By: Holly Haining-Zulieve/Mid-Coast Energy systems
Indoor Air Quality – Living in Maine can pose special challenges when it comes to indoor air quality. Winterizing and energy retrofits intended to make our homes as air tight as possible and keep cold air out during heating season, can also result in unintended consequences that may adversely affect our health. Many factors affect air quality; among them are indoor environmental pollutants, improper design, construction techniques, improper renovations, poorly executed energy efficiency design, improper use regarding humidifiers and un-vented heating devices. Even poor cleaning and maintenance practices can severely compromise the air that we breathe inside of our home or business.
Health problems caused by increased irritants and allergens can range from general symptoms of malaise (headaches, fatigue, irritability, nausea, dizziness and brain fog) to problems with asthma, sinusitis and other respiratory diseases.
- Tightness and Indoor Air Quality
Simply knowing that a home is relatively air tight does not by itself guarantee good air quality. The first 3-5 years after a home is built, all of the materials used in the construction of the house, are off-gassing and can leave nasty chemicals like formaldehyde in the air.
Negative health effects to low levels of pollutants are not only unknown in many instances; determined by the sensitivity of individuals to airborne irritants vary quite widely from one person to another. We know that some people respond with severe respiratory distress to even relatively small levels involving certain airborne mold spores.
- What can homeowners do to be proactive?
Reasonable indoor air quality precautions for weatherization retrofit projects on older homes include adding kitchen and bath vent fans if they were not present before. If radon levels are known to be high geographically, test for radon levels before and after the retrofit; seal basement cracks and gaps, and cover (and possibly vent) basement sump pits.
Consider installing a high-efficiency Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) to ensure optimal indoor air quality and comfortable living for energy-efficient construction.
How Do HRV’s Work?
HRV’s are commonly installed in highly energy efficient homes to provide a continuous fresh air stream throughout the year; an attractive solution for those dreading the return of spring’s seasonal allergy symptoms.
Spring pollen levels are consistently reported as medium to high in most of the United States. Tree pollens, such as birch, ash, maple, and oak, are especially prevalent in spring, becoming airborne and leaving a noticeable layer of pollen dust on cars and waterways. Humidity levels have also been elevated, boosting dust mite populations and mold growth.
(HRV/ERV) move stale & contaminated air from inside the house to the outdoors. At the same time they draw fresh oxygen-laden air from outside and distribute it throughout the house. Stale, polluted air is constantly being replaced by an equal quantity of fresh clean air.
As the two air streams pass through the unit they do not mix. They pass on either side of our exclusive and patented aluminum heat-exchange core in HRV’s, or enthalpic core in ERV’s transferring heating/cooling energy from the outgoing air to the incoming air. The efficiency of the HRV and ERV is so great that virtually none of the warm/cool air collected from your home is lost to the outside. In summer, HRV and ERV’s work in reverse – removing heat from the incoming air and transferring it to the outgoing air, to keep your home cool and fresh.