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Is Your House Making You Sick?

1/22/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: indoor air quality

You shouldn’t have to choose between energy efficiency and good indoor air quality, but a new study in California reports that this may be the case for new home owners. The study, from the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board, found that 67 percent of California’s new homes don’t meet the state’s minimum standard for air exchanges and that 59 percent had formaldehyde concentrations that could cause cancer and chronic irritation.

cat by window
Indoor air can be more polluted than outside air, especially in new homes. Opening your windows is one way to encourage a stream of fresh air and improve indoor air quality. Photo By Susy Morris/Courtesy Flickr 

Airtight, energy-efficient homes generally have poor ventilation, which causes air contaminants to build up beyond recommended exposure levels. Opening windows and airing out your home may bring in a stream of fresh air, but the strain on your home’s heating and cooling systems can offset energy-efficient design.

If you keep your windows closed most of the year, you should install a mechanical ventilation system, which the study says is necessary to provide a steady stream of fresh outdoor air to your home. The study found that heat recovery ventilation systems performed better than ducted outdoor air systems.

Concerned? You can improve your home’s indoor air quality by removing as many pollutant sources as possible. Once you’ve done that, use an indoor air filter to capture what’s left. Check out these seven steps to cleaner indoor air.

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