Energy Conservation And Health Issues Related To The Home Environment

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Title:
Energy Conservation And Health Issues Related To The Home Environment
Physical Description:
Fact sheet
Creator:
Cook, Gary D.
Publisher:
University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
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Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status:
Published
General Note:
"Publication date: July 1991."
General Note:
"EES-67"

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the submitter.
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IR00004815:00001


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FactSheetEES-67 July1991 EnergyConservationandHealthIssuesRelatedtothe HomeEnvironment1 GaryD.Cook2Publicconcernabouthealthybuildingshave evolvedovertheyears,startingperhapswiththe Legionnaire'sDiseaseinPhiladelphia.Concernbuilt aftertheNewYorkLoveCanalexperienceandrecent problemswithureaformaldehydeinsulation,asbestos, formaldehydeemission,andradon.Severalfactors maypromotetheso-called"sickhouse"syndrome. Twomainonesare:(1)thephysicsand characteristicsofthehouseconstructionanddesign and(2)thelifestyleoftheoccupants.Thegeological locationofthebuildingmayalsohaveaninfluence, especiallyregardingradongasandground-borne pollution.SICKHOUSESYNDROMESickhousesyndromeisaseriousairquality probleminhomesandworkplaces.Anareacanbe describedas"sick"mainlybecausepeopledevelop symptomsofillnesssuchasheadaches,wateryeyes, nausea,skindisordersandfatiguewhenspending considerabletimewherethereisabuildupofair pollutantsfromhouseholdproducts,building materials,formaldehydeand/orrespirableparticles. Signsofasickhouseincludeamusty,stuffysmelland otherlingeringodors.Moisturebuildupplaysalarge partsincehighhumidityincreasestheemissionsof odorsandchemicalssuchasformaldehyde,andit promotesthespreadofmildewwhichcanaggravate orcauseallergies. Theoilcrisesin1973-74and1980-81spawnedthe developmentofsuper-tighthousesinaneffortto makehomesmoreenergyefficient.Therehavebeen outcriesfromconsumeradvocateswhobelievesupertighthomesdonotprovideadequateoutside ventilation,andthereforeallowmoldsandairborne pollutantstoaccumulateinthehome.Research sponsoredbytheFloridaDepartmentofCommunity Affairssuggeststhereisnocorrelationbetweentight housesandhealthproblems;occupantsoftighthomes arenomorelikelytohavehealthproblemsthanthose inleakyhomes. Evenso,sometightlybuilt,well-insulatedand vapor-sealedhousescandevelopsignsofasickhouse duringwintermonthsinmoderateandcoldclimates. Thecureisventilation,becausecoolairholdsless moistureandreplacesairwithmoistureand contaminants.Inwarm,humidclimatessickhouse problemscanoccurduringsummermonthswhen outsideairisverymoist.Infiltrationandventilation, whichbringinhumidoutsideair,mayincrease mildewandothermoisturerelatedproblemswhenair conditioningdoesnotprovidesufficient 1.ThisdocumentisFactSheetEES-67,aseriesoftheFloridaEnergyExtensionService,FloridaCooperativeExtensionService,InstituteofFood andAgriculturalSciences,UniversityofFlorida.Publicationdate:July1991. 2.GaryD.Cook,AssistantProfessorandEnergyExtensionSpecialist,SchoolofBuildingConstruction,CooperativeExtensionService,Institute ofFoodandAgriculturalSciences,UniversityofFlorida,GainesvilleFL32611. TheFloridaEnergyExtensionServicereceivesfundingfromtheFloridaEnergyOffice,DepartmentofCommunityAffairsandisoperated bytheUniversityofFlorida'sInstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciencesthroughtheCooperativeExtensionService.Theinformation containedhereinistheproductoftheFloridaEnergyExtensionServiceanddoesnotnecessarilyreflecttheviewsoftheFloridaEnergyOffice. TheInstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciencesisanequalopportunity/affirmativeactionemployerauthorizedtoprovideresearch,educational informationandotherservicesonlytoindividualsandinstitutionsthatfunctionwithoutregardtorace,color,sex,age,handicap,ornational origin.Forinformationonobtainingotherextensionpublications,contactyourcountyCooperativeExtensionServiceoffice. FloridaCooperativeExtensionService/InstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciences/UniversityofFlorida/ChristineTaylorStephens,Dean

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EnergyConservationandHealthIssuesRelatedtotheHomeEnvironment Page2dehumidification.Inmostcases,theidealrelative humidityrangeisbetween37and55percent.AIREXCHANGEPROBLEMSInfiltrationistheunintentionalentryofoutside airthroughconstructiondefectsaroundelectrical wiring,piping,soleplates,walloutlets,windows,and ductsystems.StudiesdonebyTexasPowerandLight Companyin1977foundthatforatypical1730 square-foothome,mostairleakageoccursaroundthe soleplate(usuallya2x4boardinsidethewall connectedtothefloor),withwalloutletsaclose second,followedbyductsystemsandexteriorwindow leakages). Tocombatinfiltration,therecommendedenergy efficientapproachistomakethehouseastightasis practical.Thisincludescaulkingunderthesole plates,gasketingunderwalloutletcovers,caulking aroundwiresandpipespenetratingthetopplate(the topportioninsidethewallthatconnectstothe ceiling),andsealingaroundwindowsanddoors. Ductsystemlossesareasignificantproblem, contributingtobothmoistureproblemsandhealth problems.Insomecases,connectionsintheduct system(usuallyintheattic)separatecausingtheair conditioningsystemtobecomeunbalancedand contributingtogreatenergylosses.Checkthese connectionsforleaksandretapeorseal,ifnecessary. Theoccupant'slifestylehabits,suchasclosing bedroomdoorsatnight,canalsochangetheair conditioningbalanceofahome.Thismaycutoffa returnairgrill,increasingairpressureinthebedroom andsubsequentlyincreasingairlossaswell.Thisalso createsagreatervacuumintherestofthehouse, causingmoreairinfiltration.Inareassusceptibleto radonentry,thismayexacerbatepotentialradon problemsbycreatingexcessivenegativepressure insidethehome.COMBATTINGAIREXCHANGEPROBLEMSOccupantsoftighthouseswhofeeltheyhavean occasionalairexchangeproblem,particularlywhen usinghouseholdcleaningagentsorpesticides,havea simplesolution.Byperiodicallyopeningawindowor door,largeamountsofnaturalventilationwilloccur. Theheatingandairconditioningsystemshouldbe turnedoffandthehouseopeneduptonatural ventilationanytimetheweatherismoderate (temperaturesintherangeof68to80degreesF relativehumidity30-60%). Thereareotherprudentstepsthebuilderor designercantaketoreducesusceptibilitytoinsideair pollutionandairbornedisease.Oneistoprovidea conditioningsystemthatefficientlyremovesthe moistureinthehome.Thismeansdesigningtheair conditioningsystemandnotjustusingtheruleof thumbof1tonfor500squarefeet. Buildersanddesignerstendtooversizeair conditioningsystems.Whensystemsareoversized, humiditylevelstendtoremainhigh,therebyproviding afavorableclimateforcertainairbornediseasesto breed.Infact,itisprobablybettertoundersizethan tooversizeairconditioningsystemsinFlorida.Units runninglongertendtoremovemorehumidity becausetheaircomesincontactwiththecoldcoilfor alongertime,thusremovingmoremoisturefromthe air. Anotherapproachusesairconditioningsystems employingdevicessuchasvariablespeedfansorheat pipehumidityremovalsystemsspecificallydesigned forhumidityremoval. Aredflagshouldbewavedregardingsuper-high efficiencyair-to-aircoolingsystemsorheatpump systemswithseasonalenergyefficiencyratios (SEER's)greaterthan10.ThehighertheSEER,the greaterthecoolingefficiency.However,someof thesesystemsachievetheirhighefficiencybymoving moreairoverawarmerevaporatorremovingless humidityfromtheair.Thisisnotageneral statementacrosstheboard.Therearesomehigh efficiencyheatpumpandcoolingsystemsthatdo removehumiditywell,includingmanyofthewater-toairheatpumps.Thehomeownerorbuildershould verifythiswithamechanicalcontractor.TIPSFORTHEHOMEOWNERThereareprudentactionsthehomeownerand buildercantaketoremoveindoorairpollutants. Oneistocarefullyselectdraperies,carpets, furnishingsandbuildingmaterialsusingfabricsthat arenotpronetomoistureabsorption.Some untreatedcottonstendtoabsorbupto20%oftheir weightinmoisture,creatingafavorableenvironment formoldandmildew.Manufacturersshouldbeable tosupplyinformationonmoisturesusceptibilityof theirproducts. Inaddition,manyfabricshavedyesthatarefixed byformaldehyde,andmaybedetectedbysmelland eyeirritation.Thisformaldehydeislaterreleased

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EnergyConservationandHealthIssuesRelatedtotheHomeEnvironment Page3intothehouse.Formaldehydeisknowncarcinogenic. Thisthreatcanbereducedbyprewashingthefabric priortoinstallation,oragainthroughwiseselection offabricsandmaterial. Interiorgradeplywoodsandparticleboardsfor homeconstructionshouldbechosenwithdiscretion. Someinteriorgradegluesuseexcessiveformaldehyde whichisreleasedtotheair.Generally,thereareno problemswiththeuseofexteriorgradeglues.Ifthe houseisknowntohavehighlevelsofformaldehyde, usingtheheatingsystem(athermostatsettingof86to 92degreesF)inthesummertimecanoftenbakeout someofthisformaldehyde.Ofcourse,thisshouldbe donewhenthehouseisunoccupied.Thereisalso evidencetosuggestthatbroadleaftropicalplants, suchasphilodendronsandelephantears,filter formaldehydefromtheair.RADONRadonisreceivingalotofmediaattentionandis amatterforpublicconcern.Excessivelevelsofradon havebeenlinkedtolungcancer.Thereare18 countiesinFloridahavinghomeswithsignificant levelsofradon.Mostofthesecountiesarelocated fromPascoandPinellascountiesnorthwardthrough Marion,AlachuaandColumbiacounties.(Contact yourcountyExtensionofficeforfurtherdetailsin publicationEES-45, Radon:(TheGas,Threat, Detection,andControl). Radontendstoenterhomesthroughcracksinthe foundationandfloorsystems.Providingfor ventilationundercrawlspacesandsealingtheslab andfoundationsystemsisonewaythebuildercan reducetheradonthreat.Airconditioningpipingand plumbingoftenpenetratevaporbarriersnormally placedundertheslaborflooringsystems.This providesentryroutesforradon.Sealingthesepipes withcaulkingwheretheycomeoutofthefloorwill lessenthechanceofradonintrusion.Maintainingthe integrityofaplasticvaporbarrierundertheslabis alsoimportant.Toooftenwiremeshplaceddirectly ontopoftheplasticmembraneiswalkedonbythe concretefinishersorpulledupwiththeirrakes, causingholesinthisvaporbarrierandpermitting entryofradon.LIFESTYLESLifestylescanalsopromotecertainairborne diseases.Dirtyairconditioningfilterswillaccumulate dustmitesandcancontributetoanunfavorable householdclimate.Makesurethatthecondensate drainontheairconditioningsystemiscleanandfreeflowing.Thisisimportanttoreducehumidityinthe homeandtohelppreventmoldandmildewbuildup inthedrainpan.Changingthefiltersintheair conditionerregularly,wipingdownshowerstallsand runningtheshowerexhaustfansduringandforten minutesafterashowerorbathwillreducemoisture andmildewbuildup. Avoidopeningupthehouseduringperiodsof excessivehumiditysuchasbetweenmidnightand dawn,orduringorafterthunderstorms,when materialswithinthehousetendtoabsorbexcessive amountsofmoisture.Somematerialsabsorbupto20 percentoftheirweightinwater. Reducemoisturesourcesinhot,humidclimates: Userecommendedminimumsofwaterinthe cementmixforconcreteslabs,foundations,floors, andwalls. Allowconcretetocure/drybeforepainting. Waterproofexteriorbuildingsurfaceswithagood sealantafterdrying/ Allowinteriorsurfaces/sheetrocktothoroughly drybeforepaintingorwallpapering. Useexteriorinfiltrationbarriers,notvapor barriers. TrytocontrolinfiltrationandprovideanymakeuporventilationairthroughtheACsystem. Donotuselowpermvinylwallcoveringson exteriorwalls. Properlysizecoolingsystems(don'toversize). Considerusinganenergyefficientheatpipeor desiccanttechnologyforairconditioningreheat. Installnon-atomizing,low-flowshowerheads. Installtubsandshowerstodrainproperlyandnot puddlewater.

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EnergyConservationandHealthIssuesRelatedtotheHomeEnvironment Page4 Wipedownshowerwallsafteruseandhang towelsoutsidetodry. Drywetfloors,countertops,sinksandspills. Storemopsandwettowelsandclothingoutside. Moveplantsoutdoorsorusesparinglyfor decorationinnaturallyventilatedareas. Operateexhaustfansonatimerduringandfora shortperiodafterbathingorshowering. Usekitchenexhaustfanssparingly. Inspectroofsannuallyandrepairasnecessary. Useceilingfansandwholehousefanswhendew pointtemperatureisunder60degreesF. Closefireplacedamperswhennotinuse.REFERENCESNorthCarolinaStateUniversity,Agricultural ExtensionService, QuestionsAboutIndoorAir Pollution,October,1989. Peart,M.VirginiaandCook,GaryD. SickBuildings: MoistureandMildew,correlationandPrevention Proceedingsofthe26thAnnualConferenceofthe AssociatedSchoolsofConstruction,April8-10, 1990,pp.203-212. TexasEnergyExtensionService. AirLeakage Reduction,(TexasPowerandLight)June,1989. Tooley,J.J.Jr.andN.A.Moyer,N.A. IndoorAir QualityinResidentialHousing,MechanicalAir DistributionandInteractingRelationships.MadAir. FloridaSolarEnergyCenterWorkshop Air QualityinHomes.1989.