When you enter a house you assume it's safe, that the roof and walls will protect you from anything bad outside. That's true but more energy efficient houses are also more airtight. This results in fewer exchanges of air between the inside of your house and outside air, which is almost always healthier. So how can you insure that your healthy home, remains healthy?
When we talk about a healthy home, we're talking about everything inside your home. This includes the building materials used to build your home and all the furnishings and other items you bring into the house like cleaning supplies. A healthy home focuses on the air you breathe and the water you drink.
- Indoor airPlus is a government program focusing on new home features to protect your family from indoor air pollution, but most items on their checklist apply to existing homes as well.
- While WaterSense focuses on lowering water consumption, water quality is also addressed by the EPA which tests public water supplies, and consumer information for private drinking water wells.
A Healthy Home Means Breathing Clean Air
There is an Indoor airPlus verification checklist for new homes, and you'll be surprised at what's on the list. We'll start there, and then add items you typically bring with into your home.
- Radon is a radioactive gas you don't want trapped in your house. There are radon resistant features for new home construction, or if testing or if testing identifies a problem in an existing home, a radon vent pipe/fan is used to remove the gas.
- Combustion pollutants are emitted by fireplaces, heating/cooling systems and appliances. Indoor airPlus sets acceptable levels of emissions for these items, along with CO alarms and door closers for attached garages.
- Corrosion proof rodent/bird screens are required for openings that can't be fully sealed, except dryer vents.
- HVAC system requirements must be sealed properly, cannot reside over the garage and have minimum standards for filters and humidity control.
- Moisture control covering many home features from the basement to water penetration from outside your home, and hard-surface flooring in water prone living spaces like bathrooms and the laundry room.
- Building materials with reduced/no emissions including low-formaldehyde wood materials, low/no VOC paints and carpeting/padding/adhesives with CRI green label.
Tips for a Healthy Home
Don't assume your house is a healthy place, even if it's relatively new. Many products that you bring into your home contain harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, which can make family members sick. Unlike paint where you can smell the off-gassing, many of these chemicals are odorless. (Read: 10 Surprising Sources of Off-Gassing in Your Home and What You Should Do About It)
We can't give you a complete list of potential problems, so we'll illustrate the range of products you need to be concerned about. Don't be afraid to ask the question, “… is our house making a family member sick?”
- Formaldehyde found in paints, is also found in furniture, cabinets and other composite wood products.
- Asbestos maybe be used in older insulation, siding and even roofing materials.
- Lead can be found in older plumbing fixtures, paint, tile, window blinds and even backyard hoses. (Read: Why Lead Paint is Everyone's Problem)
- Mold and pests are the result of excess moisture, so you want to find and fix water problems quickly. (Read Many Factors Can Turn a House into an Unhealthy Place to Live).
- Cleaning and laundry products also pose problems. They're a good place to start learning how to be a smart, savvy homeowner who consciously decides what's good for your family!
Want to learn more? You're sure to enjoy the videos with Ed Begley and his family building a green house!