Bend is starting its mandatory Home Energy Score policy, which goes into effect on July 1st. The primary goal behind this policy is to support Bend’s climate action plan. While the Home Energy Score encourages energy-saving conversations and home improvements, it’s worth noting that these upgrades can also contribute to a healthier indoor living environment for those homeowners who decide to make the updates. In this article, we will explore four key ways in which energy-efficient upgrades can enhance the health of your home.
- Improved Indoor Air Quality: One significant benefit of energy-efficient upgrades is the control they provide over air circulation within your home. When warm air rises, it creates higher pressure near the ceiling and lower pressure at the floor. If air leaks out into the attic, the low-pressure zones draw air from potentially unhealthy areas like crawlspaces or garages. Crawlspaces, often damp and dirty, can harbor mold, radon, dust, and moisture. Garages may contain harmful gases such as fumes from gasoline, exhaust emissions, and chemicals stored inside. Sealing air leaks along the ceiling, floor, air ducts, and between garages helps regulate the air source and contributes to a healthier indoor environment.
- Sealed Combustion Processes: Lower-efficiency gas furnaces and water heaters can draw air from within a house, burn it, and release the combustion byproducts up the chimney. However, leakages or backdrafts in these appliances and vents can introduce carbon monoxide and other harmful gases into the home. Although these gases might not reach levels that trigger smoke or carbon monoxide alarms, they can still be unhealthy. Higher-efficiency heating systems, equipped with sealed combustion, draw air from the outside and are less likely to pollute indoor spaces, ensuring safer air quality.
- Mold Prevention: Warm, moist air inside a home can condense into liquid moisture when it meets cold surfaces, potentially leading to mold growth. By adding insulation and sealing air leaks near insulation cavities, you can reduce the areas where condensation occurs, effectively minimizing the risk of mold formation. These measures not only enhance energy efficiency but also contribute to a healthier living space by keeping mold out of your home.
- Balanced Ventilation and Air Filtration: When a home undergoes air sealing for energy savings, it’s crucial to consider ventilation strategies. Implementing strategic air intakes, exhaust systems, and/or energy recovery ventilators, in conjunction with air filtration, can significantly reduce harmful gases, mold, and pollen indoors. This comprehensive approach ensures that fresh, filtered air is consistently circulated throughout your home, improving overall air quality and promoting a healthier living environment.
Over the past few years, I have personally worked to upgrade my 1970s home from a Home Energy Score of 4 to the highest score of a 10. Through the addition of insulation, air sealing, and ventilation enhancements, I have witnessed a remarkable improvement in the quality of the air inside my home. Utilizing an Airthings device to monitor Radon, Particulate Matter, Carbon dioxide, Humidity, and Volatile Organic Compounds, I have observed significant positive changes. Although it’s impossible to definitively measure the impact on my family’s health, it feels good to know I’ve taken these measures to protect my family.
Undertaking energy-efficient upgrades in your home, driven by the Bend Home Energy Score policy, not only helps support Bend’s climate action plan but also holds numerous benefits for your health. As homeowners, we have the opportunity to make our living spaces healthier by addressing air leaks, upgrading heating systems, preventing mold formation, and implementing proper ventilation strategies. By making these improvements, you contribute to a cleaner and safer indoor environment for you and your family while supporting a better outdoor environment for Bend.