People spend more than 68% of time inside their homes. Allergens, indoor pollutants, radon, mold and mildew (as a result of trapped moisture) are significant causes of respiratory illness. Now, a newly released study from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offers new evidence linking energy efficiency upgrades to healthier living environments.
The DOE conducted an exhaustive literature review of more than 40 studies of home improvements around the world.
The report notes that “health-related outcomes include improved general health, reductions in some asthma symptoms, fewer cases of hypertension and upper respiratory risks, and some improvements in indoor air quality contaminants. One New Zealand study showed significant healthcare savings when uninsulated homes received energy upgrades.”
The study illustrates 4 key finding areas:
1. Enhanced energy efficiency upgrades have been shown to reduce indoor air contaminants linked to chronic illnesses. One small study of low-income home occupants also showed a reduction in healthcare costs among U.S. residents.
2. ‘Green’ new construction research indicate a reduction in healthcare utilization from occupants.
3. Enhanced ventilation in homes can dramatically reduce indoor air quality contaminants linked to chronic illnesses or respiratory risks.
4. Home upgrades showing the greatest promise for improved health include: in-room HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) air cleaners, replacement of gas stoves with electric stoves, and upgrades from older wood stoves to cleaner burning models. These upgrades help to reduce respiratory risks by reducing air contaminants (e.g., nitrogen dioxide; fine particulate matter).
You can download and read the full report here (PDF).