Energy-Efficient Improvements and Indoor Air Quality in Homes

Dirty A/C filter in Oneonta NY home

Dirty A/C filter in Oneonta NY home

There is a concern with energy-efficient improvements and the effect on indoor air quality in homes. Many don’t take on these projects specifically for improved energy usage but will adopt the growing trend of green home remodeling practices with new renovations. Green building contractors incorporate the idea into all aspects of a remodel for energy efficiency and resource sustainability. While these are noble goals, indoor air quality becomes an issue.

Home heating and cooling are the highest percentages of utility costs. This means energy-efficient home improvements incorporate air-sealing into the design. Do you remember your mother yelling at you, “Close the door! We’re not heating the outdoors!” Closing the building envelope, making a home airtight, keeps heating and cooling energy from escaping. The unfortunate result is poor indoor air quality, requiring home ventilation and air cleaning systems.

Believe it or not, those drafty old windows, doors and attics played a vital role by bringing fresh air in from the outside. The air wasn’t free of pollen, mold spores, and bacteria, but airflow through the home often kept these pollutants from becoming a major issue. A homeowner can even develop a radon issue after remodeling projects close the building envelope. The gas once had ways to escape, but after becomes trapped.

Another issue with air sealing is an increased level of moisture. Homes that never had mold issues may suddenly develop a problem because moisture levels give it the opportunity to grow. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states, “Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins).”

Improving indoor air quality requires whole house ventilation and air cleaning systems. These systems either mechanically bring in fresh air from the outside or effectively remove particles from cycled air. The need for both is because most residential HVAC systems do not bring in fresh air from the outside, and air cleaning systems do not remove gasses like radon.

If you would like to talk more about energy-efficient improvements and the effect on indoor air quality in homes, or need more information, please contact us.

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