Fresh Air
Fresh Air Ventilation Is The Key To A Healthy House

Fresh Air Ventilation Is The Key To A Healthy House

Today's designers and builders are creating homes that have all the creature comforts most homeowners demand. No longer are spas, great rooms, security systems, and multimedia centers reserved for the mansions of the rich and famous.

However, few people are demanding that their homes have adequate fresh air. After all, fresh air has no eye appeal. And, most homeowners-and professionals, assume houses just naturally have enough. Unfortunately, they're wrong.

At one time, adequate ventilation (the exchange of stale indoor air for fresh outdoor air) wasn't a real concern. Before the energy crisis of the 1970s, most houses weren't especially energy efficient. Gaps and openings in their structures were usually just left as they were-unsealed-so air passed freely through them. This often resulted in drafty houses-houses with too much ventilation.

But, because energy costs were low, heating and cooling the excessive incoming air didn't concern people too much. Today, houses are built much more tightly, so there's much less natural ventilation. As expected, these tight homes require less energy to maintain a comfortable room temperature. What was unexpected was the increased potential for unhealthy indoor air.

And the air in most houses is truly bad, often much worse than the air found in polluted cities. With little fresh air coming indoors to dilute them, the concentrations of noxious gases build up. Some of these gases are combustion by-products, such as carbon monoxide from gas and oil appliances and fireplaces. Other gases are released into the air (outgassed) from man-made and synthetic building, decorating, and cleaning products.

Outgassing chemicals are often irritating, sensitizing, carcinogenic, or mutagenic. No wonder increasing numbers of families in new homes report feeling sick with a wide range of symptoms and illnesses. However, most residential building codes still ignore the problem. Yet, at the same time, technology does exist to keep energy costs low-and still have improved indoor air quality. Having the correct amount of ventilation is important, but few homeowners or professionals know how to achieve it.

One book that demystifies ventilation is Understanding Ventilation: How to design, select, and install residential ventilation systems by John Bower. This large (over three pounds), illustrated, hard cover book deals with all aspects of exchanging air in houses in a down-to-earth style. There's information on common pollutants, how air moves, as well as natural, accidental, and controlled ventilation approaches.

Readers will find discussions of loose-versus-tight construction, descriptions of currently available equipment, and explanations on how to plan appropriate systems. Moisture concerns, climate considerations, and budget limitations are all addressed. Also covered are air filters and heat recovery ventilators (air-to-air heat exchangers). Appendices include an extensive glossary and a complete listing of product suppliers.

Bower (BS Purdue University, MA Ball State University) is the cofounder of The Healthy House Institute. He has worked as a house designer, builder, consultant, writer, and lecturer promoting healthier construction practices. He is author of The Healthy House: How to buy one, How to build One, How to cure a sick one and Healthy House Building: A design & construction guide.

Bower is coauthor of The Healthy House Answer Book: Answers to the 133 most commonly asked questions. In addition, he has produced the video Your House, Your Health: A non-toxic building guide.

For other news editorials, see; ionic air purifier.

Author Notes:

Mark Hindley contributes and publishes news editorial to  Learn more about air health and purifiers, plus allergies, molds and asthma and what to do about it.

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