Building and Weatherization Blog

Insulation and Air Sealing Retrofits Improve Air Quality and Make Our Homes and Communities Healthier Places to Live

SMEDLEY-048The Harvard School of Public Health determined insulation retrofits improve public health and save lives. Here’s a link to the full study – http://www.ehjournal.net/content/2/1/4

The Harvard study was published in 2003 but its relevancy holds true today. The study was based on the average amount of homes built every year – 1.2 million – from 2001 to 2010. This means the study is based only on about 12 million homes and doesn’t take into account over 75 million homes already in existence. Imagine how great the numbers would be if it did! If these homes were all built, or retrofitted, to the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2000) standards, over 300 trillion BTUs (British Thermal Units – the most commonly used unit of energy/heat in homes) would be saved over the ten year period. Since this study was completed the IECC has been updated and made more stringent – which would make this study’s findings even greater! They then linked the amount of emissions saved from the reduced BTU requirement and found the public health benefits to be 60 fewer deaths, 2,000 fewer asthma attacks, and 30,000 fewer restricted activity days over the same period.
That’s a very scientific way to say this: increasing your home’s efficiency → reduces energy use → reduces burning of fossil fuels → reduces emissions and pollution → maintains and/or improves air quality → decreases deaths, asthma, and sickness due to poor air quality. This makes sense to me, but it requires the whole village to make a difference. Let’s start with your home.
What the study didn’t take into account was the air quality inside your home. When a home is poorly air sealed and under-insulated air flow is created between the living space and the wall cavity, crawlspace/basement, and attic. When this air passes through a wall or joist cavity it travels across insulation, dust, pollen, etc. When it escapes into the living space it now becomes air you and your family are breathing.
Americans are spending more of their time indoors than ever before. This is due to change in lifestyles, change in work environment, more home offices, etc. Incidences of asthma and respiratory issues in Americans have skyrocketed, too. It is more important than ever for our homes to be a healthy haven for our families. It starts with air sealing, insulation, and a knowledgeable company like DHS performing the upgrades.