Sealing the Deal on a Healthy Home
3 ways to improve energy efficiency, air quality—and quality of life for your family
We’re all familiar with how improving the energy efficiency of your home can mean additional savings.
But did you know that energy efficiency (EE) improvements can provide your family with a healthier place to live? The connection between saving energy and staying healthy may not be obvious—at least not until you understand the impact energy inefficiency can have on the air inside your home.
The cost of inefficiency: your family’s health
If you’re like most Americans, your family spends about 90% of their time indoors, breathing indoor air. So of course you want that indoor air at home to be clean and free from pollution, allergens, and mold and mildew.
But here’s the thing: wherever air can sneak in and out of your home—around doors and windows; next to plumbing, ducts, and wiring; through electrical outlets and light switches—so can pollutants, allergens, and moisture that lets mold and mildew thrive.
So if your home is not energy efficient—if it is not well insulated, well-sealed, and properly ventilated—chances are your indoor air quality is not what it should be. Your family could be suffering the consequences, from headaches to allergic reactions to aggravated asthma symptoms.
Health benefits go hand in hand with EE
Scientific studies have shown that making energy efficiency updates to your home can reduce indoor air contaminants, control dust mites and mold that can trigger allergic reactions, keep the home at a safe temperature, and improve the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
In 2016, the Department of Energy published a report titled “Home Rx: The Health Benefits of Home Performance” that sums up a trend found across multiple studies—that after making some basic weatherization and EE improvements to their homes, many people reported:
- Improvements in overall health
- Improvements in mental health
- Fewer headaches, less fatigue
- Fewer respiratory symptoms
- Improvements in blood pressure or other cardiovascular issues
It’s easy to imagine how reduced symptoms can lead to fewer missed days at work or school, fewer visits to the doctor—and reduced medical costs.*
3 ways to improve EE and air quality
There are three types of EE improvements that need to be balanced in order to improve indoor air quality and create a healthier environment for your family:
- Securing your home against outside elements
- This involves weather stripping and caulking, for instance.
- Improving your ventilation
- This includes a wide range of measures, including using HEPA filters to prevent pollutants and allergens of a certain size from circulating through your HVAC system, properly venting fans in the bathrooms and installing a whole-house ventilation system that mechanically pulls fresh air in and pushes stale air out.
- Managing moisture
- Installing insulation with moisture management capabilities is one of the most important things you can do.
As you can see, the steps to creating a healthier, more efficient home range from the simple and inexpensive to interconnected, whole-house improvements. There’s nothing wrong with starting small—simply installing weather stripping around doors and windows can make a difference. (Read about some other easy and affordable measures here.)
Energy (and financing) experts are here to help
Programs like Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), or a similar program from your local utility can guide you in making the improvements that best fit your home—and your budget. These programs can also help you find opportunities to lower the costs of improvements.
Home loans, such as Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle® Energy Mortgage, are available to help you cover larger or more extensive EE improvements. With your family’s health on the line, we’re here to help put energy efficiency within your reach.
* Initial research with a small group of Medicaid-insured study participants in Washington state backs up the connection between energy efficiency improvements and decreased asthma-related medical costs. Another study has found evidence that in the year after making EE improvements to their homes (specifically upgrading insulation), people with asthma or other preexisting respiratory diseases were 38% less likely to be admitted to hospitals. Participants also reported fewer days missed at work for adults and at school for children due to illness.