In part one of the topic on indoor air quality; we discussed the factors that affect indoor air quality. Now in part two we will discuss the steps that can be taken to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) and why they are important to both you and your home.
The first step believe it or not is to have an energy audit performed on your home. A blower door test can determine how much air is leaking in and out of your house as well as help to find even the smallest of air leaks. This information can then guide a weatherization contractor to the areas that need to be air sealed, reducing the amount of outdoor air that comes in through your windows, doors, attic, walls, and floors and indoor air that leaks out. A duct blaster test can find out how leaky the duct system is. If you have leaks on the return side, you are introducing air from your attic, basement, or crawlspace into the system to be distributed throughout your home. If you have leaks on the supply side, much of the air you are paying to condition is being sent outside. So you’re just wasting money.
In a perfect world, houses would be so tight that they have to be mechanically vented. This allows you to control how much air comes in and when. It also allows you to filter that air. This is where filtration companies can offer you products that will actually be beneficial to you. Some of them are even offering ultraviolet filtration systems which are similar to those in used in hospitals. It’s a bit of overkill, but if you have serious respiratory issues, it may be worth it. As a matter of fact, starting January 1, 2012, all new homes built will have to be mechanically vented to achieve the Energy Star label; A label that is getting more popular amongst both builders and prospective buyers.
Obviously, having a well air sealed and insulated home is a great advantage. Because the air you are paying to heat and cool is staying in your home, the temperature tends to stay more stable and thus it costs you less to keep it that way. One key forgotten component to keeping temperature constant is the humidity level. According to healthcare and energy efficiency professionals, a humidity level around 50% is ideal. Not to moist, not to dry. Ever noticed that on dry days that the temperature can change rather quickly, while on humid days it seems to change very slowly? This is because the water vapor in the air has to have time to adjust to the temperature surrounding it. That’s why water takes so long to boil or freeze. Also, as was stated in part one on indoor air quality, too much humidity promotes the growth of mold and wood rot. Conversely, too little humidity triggers the body’s response to produce more mucus to lubricate our air ways.
The amount of humidity not only affects our personal health, but it also has an impact on the health of our home. Because our homes are built mostly of wood, fluctuations between high and low humidity can cause the wood to crack and warp. Still think the reason the siding on your house is warping because of the siding itself and not what’s underneath, think again.
So as was said in part one of this topic, there is more to indoor air quality than just the air. If you have read any of my other blogs (and if not, shame on you), you know I strongly advocate having an energy audit performed on your home. Not just because I happen to perform them for a living, but because our homes were built so quickly it was physically impossible to address any of the situations discussed in my blogs, especially indoor air quality. So have an energy audit performed on your house and fix the problems the auditor finds. Not only will your home be a more comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient place to live, but your lungs will thank you for it. Remember, don’t throw money at your problems, throw knowledge, it’s a lot cheaper.