How the Air in Your Energy Efficient Home is Affecting Your Health
Creating homes that are more energy efficient is a noble goal, but can lead to health problems in terms of indoor air quality. One highly effective way to make a home more efficient is to tighten the building envelope. This means completely sealing the home so that as little air escapes as possible, without your control. When the building becomes air tight, heating and air systems require much less energy to keep the space at a suitable temperature. However, if there is no system in place to bring fresh clean air into the home, poor air quality can become a serious health hazard.
You may not realize how many air contaminants are present every day inside the home. The most prevalent pollutants are often the Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. Most every product you use in your home that has an artificial fragrance contains these VOCs. Manmade fragrances are created using chemicals that can be harmful to the human body in the event of long-term exposure. Examples of these products include cleaning supplies, perfumes, glues, and air fresheners.
There are plenty of other air contaminants within your home coming from other sources such as insecticides or rodenticides, paints, animals, and plants. If you use a fireplace, gas heater, or gas stove, these can be sources of harmful gases and other contaminants. If individuals smoke tobacco products inside the home, the second hand smoke can also harm the indoor air quality.
So, what happens if these pollutants and contaminants linger within your home? There are many short-term health side effects that can manifest due to poor indoor air quality. Most of the symptoms are related to the eyes, throat, and nose. Inhabitants of the home may experience itchy watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and congestion. As the problem persists, other symptoms may develop such as dizziness, tiredness, and frequent headaches.
The good news is, if the indoor air quality problem is addressed early, the health problems experienced will dissipate once the contaminated air is replaced with fresh clean air. The bad news is that long-term exposure to poor indoor air quality can result in serious chronic illnesses, and even certain types of cancer in severe cases.
The contaminants in the air are toxins that are entering your body as you breath. When these toxin levels are low, it is much easier to correct the problem. Over an extended period of exposure time, these toxin levels in the body can rise to dangerously high levels that are much more difficult to correct. Long-term exposure to poor air quality can result in serious respiratory diseases, hearing loss, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve these indoor air quality problems, while maintaining an airtight and energy efficient home. The first way to improve air quality is to limit the number of pollutants entering the home. You can reduce the number of VOCs and other indoor air contaminants by using as many organic, natural, and fragrance free products in the home as possible, and asking smokers to step outside before lighting their cigarettes.
Of course, it is impossible to completely eliminate all contaminants that enter the home, so it is necessary to be able to remove stale air from the house, and replace it with clean fresh air. In an airtight structure, this can be easily accomplished using mechanical air ventilation. There are inexpensive mechanical air ventilation systems that will connect directly to your existing HVAC system, allowing you to bring fresh, possibly filtered, air into your home. When used correctly, airtight homes can promote indoor air quality because you have complete control over the air entering your home.