In the energy efficiency world, health and safety are just as important as efficiency and conservation. Whether you’re making energy conservation modifications and improvements to a current home or building a new one, health and safety hazards must be top of mind to avoid potential exposure to toxic and hazardous substances and situations.
By keeping some basic and important things in mind, you can help to ensure you and your family are safe and healthy in your home.
Below are some common possible hazards to be aware of and steps you should take to prevent or address them.
- Carbon monoxide is an odorless and tasteless gas. In your home, it comes from: motor vehicles and heaters and cooking equipment that run on carbon-based fuels (e.g., gas-powered stoves, furnaces, water heaters, etc.).
- The gas from fuel-based heating sources generally vents through a flue pipe coming off the furnace or water heater. Most newer furnaces have an inducer, which is essentially a fan that helps pull any carbon monoxide byproduct up and out of the house through the flue pipe.
- Backdrafting can occur when gases start venting into the home instead of out of the home through the flue pipe.
- You can purchase carbon monoxide readers from your local hardware store or online ($60-200) to monitor the CO level in your home.
- A low concentration (5-50 parts per million [ppm]) can cause flu-like symptoms and may go relatively unnoticed.
- A high concentration (50-3,000 ppm) can cause severe headaches, vomiting and potentially death.
- Place carbon monoxide detectors in the utility room and living spaces to alert you of any potential issues. A plug-in detector with a battery backup is recommended.
Indoor air quality
- Byproducts from combustion appliances are among the biggest contributors to indoor air pollution.
- Check or replace your furnace filter on a monthly basis. Generally speaking, a MERV rating of 11 or 13 works best to capture particles moving through the home when the system is running without causing airflow issues. Too high of MERV rating can cause airflow issues and damage to your HVAC system.
So, outside of installing some detectors and regularly changing filters, what else can can you do to keep your home environment healthy and safe?
Have a certified energy rater come to your home to get a full analysis, audit and more. You can search for a rater at RESNET Certified Energy Raters or BPI Certified Energy Raters.
For more information, check out the Health and Safety portion of OPPD’s residential Energy Efficiency page.