which is relevant to characterizing long-term exposures, especially when ventilation rates are time-varying. In addition to measuring the PFT tracers, concentrations of other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are simultaneously determined. Pilot tests in three environments (residence, garage, and vehicle cabin) demonstrate the utility of the method. The 4 day effective AER in the house was 0.20 h -1, the 4 day AER in the attached garage was 0.80 h-1, and 16% of the ventilation in the house migrated from the garage. The 5 h AER in a vehicle traveling at 100 km h-1 under a low-to-medium vent condition was 92 h-1, and this represents the highest speed test found in the literature. The method is attractive in that it simultaneously determines AERs, interzonal flows, and VOC concentrations over long and representative test periods. These measurements are practical, cost-effective, and helpful in indoor air quality and other investigations. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2006.

Publication Title

Journal of Environmental Monitoring