Have you ever wondered if the air inside your home is as healthy as it could be? Many factors influence indoor air quality in our homes including smoking, cleaning habits, and air and moisture leaks. We spend a majority of our lives indoors, and the US’s Environmental Protection Agency has created a program that improves the air we breathe at home.
The Indoor airPLUS program is an extension of Energy Star rating standards. We explored Energy Star in my last post, and you can find that at this link. The two work hand in hand together and result in homes and apartments that are designed and constructed beyond code requirements. The lower energy and resource demand as well as improved indoor air quality are major differentiators of these homes vs. standard built homes.
A home must be designed to meet residential Energy Star certification standards before it is eligible for Indoor airPLUS. The additional design components that contribute to Indoor airPLUS include heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and avoiding indoor air contaminants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde. Many new and existing materials contain contaminants including VOCs and formaldehyde, so searching for alternate material sources is key. Almost all building materials, finishes, and furnishings have manufacturers who design their products with as few contaminants as possible. For renovation projects, it is important to consider existing conditions, since some materials emit indoor air contaminants as they age or break down.
Homes must be designed to have an air-tight and moisture-tight envelope to improve energy performance and prevent moisture and air infiltration. This approach reduces or avoids altogether the presence of mold and pests. As a result, fewer or no pesticides are necessary, which also improves the indoor air quality.
Additionally, combustion processes in heaters and other building systems should be minimized or eliminated. If combustion is necessary, any combustion systems should be vented properly which usually means vented to the outdoors. HVAC systems can be designed to be energy efficient as well as maintain comfortable indoor environments in terms of humidity and temperature.
Home projects gain Indoor airPLUS qualification via a third-party rating and verification process. Conveniently, this verification can be achieved simultaneously with the Energy Star inspection. This advantage can reduce the time and costs associated with verification. Only a RESNET-certified Home Energy Rater has the authority to complete these inspections. If the project passes inspection, it can use the Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS logos to show the homeowners’ commitment to healthier buildings.
Collaboration is a major theme in our sustainability discussions here on The Thread. Along those lines, for Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS, the homebuilder and the third party rater enter into an agreement. This Indoor airPLUS Partnership Agreement commits the project to higher building standards based on Indoor airPLUS criteria. After the agreement is signed, the building and rater attend training for which the EPA provides guidance.
Building owners and landlords should consider achieving Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS programs for their projects. The advantages of certification outweigh initial costs and effort. The main advantage of achieving certification is that the homes will be safer and healthier for the occupants. This advantage not only improves lives, but it also adds credibility to the program itself and the builder.
The occupants can enjoy healthier indoor air quality while enjoying lower utility costs brought about by the Energy Star certification. Imagine what a family can achieve with better health and a little extra money each month. These advantages are the unseen but extremely important results of Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS.
Homebuilders that choose to be an Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS partner can earn a reputation for providing families with healthier, more efficient homes. This reputation can set a building up for success and open a new market of customers that may not have been possible before. The demand and need for healthier indoor air quality is only growing. Builders can gain a following by showing a performance record of Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS certified homes. Developers and landlords are also aware of the increasing demand for energy efficient and healthy homes. They will seek out builders who can “speak the language” of and have experience with sustainability certifications and their accompanying processes.
The number of Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS rated homes and apartments continues to increase. Use this link to search for Indoor airPLUS and Energy Star partner companies and statistics for your area. At the time this blog was posted, the efforts of Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS have reduced CO2 emissions by 6,059 metric tons. There are numerous Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS projects across the country that contribute to lower energy consumption and healthier indoor environments.
Home builders and home buyers can easily arm themselves with the desire and information needed to build more sustainable homes via the Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS rating systems. Local building code officials can also look at the benefits of the certified homes and consider improving current code requirements to match Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS standards. We should all expect to see the Energy Star and Indoor airPLUS rating seal on many more products, buildings, and homes.