A Healthy Home and a Healthy Bottom Line

There has been a lot of interest of late in the weatherization and broader home performance community in putting a value on the health benefits of weatherization. We’ve come a long way in the last several years and have reached, I think, some strong consensus that the health benefits of weatherization and home performance retrofits are real and valuable. This means that making healthy housing a part of your business plan makes good sense.

E4TheFuture is a nonprofit organization working to advance safe, efficient energy solutions with a focus on residential customers. The organization published a white paper in November that summarizes scientific study and makes a solid argument for adding increased occupant health to weatherization and home retrofit work scopes. Key findings in the white paper include the following.

  • Occupants can experience fewer asthma symptoms and respiratory related ED visits after EE.
  • Occupants report better physical and mental health after EE.
  • Programs delivering EE with added home repairs and client education can produce more significant improvements in asthma symptoms and indoor environmental conditions.
  • Improvements in occupant health are strongest among vulnerable groups: lower income households and residents with pre-existing health conditions linked to housing risks.
  • Whole house ventilation strategies using heat or energy recovery ventilators (HRVs or ERVs) can reduce asthma and respiratory symptoms in children with pre-existing risks. Such strategies are increasingly being considered in EE programs.
  • Homes receiving EE can experience increases in radon or formaldehyde; ventilation systems may offer the potential to reduce radon in such homes.

The full white paper, “Occupant Health Benefits of Residential Energy Efficiency” is available in PDF for download here.

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Comment by Steven Lefler on December 14, 2016 at 5:05pm

A Builder/homeowner should be the responsible party. If you sell your home you should offer the prospective buyer a completed test as part of the disclosure process. The disclosure snapshot should eliminate any future issues about what levels of contamination. Formaldehyde is used in manner different products like insulation/glues/adhesives as a chemical composition binding agent. 


Comment by Jonathan Wilson on December 14, 2016 at 10:37am

I share the concerns about formaldehyde and agree we must be taking action to reduce the levels in the homes we work in and live in. One point of clarification is that current energy efficiency practice rarely introduces formaldehyde into the home. Building products (like composite wood cabinetry) and consumer products (like air fresheners) are the main sources of formaldehyde in our homes. When homes are tightened without adequate ventilation, more formaldehyde that off-gasses from these products is trapped in the home. We can take action:

*We should make sure the new EPA Formaldehyde in Composite Wood Products rule that was finalized on Monday is enforced.

*We should make sure that ASHRAE 62.2 is met after energy efficiency work, and

*We should support further research on cost-effective methods to reduce formaldehyde and other contaminants as part of home performance.

Comment by Steven Lefler on December 12, 2016 at 11:09am

To often, Home inspectors, real estate, or transaction disclosures, or buyers do not check the formaldehyde levels existing in their newly purchased home or existing home. When one adds furniture, carpet and other households items the theory of contamination increases. Good air exchanges does reduce the levels however their is NO concern at time by home builders to disclose levels or improve air exchanges.

Comment by Kobus Niemand on December 8, 2016 at 6:05am

Thanks for the download! Great paper, 

  • Homes receiving EE can experience increases in radon or formaldehyde; ventilation systems may offer the potential to reduce radon in such homes.

This is absolutely shocking to me, I wouldnt even want trace amounts of formaldehyde in my home, thats just crazy!


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