Breathe Easy at Home By Improving Indoor Air Quality

Published on December 21, 2018

Breathe Easy at Home By Improving Indoor Air Quality

Many homeowners are not aware of the potential health risks that can come with having poor air quality at home. By understanding the health concerns and causes of poor home air quality, homeowners can regain control of their home’s level of airborne pollutants and work to protect the health of everyone who lives in the home - especially those most vulnerable, such as children or the elderly.

Poor Air Quality is a Health Hazard

Exposure to pollutants has the possibility of causing health effects after just a single exposure, or after continual exposure. The remedy for people who have been immediately affected by exposure to air pollutants can sometimes be accomplished by simply removing the source of the pollution.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that exposure to some indoor air pollutants can accelerate or worsen the symptoms of certain diseases and ailments, in both immediate and long-term exposure cases. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those who have heart and lung conditions are the most susceptible to airborne pollutants, and as such may be the most negatively impacted from exposure in the air they breathe. This may include symptoms such as: headache, fatigue, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

The long term effects of airborne pollutant exposure can be equally or even more debilitating than the short term effects - it can even be fatal. Poor air quality, leading to the continual exposure of airborne pollutants over a long period of time may not have noticeable effects right away. However, it may be contributing to a larger health risk that is developing over time, such as certain respiratory diseases, heart disease, and/or cancer. Once again those most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, are at an increased risk of being negatively affected from continual airborne pollutant exposure. Children or adults with asthma are also at an increased risk of effects from both immediate and long term exposure.

For this reason, homeowners should be aware of who is at risk in their home, and should take the necessary precautions for keeping those at risk, and themselves, from being exposed to pollutants as much as possible.

Improving Airtightness Helps Improves Air Quality

By improving airtightness in a home, the amount of dangerous pollutants in the air can be significantly reduced or almost completely removed. The three main types of air pollutants are: biological pollutants such as mold and dust, chemical pollutants such as carbon monoxide and asbestos, and radiological pollutants such as radon.

Avoiding exposure to all three types of air pollutants in a home can be achieved by proper air sealing. The first step to properly air seal a home, is to first find every location where air can escape or intrude. This is done by having an Airtightness Test conducted by a Registered Energy Advisor.

By creating an artificial negative-pressure within the home that draws outside air into the interior, and through the use of technologies such as thermal imaging, a Registered Energy Advisor is able to locate every single point of air leakage, allowing for them to be properly sealed by either the homeowner or by a professional insulation company.

As an added bonus to improving airtightness, the home is also able to become more efficient and affordable, as less energy is required to heat or cool the home due to a more airtight building envelope. This means that the energy used to make a home comfortable can go further in keeping the home comfortable - lowering utility bills along with the homeowner’s carbon footprint.

Additionally, a Home Energy Assessmentcan also be carried out by a Registered Energy Advisor, providing the homeowner with not only an exact look into their homes level of efficiency, but also with a list of suggestions for improving home efficiency - including strategies for improving airtightness and ventilation that are specific to the home they assessed.

Identifying Poor Air Quality

A home that has poor air quality also has poor ventilation; causing a number of indications in the home that can help the homeowner notice something is wrong with their home’s air quality. The United States EPA lists signs that can help homeowners identify that their home is improperly ventilated. These include: moisture on the windows or walls from condensation, stuffy or smelly interior air, poorly maintained/dirty central heating and cooling appliances, and any areas where mold can grow on books, shoes, or other household items.  

Although these methods for identifying poor air quality and ventilation can be helpful in many cases, it is possible that exposure to airborne pollutants can still occur without any of these signs being present in the home. To be certain of a home’s level of air quality, a homeowner should book an Airtightness Test to determine if they need to improve airtightness or ventilation for the sake of reducing airborne pollutant exposure.

The Canada Greener Homes Grant offers home efficiency renovation grants up to $5,000.

Homeowners Canada-wide are eligible for the Canada Greener Homes Grant, announced on May 27, 2021. This new incentive offers up to $5,000 in grants for home efficiency retrofit renovations, plus a $600 reimbursement for pre- and post-work EnerGuide evaluations. Eligible retrofit scopes include home insulation, heating, doors, windows, photovoltaic solar panels, resiliency measures, and thermostats.

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