by Amanda Lee
As the saying goes, the home is where the heart is. As it turns out, it is also where your lungs breath in for the majority of your day. If your home struggles with poor indoor air quality (IAQ), you and others in your home are more likely to experience allergy symptoms, eye irritation, difficulty breathing, and other health issues.
Here is the good news: it is possible to build a better indoor environment. In this article, we will explore how homeowners building a new home or remodeling their current one can not only avoid major IAQ mistakes but can actually work proactively to make their home’s air more breathable.
Building a new house is an exciting process for any soon-to-be homeowner. Yet, with all the things to do and focus on, indoor air quality can get lost in the mix. However, paying attention to IAQ during the planning and construction phase can make a big difference. Here is why:
The best time to add ventilation is during the design phase
When it comes to improving your indoor air quality, ventilation is the one thing you want to build into the design of your home ahead of time. This means installing windows that can be opened, adding extra fan in bathrooms and thinking ahead about the ductwork in your home and how air is circulated to individual rooms and spaces.
Check what materials are being used
Unfortunately, many of the homes built today are constructed using chemicals and materials that can negatively impact your indoor air quality, right off the bat. Here are just a few of the chemicals to be on the lookout for:
- Formaldehyde: This irritant can be found in many finished wood products. Be sure to ask your cabinet installer is formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing of your kitchen cabinets.
- VOCs: Carpet glue, surface finishes like paints and stains, and a host of other products can contain these irritating chemicals, which can cause all kinds of air quality issues in your home down the road.
- Resins & Sealants: If you have new kitchen or bathroom counters, be aware that they may be sealed with chemicals and resins that negatively impact your indoor air quality.
Have IAQ solutions installed from the start
In so many ways, a new home represents a fresh start for you and your family. The same principle should apply to the air you breathe. With this in mind, have your local HVAC contractor install a whole-home air purification system before you move in. Right from the start, you will have the peace of mind that comes with clean, breathable air.
Consider your HRV/ERV options
By installing a HRV or ERV system in your new build, you can make your new home more energy-efficient and improve your indoor air quality at the same time. Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) and Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) setups both take air from within your home and use it to pre-treat incoming ventilation air, adjusting the humidity and temperature as needed. This makes your home more comfortable and reduces the workload on your HVAC systems. A heat recovery unit can capture up to 95% of the heat otherwise lost in exhausted air.
During construction, ask your home builder about your HRV / ERV options. There are several types of these ventilation systems, each with their own advantages, disadvantages, and installation parameters. Homeowners looking to add a HRV / ERV setup to an already existing home have plenty of options, as well, as these systems provide a great one-two punch of energy savings and improved indoor air quality.
Remodels & Home Additions
If you are planning a major home remodel, you need to take your indoor air quality into account. Here are just a few ways you can design with your IAQ in mind:
Breathing easier should be on the agenda
If you are a homeowner who struggles with issues related to poor indoor air quality, your home remodel should take improving the air you breathe into account. Here are some ways to go about doing just that:
- Ventilation: Whether you are adding a bathroom or just sprucing one up, do not forget to install powerful ventilation fans to help quickly remove odors, cooking smoke, and excess humidity. A ceiling fan can also keep air circulating in any room of your home.
- Windows: Nothing beats natural, fresh air when the weather is right. Choose windows that you can open so that the remodeled part of your home can take advantage of outdoor air.
- IAQ Systems: Make room in your remodeling budget for an air purification system. The EPA recommends that you look at systems that can simultaneously handle a large amount of air and remove a large percentage of particulates.
Keep your air clean throughout the remodel
Ironically, even if you are adding IAQ-friendly additions as part of your remodel, the act of remodeling itself can be a potent source of bad indoor air quality. Knocking down drywall, removing insulation, and pulling up tile all can lead to an increase in dust throughout the home. Adding or removing paint also adds pollutants. Make sure you wear proper protection while working in your home, and make use of windows, doors, and fans for ventilation.
Use ductless for home additions
For homeowners who are making an addition to the home—such as a new garage, sunroom, or guest house—consider using a ductless HVAC system to cool and heat those spaces. As the name implies, ductless units do not require new ductwork to be installed connecting your existing ducts to the new space. This can be a big money saver for additions attached to your pre-existing home. It also offers a comfort solution for a separate addition detached from the main building.
Ductless units allow you to control the comfort in these spaces independently from the rest of your home. These systems are also generally more energy-efficient than standard duct-based HVAC setups. There is another benefit you should really know about: by not linking ductwork to that new space, you will reduce the amount of dust and other particulates that travel to that room. That means easier breathing for you and your guests.
What to do after the dust clears
Once your new home construction or remodeling project is complete, there is even more you can and should do to improve your indoor air quality. Here are just a few action items for homeowners to consider:
- Schedule regular HVAC tune-ups: Cooling and heating maintenance is a critical piece of the air quality puzzle. Not only does a seasonal checkup help your air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump run at its best, but having a technician clean out the system can prevent dust and dirt from getting into your circulated air.
- Get your air ducts cleaned: Your home’s air ducts can act as a holding area for dust, dirt, grime, pollen, and much more. When you turn on your air conditioning or heating, all that particulate matter gets blown into the living spaces of your home. By having a professional clean out your air ducts on a regular basis, you can help ensure that the dust, dirt, and pollutants are being removed from circulation.
- Consider an indoor air quality assessment: If you have followed the tips above, you should have improved your home’s indoor air quality. However, if you still have concerns, you can opt to schedule an IAQ assessment from a trusted, local air quality business. This may reveal further areas for improvement. You may also consider establishing a baseline by scheduling a pre-assessment prior to your construction or remodeling project and then another one after, so you can benchmark just how much your indoor air has improved!
Talk to an expert
By following the tips outlined in this article, you can help make your home a better place to live, cook, sleep, and spend time with your friends and family.
However, keep in mind that every home and situation is different. For an individualized assessment of your home’s IAQ and personalized recommendations, contact a local IAQ expert in your area. Many HVAC companies now have such professionals on-staff, ready to meet with homeowners and put them on the path to better indoor air quality.
Amanda Lee is the senior editor and communications specialist at King Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, a professional HVAC & duct cleaning company in Oak Forest, IL. Besides HVAC topics, she also enjoys writing about home building and indoor air quality as she has been working within the HVAC industry for more than ten years.
Read the full article in the January digital edition of Healthy Indoors Magazine at: https://hi.healthyindoors.com/i/1076124-hi-jan-2019/49