April 27, 2020
Indoor Air Quality Hazards

By Brian Gray

The Link Between Energy Efficiency and Healthy Homes

Home is a place where we all want to feel safe, secure and sheltered against the harmful elements of the outside world. Home is where our families live, laugh and grow. Home is our sanctuary. Our most precious belongings, our families, spend over 65% of an average day at home and "good health" is our highest wish. During a pandemic that wish rings truer than ever.

Housing conditions can and should support good health. What makes a healthy home environment?

HEALTHY HOMES ARE:

  • Dry: Damp houses provide a nurturing environment for mites, roaches, rodents, and molds, all of which are associated with asthma and poor indoor air quality
  • Pest-Free: The National Institute of Health reports a causal relationship between exposure to mice and cockroaches and asthma episodes in children. Inappropriate treatment for pest infestations can exacerbate health problems because pesticide residue can pose risks for neurological damage and cancer.
  • Well Ventilated: Studies by the American Lung Association show that increasing the fresh air supply in your home improves respiratory health.
  • Safe: Most injuries among children and older people occur in the home. Falls are the most frequent cause of residential injuries to children, followed by injuries from objects in the home, burns, and poisonings.
  • Contaminant-Free: Chemical exposures inside your home can include lead, radon, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, PFAS, and environmental tobacco smoke. The risk of exposures to asbestos particles, radon gas, carbon monoxide, and secondhand tobacco smoke are far higher indoors than outside.
  • Thermally Controlled: A variety of health problems are related to prolonged exposure to excessive heat or cold when your home does not maintain adequate or consistent seasonal indoor temperatures.
  • Accessible: Lack of accessibility in your home can result in reduced physical activity, trips, falls and increased isolation from family and friends. Your home should be designed, inside and out, for the accessibility of all possible occupants, regardless of their age or mobility.

A HEALTHY HOME IS AN EFFICIENT HOME:

There is a direct relationship between a healthy home and an energy efficient home. When the Energy Co-op completes an energy audit, we not only identify areas to reduce energy consumption, but we also identify health and safety issues within your home.
Improving the efficiency of your home will also improve its health. A simple example of that is air sealing. Air sealing closes the cracks and openings in your home to reduce the amount of conditioned warm/cool air that escapes. It also eliminates ways pests such as rodents can enter. Plus, it can save you money by reducing your energy consumption.

However, tightening up your house is only half of the equation. The other half is ensuring good indoor air quality:

  • Mold
  • Particulates
  • Formaldehyde
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Radon
  • Volatile Organic Compounds

Upgrading ventilation addresses these problems and improves indoor air quality with a variety of simple remedies:

  • Upgrading bathroom exhaust fans to continuously exhaust can eliminate moisture problems that cause mold and peeling paint in bathrooms. New high efficiency fans that run continuously also have the added benefit of always ensuring some air movement in the house from outside and thus better air quality.
  • Ensuring heating system and kitchen range hoods are venting properly to ensure any carbon monoxide and other low-level chemicals are removed from the home. The presence of carbon monoxide is an immediate health risk.

The Energy Co-op approaches energy upgrades from a holistic perspective that promotes health and safety, year around comfort, and increases your home's resilience against moisture, contaminants and pests.

For more information and personal consultation about how we can help make your home more efficient and healthier, contact us here or give the Co-op a call at 802-860-4090.


Resources:
EPA Booklet - Protect Indoor Air Quality in Your Home