The HRV (heat recovery ventilator) broke down in March.
September 25th was the 1st time they came to install the new one. At that time it was discovered that neither the people ordering the HRV, the people selling HRVs, or the people installing them thought to ask if the intake and exhaust vents would be in the same location on the new machine as on the old machine.
They were not.
After a lot of humming and hawing it was decided to keep the new unit and build out more ducts to make it fit. The duct material had to be ordered in. Apparently it was special and not in stock.
They finally came back, Friday the 16th of November. Now that it is too cold out to open windows without the heating system coming on (or freezing, I still don’t have adequate safe warm clothing, but that’s another story) they came back.
And wouldn’t you know it, there is something in the new system that isn’t good for me, and, it gets sucked through the ducts whenever the heat goes on, even if the HRV is turned off.
It might be because
maybe the new unit was not run long enough at the warehouse, to burn off the oils from the motor and fan (and whatever else is in there that needs burning off). A portable space heater took a month of use elsewhere before I could have it anywhere near me. They didn’t tell me how many days this was run.
It might also be because the rags that were used to “clean” the new duct material turned out to be heavily fragranced (one was left outside here) so washing anything with those rags would have left a whole new layer of chemical contamination.
It might also be because some material that was used wasn’t pre-washed at all. I don’t know everything that was used.
I don’t think the new filters inside the unit were washed at all. Those are washable, that’s how they are maintained, but I can’t do it myself now because it’s too cold outside to use the hose, and doing it indoors would saturate my air and brain and lungs with the chemicals I’d be trying to wash off (there’s some overlap here in the why I don’t have enough safe warm clothes yet).
The problem might be a combination of all these issues.
Assumptions and attention to detail
There was gentleman overseeing and supervising (he is on the board of the housing complex, and has a wife and daughter with MCS/ES) but he must not have thought to check on all that, especially the rags. Or maybe his wife and daughter don’t have the same level of MCS/ES, which is also possible.
Shows that we with MCS/ES (especially) can’t assume anything, sigh… and I have forgotten some of the attention to detail required myself, or what to emphasize when, mostly, because I’ve given up on traditional ways of doing things and have had to find alternatives for almost everything for so long now. I sometimes don’t know where to begin. It requires a lot of thought, going through every detail, kind of like performing life-cycle and cost-benefit analysis… It also requires that I be consulted more than I was, and it helps when people involved can think a bit for themselves and ask questions if they don’t understand.
They really should have done this a lot sooner, when I could have opened the windows without the heat running and aired out the system while sitting outside. And had I had my druthers, I wouldn’t have agreed to the installation happening on a Friday, since the weekend air is a lot worse with so many people at home doing laundry, so I often can’t open the windows all weekend.
I am not sure if there’s anything I can do about this situation now, or if I should just do nothing and hope it all burns off eventually without causing my brain and body too much pain or damage in the meantime? Except, I really don’t think I can use it until spring, not like this. Unless we have another abnormally hot week before then, when the winds don’t come from the western directions that bring all the laundry product fumes… But even then, there’s no guarantees on how long this will need to run/offgas before it is safe for me, and I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve worked so hard to gain.
It’s somewhat ironic that a device that is supposed to help my air quality is now causing such a huge problem with it.
Changing the filtration?
I think I really, really, really need to get carbon filtration into the duct, where currently there is a MERV 13 pleated filter. It is 4″ x 12″ x 24″. Someone suggested putting a 2″ carbon filter between 2 1″ or before a 2″ MERV/hepa filters, since there are no standard carbon filters in this size, and I can’t afford $60 every couple of months to order custom filters like these from NEEDS.
Does anyone know about the technical details for making this work? And who sells more affordable filters that would work?
Symptoms from the exposure
Interestingly enough, I am getting headaches again from exposures, and serious sinus congestion. It has been years since I felt normal headaches (other than migraines), but now I wonder if I may have had such a big headache all the time, that my pain sensors just became numb to it somehow? Or were otherwise shut down by chemical exposures?
This summer I started feeling pain more normally, like from steam or boiling water, pain I didn’t feel for several years. That’s from being able to avoid serious exposures in my “new” home, for over a year now. Today there is definitely inflammation, and my glasses hurt, it feels like they are too small for my head now.
The chemical insomnia came back too. I was up till 6am playing computer Mahjong because I couldn’t think my way out of a paper bag (or my chair, to go bed). I used to get that kind of insomnia in Toronto when things were bad. I stayed up on the computer playing Free-cell until I just could not keep my eyes open any longer because otherwise I would toss and turn for hours (and a bad arm and shoulder doesn’t allow me that option now). I don’t think I’ll be able to do this much because the mouse arm is still not fully healed from all the damage I did to the tendons etc when I couldn’t get a new mouse and couldn’t feel pain properly…
I have to find another way to zone out (I don’t have a tv and the inks from books still have an adverse effect on me).
And the fibro pain, it is flaring… Exposures cause widespread pain… Take away the exposures and that pain goes away.
Driving a car
And now… the return of my driving ability will be postponed yet again. I need to be able to figure out how to get around the block here 1st, and then a bigger block, and then even further, and then find my way back home. If I have trouble finding my way out of a paper bag, or getting to bed, driving isn’t such a great idea.
More about driving and last summer
I want to be able to drive myself to the bird and nature reserves nearby, so I can sit or walk in fresh, laundry product free air in the afternoons, but my ability to navigate was damaged and has not yet returned. I’ve been healing, and thought I’d be able to do that this summer, but then the HRV broke, they laid asphalt on many of the roads near here, and the brutal heat had VOC’s offgassing all over the place, and it was so hot I was like a melted lump much of the time (no a/c here). Pain might also have been a factor in the cognitive and physical fogs, since my shoulder froze and I had constant unremitting pain on a scale of over 8 in my shoulder and down my entire right arm for a few months, which also prevented me from getting much sleep… It was so bad that CCAC actually agreed to send a physio therapist to teach me excercises (there’s yet another potential blog post in that whole experience).
Catch 22 or Catch 99?
It’s so much fun living with this MCS/ES business. One thing leads to another… Catch 22s can easily become Catch 99s…
Instructions for detoxing and installing things
Anyway, since safe, non-toxic products and materials are so hard (or even impossible) to find, we really need instruction manuals on how to make toxic things safe for people with MCS/ES. Like the laundry detoxes I wrote about recently, we also need to know how to detox electronic equipment, computers, tv’s washers and dryers, HRVs, stoves, heating systems, etc.
Step by step, do’s and don’ts
– Don’t use fragranced rags to clean things (but that raises the question of where to find fragrance free rags or sponges if all the stores have fragrances in them and people use fragranced laundry and cleaning products everywhere)
-Get the tyvek suits for the installation people from safety supply shops that don’t use fragrances (air fresheners, scented carpet cleaners or hand soaps) and air them out first (the new batch of suits that was ordered by property management here came really fragranced so were aired out somewhere in the countryside for a month before being brought to me, and they still have some of that and another chemical odour to them too, but in the lesser of 2 evils scenario, they enclose the laundry product, dryer sheet and fabric softener chemicals which would otherwise get into the air and then absorb into everything. The suits don’t contain it all, but they do make a big difference. It’s yet another case of choosing between bad and worse)
– Don’t leave contaminated toolboxes and items on the MCS person’s floor, use an inert barrier to put them down on because many floors will absorb the chemicals from contact, and they will be difficult to clean, exposing the MCS person to more harm later.
– Don’t touch things, don’t lean on the walls… You will leave fragrance or other residues there too! (this time I covered all the door handles they’d use to get in and out with old rice cake bags, because last time I had to scrub all the handles down after they left)
If I had the energy and brain, I’d write a manual on how to approach a new piece of equipment to make it safe, but I don’t have that brain.
And all the do’s and dont’s for while in the MCS/ES person’s home…
Actually, I think I know someone who might be equipped to do the decontamination part and will ask him to write a guest blog post about it … He detoxed one of the heaters I used at the cabin, and has done several pieces of equipment for others with MCS, by taking them all apart and meticulously cleaning them before putting them back together. A background in motorcycle and car mechanics really helps with that!
Maybe he will help us all with some basic instructions, that can be elaborated upon in the future?
Here’s hoping, since this is something that can help now, while we work and wait on reforming the system, so that toxic products and materials are not an everyday occurrence that requires this level of attention to detail all the time!