Improving Indoor Air Quality: Creating a truly healthy home

The Environmental Center

Conversations about indoor air quality have long been part of building an energy efficient home. Now, increasing concerns about mold, radon, carbon monoxide, other allergens, and wildfire smoke are driving more attention to indoor air quality.

One way to improve indoor air quality is to build an airtight shell which will reduce how outside contaminants enter your home. This is a must when building an efficient home and ensures all the cracks and crevices for outside air, or even pests, to get into your home are sealed up.

Mechanical Ventilation

When a home is tightly sealed, it is important that occupants still have access to fresh air. This is where energy recovery ventilators (ERV) or heat recovery ventilators (HRV) come in. They bring fresh air into the home and reduce the need to heat or cool the incoming air.

HRVs and ERVs move incoming and outgoing air through a heat exchanger and recover the energy from the air leaving the home. When it is cold outside, they exchange the heat from the warm air leaving the house, to the cold incoming air. When it’s hot outside the fresh incoming hot air, exchanges heat to the cold air leaving the home. An ERV also exchanges humidity.

Check out Green Tour sites 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 to see an ERV or HRV in action.

Existing homes can also get an air quality upgrade. Air sealing the envelope of a house is a common energy retrofit practice that will also help to improve indoor air quality. In some cases, if tests show that home has been made tight enough, mechanical ventilation will be recommended. During an energy assessment, contractors will also perform radon and carbon monoxide tests and check combustion appliances.

Check out Green Tour site #5 for a home energy retrofit with an ERV.