How can an energy audit improve home health and safety?
Performing an energy audit on your home has benefits beyond saving money on your heating and cooling bills. An auditor will not only examine your home to find out where you are losing heat and wasting energy, but they will also reveal areas where you can improve home health and safety.
Air quality is an extremely important factor in keeping your home safe and healthy. According to an article published by the American Public Health Association, “Between 20 and 30 percent of asthma cases are linked to home environmental conditions.”
If the air quality inside your home is poor, it can actually make you sick!
What affects the air quality in your home?
Areas of your home that may be having a negative effect on the air quality of your living space include garages and basements. If these areas are not properly identified and treated, they can be contributing to poor indoor air inside your living space.
When a garage is attached to a home, and not properly sealed from your home, air from the garage can enter the home. A house acts like a chimney; warm air is constantly escaping through the top of your home and being replaced by the air that is coming in through the bottom floors. Since garages are located on first floors, or basements, the air in a garage is going to be drawn in and circulated throughout your home.
Importantly, if you warm up your car in the garage, even with the door open, the exhaust from your car will find its way into your home.
Professionally identifying and sealing off your garage from the rest of your home will also prevent other pollutants from finding their way into your living areas. Take a closer look at what is on the shelves in your garage and you may find:
- Combustible Fuel
- Paint thinner
- Volatile Organic Chemicals
Fumes from products like these can find their way into your home. An auditor can tell you how to effectively seal off your garage so that garage air stays put.
Basements often harbor another air quality culprit:moisture. Too much moisture inside a home leads to mold and mildew growth, which, in turn, can lead to respiratory problems.
Basements and crawl spaces in many older homes have dirt floors and this exposed earth causes excess moisture that makes its way into other areas of your home. Laying a simple vapor barrier over the dirt floor can alleviate most of the moisture.
Another important piece of advice is to avoid “airing out” your basement on humid days. Many people see the summertime as an opportunity to open windows in a basement in the hopes of freshening it up. This is a bad idea. Humid air will enter, and when windows and doors are shut,excess moisture will be locked in.
If you want to open basement windows, pick a dry day in early spring or late fall when humidity is almost nonexistent.
Removing as much moisture from the air in your basement as possible will improve the air quality of your entire home. Run a dehumidifier and consider upgrading your water heater to a heat pump water heater. Heat pump hot water heaters have a dehumidifying effect as they draw heat from the surrounding air.
Boilers or furnaces which rely on combustion to produce heat, can also pose a risk to your health and safety within your home. An energy audit can identify simple fixes to problems such as excessive carbon monoxide in the flue gas, combustible materials located too close to your heating system, and insufficient combustion draft in your flue.
If you have a propane oven, it is important to keep it clean and in good condition. An ill-functioning stove can exhaust high levels of carbon monoxide into your home during operation, leading to dangerous conditions.
Many propane companies will service and clean your stove to ensure it is in proper working order.
It is also extremely important to keep updated carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, and, without a detector there is no way of knowing if you are breathing it in.
The Benefit Of An Audit
One of our HEAT Squad auditors, Corey, explains an energy audit as a way to see how your home is actually performing.
Much like when you test drive a car, an energy audit reveals the functionality of your home and, how all of its systems are working in conjunction with each other, in a way that regular home inspection would not.
Every home is unique and only an energy audit will reveal the potential hazards, as well as the areas for improvement within the dwelling. Our auditors have performed hundreds of audits in Vermont over the last seven years and they can attest that no two houses are the same.
Houses can be built in the same year and have an identical exterior look, yet have completely different challenges and areas in need of improvement. Each home has its own unique quirks!
Do It Yourself Or Get Some Help
Having an energy audit performed on your home does not automatically mean you have to spend large amounts of money on huge improvements. Many times our auditors can recommend measures that a homeowner can install with a trip to the hardware store and a dose of elbow grease.
Removing certain hazardous chemicals from basements and garages (such as weed killer or gas cans) or keeping flammable objects away from boilers and furnaces are small changes that can have a big impact on safety.
If an audit reveals that more substantial improvements are needed,our HEAT Squad auditors are there to help you with the next steps. You will receive an energy audit report and recommendations on the same day as your audit!
An energy auditor can give you contractor recommendations as well as provide access to incentive monies from Efficiency Vermont to help offset the cost of improvements, as well as discuss affordable energy improvement loans, if the changes require an investment.
Audits from the HEAT Squad are $150 for buildings up to 3500 sq. ft. and can be performed on single family homes as well as apartments and other dwellings (for buildings over 3,500 sq. feet, there may be an additional fee).
Would you like to improve the health and safety of your home? Give us a call at 802-438-2303. Our auditors are friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and they want to see you living in a safe and healthy home!