Can Weatherization Increase Indoor Air Pollution?

It’s only natural to worry about air pollution when you live in an urban area, but not all pollutants are found outdoors. Your home may harbor hidden air pollutants that can cause your family to suffer ill health and poor quality of life. Ironically, the more you weatherize your home to save energy, the more likely it is that your indoor air quality will decline. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort and energy efficiency in your Portland-area home, however. You can have an HVAC contractor evaluate your current system, and develop solutions that work for your family.

Types of Indoor Air Pollutants

Air pollutants include any airborne contaminants that can cause harm. They’re difficult to detect, because they are usually invisible and can be odorless. Here’s a look at some of the most common indoor air pollutants.

  • Radon: A gas that naturally arises from the earth. It can cause lung cancer.
  • Tobacco smoke: Secondhand smoke can be introduced directly to the home if tobacco is smoked indoors, or it may drift in from outside. Tobacco residue can accumulate on a smoker’s clothes and household surfaces, which also pollutes the area.
  • Biological contaminants: These include pollen, pet dander, and mold.
  • Carbon monoxide: This deadly gas is produced by combustion appliances like gas stoves.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): These are emitted by some household cleaners, personal care products, and building materials like paint, carpet, and composite wood products. They can be carcinogenic, and may cause neurological damage.

Indoor air pollutant levels rise in weatherized homes, because of the insufficient ventilation of the air.

Techniques for Ventilating Homes

A weatherized home is an energy-efficient home, and it’s better for the environment and your wallet. But as you improve your home’s weatherization, you should also check with an HVAC contractor about your ventilation system. A good ventilation system will curb indoor air pollution, without sacrificing your home’s energy efficiency. The main types of ventilation are spot and whole-house ventilation. Spot ventilation devices include localized solutions like exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms. These usually aren’t sufficient to make a significant impact on your indoor air quality, which is why your contractor may recommend a whole-house ventilation system. These systems are comprised of ductwork and fans to vent indoor air to the outside, and to introduce fresh air to the inside in a controlled manner.

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