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Home is Where the Health Is: How Energy Efficiency Improves Your Quality of Life

shutterstock_156774086Energy efficiency is certainly not a new idea. The first windows, doors, and insulation were all energy-efficient measures of their respective times, as they were used to keep home occupants either warmer or shaded from the elements.

What we consider energy efficiency to be today, however, is a far cry from mere warmth or cooling. The benefits extend to improving our health, our budgets, and our carbon footprints.

Today’s blog will address what energy efficiency upgrades can do for your health.

Some quick facts about health and air quality, courtesy of www.leap-va.org:

  • The pollution inside your home is typically 2 to 5 times worse than the air outdoors.
  • This indoor air quality can cause or contribute to asthma, headaches, dry eyes, nose and throat issues, nasal congestion, nausea, and fatigue.
  • 40% of asthma episodes are caused by triggers in the home, which can include dust mites, pollen, mold, carbon monoxide, excessive carbon dioxide, and other chemical fumes.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental risks to public health.
  • Asthma is a national epidemic, affecting nearly 26 million Americans (including 7 million children!).
  • An average of one out of every 10 school-aged children has asthma, and 10.5 million school days are missed each year due to asthmatic episodes.
  • Many home energy improvements improve indoor air quality through air and duct sealing, proper ventilation, and the mitigation of moisture issues.

Energy efficiency retrofits in buildings (insulation and weatherization) create conditions that support improved health and well-being for the home’s occupants, pa
rticularly among vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing illnesses. The potential benefits include improved physical health (such as reduced symptoms of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions), rheumatism, arthritis, and allergies, as well as fewer injuries. Several studies that quantified total outcomes found benefit-cost ratios as high as 4:1 when health and well-being impacts were included, with improved health representing up to 75% of overall benefits. (Romm, 2014).

Further statistics from homeenergy.org (Tohn and Wilson, 2012) break down more specific ways that energy efficiency correlates with improved physical shutterstock_51124606health: weatherization and other comprehensive energy upgrade programs test for CO gas during energy audits and address high levels of CO by repairing or replacing appliances. In heating climates, 20% of heating systems and 30% of water heaters require tuning, repair, or replacement as part of an energy upgrade (Skumatz and Gardner, 2005). Nationally, over 60% of heating systems are fueled by gas, propane, or wood, all of which
can produce CO, and in some instances small particles that can irritate the respiratory system (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Energy upgrades that improve ventilation will ensure that more homes exhaust moisture in bathrooms and kitchens. The homes will also benefit if systems designed to pull in fresh air (heat recovery ventilators or energy recovery ventilators) are installed. Research conducted by the California Air Resources Board has shown that the air in homes with enhanced ventilation contains less formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and respiratory irritant (Offerman, 2009).
If you have concerns about your health, or the health of a family member in your home, consider having an energy audit in order to see what upgrades may benefit you. In an energy audit, an energy efficiency expert comes to your home and looks at the general makeup of your residence. It is at this time that certain tests may be performed, such as window and door assessment, attic evaluation, blower door testing, thermal imaging/infrared scanning, a duct system test, and CAZ (Combustion Appliance Zone) testing. This visit will enable the consultant to look at what our company can do to help make your home both more comfortable and more energy-efficient. Additionally, with protective measures that more effectively seal your home
and provide proper ventilation, you’re getting a one-two punch of efficiency on both personal and environmental levels.

A tertiary benefit achieved in upgrading your home is that your electric bill will be lowered, freeing up more money to spend on more nutritious food or medical care providers. Improved mental health (reduced chronic stress and depression), which is often a byproduct of lowered utility bills, is a further positive aspect of installing efficiency upgrades.

If you have any questions about energy audits or what benefits an energy efficiency package could provide for your home, please give us a call at 417-612-7092.