Improve Your Home Air Quality with Ventilation and Air Sealing

Published on November 16, 2018

Improve Your Home Air Quality with Ventilation and Air Sealing

The air quality of your home is important. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, air within a home often contains concentrations of pollutants that amount to 2 to 5 times more than what is found in typical outdoor air. These pollutants can include invasive particles such as: allergens, dust, and fibreglass from wall insulation, as well as contaminants such as radon and formaldehyde. Repeatedly breathing polluted air within your home can lead you to express flu like symptoms, meaning you are being affected by “Sick Building Syndrome.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also states that those who are the most susceptible to the harms of breathing polluted air (newborns, older adults, and people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease) often spend more time indoors - continually breathing the harmful polluted air. With the recent legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, intrusive marijuana smoke also poses a concern to residents without proper ventilation and air sealing, in their home or multi-unit residential building.

The EPA outlines that due to the fairly recent introduction of energy efficient and air tight building construction, homes that do not have sufficient mechanical ventilation will experience a higher concentration of pollutants within their home. This means that both air tightness and an effective method of ventilation need to be used together to ensure that the air within your home is properly circulated and purified - working to keep pollution concentrations down and home air quality up.

Ventilation is Important!

Both tightly sealed and leaky homes are in need of proper ventilation. In a leaky home, outside air can find its way in through any number of holes or cracks. This also means that the air is being brought in through any number of unregulated points, and can carry harmful particles from your walls such as: mold, fibreglass from insulation, and dust mites. Proper ventilation can help to reduce the amounts of these particles, however it is best used in conjunction with air sealing to ensure the highest level of protection against intrusive pollutants or even cannabis smoke.

In an energy efficient and well sealed home, ventilation is necessary to prevent sealing in contaminants such as formaldehyde or radon. Helping also to control moisture and prevent mold growth, ventilation is important to homes of all efficiency levels and is possible through one of three strategies.

Basic Ventilation Strategies

The first strategy is that of Natural Ventilation. This is an unpredictable and uncontrollable way of ensuring pollutants are filtered out of your home, and involves allowing air to escape through unsealed cracks or small holes in the home. In a properly air sealed and efficient home this is not possible, as there would not be enough air exchanged to maintain air quality. To add to this, having a home that is naturally ventilated is often very drafty - lowering comfort and increasing money spent on utilities.

The second strategy is Spot Ventilation. This type of ventilation involves using localized exhaust fans, such as the ones you would find above a stove in a kitchen or in the ceiling of a bathroom. These are able to improve the effectiveness of both other ventilation strategies, as they can remove both indoor air pollution and moisture - reducing both amounts within your home.

The third strategy is Whole-House Ventilation. This type of ventilation is often used due to worries that natural ventilation is harmful to air quality. Whole-house ventilation uses fans and duct systems to remove stale air from inside the house, while drawing in fresh air through a controlled ventilation point. There are four types of whole-house ventilation systems, each with varying cost points and benefits, and can be compared to see which is most beneficial for your home.

Air Sealing Benefits and What to do Before You Begin

Air sealing is important for more than just helping you to get better air quality and energy efficiency. In a home that has too many leaks and poor air sealing, comfort can be negatively affected. This means an inconsistent temperature throughout the home, more money spent on heating and cooling to replace lost air, and undesirable air drafts.

Before starting to improve the amount of air sealing in your home, it’s important to contact a building envelope consulting firm, such as Barrier Sciences Group, and to have an air tightness test conducted. This allows our Registered Energy Advisor to locate every air leak within your home, and provide you with a complete list of possible energy saving options for you to take, ranked in order of cost-effectiveness. This may include things as simple as caulking leaky areas you may not be able to find yourself.

As was mentioned earlier, increasing air tightness to a certain degree can require stronger ventilation to maintain air quality. Through a comprehensive home energy assessment, our Registered Energy Advisors are able to determine and help you understand how much ventilation your home requires to keep air pollutants in check, and to speak to the energy efficiency of your entire home.

Knowing which route to take when trying to improve home air quality or energy efficiency can be a bit overwhelming. For this reason, it’s important to speak with a qualified professional who can correctly assess your home, and help you sort out which options will be the most beneficial as well as cost-friendly.

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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