The Next Frontier: Why Indoor Air Quality Must Be Part of the Energy Efficiency Discussion
In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a study to assess the trade-offs between energy, indoor air quality and comfort objectives for HVAC systems to help formulate strategies that would achieve superior performance. Through this study, the agency found that heating and cooling buildings uses a lot of energy, and producing it requires burning fossil fuels, which contributes to air pollution and generates large amounts of greenhouse gases that harm the quality of our air.
When building owners and operators work to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, they typically do so through air sealing and other techniques to reduce the escape of air. But as buildings undergo this type of transformation to save energy, they may experience unintended indoor air quality problems. For example, consider an older multi-unit apartment that undergoes a renovation or retrofit project. If lead and asbestos are present during this process, it can become a serious health risk to other building occupants who also shared the space.
The conversation must shift back to a holistic strategy that improves both energy efficiency and indoor air quality in the home, without sacrificing one for the other. One resource that serves as a guide to help businesses and homeowners evaluate products and solutions related to energy efficiency is the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. ENERGY STAR provides resources that can help businesses determine cost-effective approaches to managing energy use in buildings and homes giving them the tools to save energy, increase profits and strengthen their competitiveness.
At the same time businesses and homeowners work toward energy efficiency, they need to consider the impact they have on the quality of air in parallel. By prioritizing IAQ at the beginning of making energy efficiency upgrades, pollutant exposure problems can be avoided, and public health can be protected further. Additionally, building managers and homeowners can reduce the risks of additional costs to resolve IAQ problems down the road.
Whether it is a remodeling or new construction project, a common challenge faced due to air tightening measures is an increase in contaminants caused by pollutants, mold and mildew. Building codes require businesses to plan properly. By incorporating IAQ and energy efficiency management into the process early, builders and homeowners can avoid these issues. Planning new construction and retrofit projects properly and prioritizing IAQ results in far fewer building failures and health problems, and in most cases additional energy savings.
Protecting indoor air quality and occupant health while saving energy and money during construction projects requires planning and commitment from all those involved. Most importantly, if done right, businesses and homeowners can protect public health, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce climate change impacts all at the same time. The EPA offers additional resources for improving energy efficiency and indoor air quality. For more information, check out:
- Indoor airPLUS Labeling Program for New Residential Construction
- Remodeling Your Home? Have You Considered Indoor Air Quality?
- Building with Indoor airPLUS
- ENERGY STAR Certified Home Labeling Program
For more information about Panasonic’s solutions that can help improve indoor air quality, please visit:
By Patricia Monks, National Marketing Manager, Panasonic Eco Solutions North America