Improving The Indoor Air Quality Of Your Home or Business

We all know that smoking in the house releases cigarette smoke which can cause problems for other members of our household, but did you know that items like furniture can give off emissions which reduce the indoor air quality in your home? There are actually several pollutant sources that we would never even recognize such as cupboards with pressed wood product, wet carpet or furniture that causes mold buildup, our gas stove, or even our wood burning fireplace. All these pollutants conspire together to reduce the healthy quality of our air, and some even cause major health problems like asthma, allergies, or pollutant-related diseases. Recognizing and eliminating (or at least reducing) problem pollutants in your home are essential to your family’s health and wellbeing.

Indoor Air Pollutant Sources

Combustion sources like oil, kerosene, coal, wood, gas, and any tobacco products send both smoke and other pollution into the air when you use your stove, oven, or fireplace. Material used when your house was built like insulation (especially if it contains asbestos). Things like once damp carpet or kitchen cabinets constructed from pressed wood can accumulate or give off certain toxins. Household cleaning chemicals cause indoor air pollution. Central heating and air conditioning systems as well as humidifiers can circulate poor air throughout your house. And of course, pollutants from outside enter your house through windows cracks and other openings.

Reducing Indoor Air Pollutants

Indoor air quality can be improved through three different venues: controlling the source of pollution, improving ventilation which will consistently cycle your indoor air outside and bring fresh outdoor air inside, and using air cleaners to remove pollutants from your home.

Source control is probably the most effective way to improve the quality of the air in your home. Old furniture that may be aggravating your allergies can be replaced, insulation, tile or other items containing asbestos can be covered and sealed, and stoves, ovens and heating or cooling systems can be adjusted to minimize the amount of pollutant released into the air.

Improving the ventilation of air into and out of your house is more expensive, but also well worth the effort if your home tests high for indoor air pollutants. Most heating and cooling systems simply circulate the same air throughout your house instead of drawing fresh air from outside, but you can find current energy-efficient models that bring in outdoor air. One of the best ways to bring in fresh air from outdoors is to open your windows, run window fans or air conditioners which pull outdoor air inside while pushing indoor air to the outside, and run your attic fans.

Air cleaners are also an effective way to improve the indoor air quality of your home. Air cleaners range from inexpensive table top models designed to clear a small amount of pollutants from one room, to sophisticated whole-house systems which effectively filter all the air in your home. If you or your family members suffer from allergies or asthma, a whole-house air cleaner is well worth the extra expense!

It’s important to improve the indoor air quality of your home, and with several options, you’re sure to find a way that fits your lifestyle and budget.

Introduction to Attic Insulation

When it comes to finding ways to keep your heating and cooling costs down, there is nothing better than installing attic insulation. This is especially true for those who have problems with their heating bills climbing through the roof.

While attic ventilation is an extremely important issue to address, you want to make sure that the insulation in the attic is up to par or else you will continue to see your heating bills climb at a crazy rate. With the cost of everything else on the rise and the economy looking a little shaky, it is important to make sure that you are doing everything you can to make sure that you are saving money.
 
Installing an attic ventilation system will be easy and take you only about a day. The attic insulation could be a different story depending on the current set up of your attic. If you have a finished attic with drywall or plaster up then you can pick one of two ways to get the insulation in.

 
You can rip out all of the drywall or plaster, install the insulation, and then put the walls back up. Or you can cut small holes throughout, fill the walls with insulation that is blown in and then simply repair the holes in the wall.
 
If you are trying to figure out which way is best for you, simply think about the money and the time involved. If your walls in the attic are pretty beat up but it is a big enough space that you could transform it into an active room then you might as well tear out the old walls and install new ones once the attic insulation is properly installed.
 
But if your attic is nothing more than a crawl space that no one is every really going to see then you may want to cut holes in the walls to blow insulation in, even if the walls are not that pretty to look at. This is the time to think about pricing though.
 
If you are able to rent the machine to blow the attic insulation in yourself then that is great. But if you are looking at having to hire someone to come out to do it then you will be looking at a project that just doubled in cost.
 
For those who have a limited budget and know how to drywall on their own, going the route of ripping out and replacing walls may be the option that makes more financial sense, even if it does mean you are going to be spending a little more time on this particular project.

 
You need to make sure though, that no matter what you do, that the attic insulation is not left exposed. Too many times, people have done this thinking that they will get back up there later and complete the project but find that they never do. Even with an attic ventilation system in place, tiny pieces of that insulation can get into the air.
 
This is not something that you or your family needs to be breathing in as major health problems can occur. If you have to take a break between installing the insulation and the drywall make sure that you are at least covering the walls with thick and heavy plastic.

Attic Insulation Options Offer Different Pros and Cons

Attic insulation plays a critical role in home energy performance. In fact, most building scientists agree that the attic should be the first “target” area for insulation and air-sealing upgrades. Most homes are built with code-required minimum levels of attic insulation that are far below current recommendations established by the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Homeowners considering an attic insulation upgrade have a number of different insulation materials to consider. Each attic insulating option has distinct advantages and limitations. Understanding these pros and cons can help you select the best insulation upgrade for your attic.

Fiberglass batts

Fiberglass batt insulation is popular because it’s affordable and universally available. Regardless of age, many houses have attics insulated with fiberglass batts. The batts are typically installed between attic floor joists, and unfaced batts are more common than faced batts in attic installations.

PROS: More affordable than other types of attic insulation. Best type of insulation for DIYers to install. Unlike blown insulation, batts can be lifted up and moved to provide access to the ceiling below, can lights and ceiling-mounted vent fans. Existing batt insulation can often be left in place when blown insulation is added to increase overall R-value in the attic.

CONS: Difficult to install correctly around obstructions. Voids where insulation is missing contribute to significant energy loss. Multiple layers of batt insulation are required to achieve recommended R-values in most parts of the country; this makes it impossible to use the attic for storage unless special platforms are built prior to insulation installation. Fiberglass insulation can’t stop air movement.

Blown insulation

Two main types of blown (or blow-in) insulation are commonly used: cellulose and loose-fill fiberglass. Both types are designed to be installed using special blowing equipment.

PROS: Installation can be completed quickly and affordably. Blown insulation typically results in more complete coverage than is possible with fiberglass batts.

CONS: A thick layer of insulation (at least 16 in. for northern parts of the U.S.) is required, and this makes it impossible to use the attic space for storage unless special platforms are built prior to installing the insulation. Cellulose and loose-fill fiberglass insulation can’t stop air movement.

Spray foam

Professional spray foam insulation contractors typically insulate an attic by applying a thick layer of spray foam between the rafters. Two types of foam are used: open-cell and closed-cell. Opinions vary as to which type is best in an attic installation, but closed-cell spray foam is used more frequently.

PROS: Closed-cell spray foam provides the highest R-value per in. (about R-6) of any attic insulation. It also creates an air and moisture barrier, so it eliminates the need for separate air-sealing work. Insulating beneath the roof deck instead of on the attic floor frees up attic space for storage and other purposes. This strategy also improves the efficiency of HVAC components (like air handlers and ductwork) located in the attic.

CONS: Most expensive attic insulation. A thick layer of foam applied to the underside of the roof sheathing can trap moisture and cause sheathing to rot.

Rigid foam

Rigid foam hasn’t been used as extensively for attic insulation until a most recent development. In one unique system, a proprietary rigid foam panel is fastened to the underside of attic rafters, forming an air and thermal barrier.

PROS: Provides all the benefits of spray foam, with the additional benefit of maintaining attic ventilation. The potential for roof sheathing moisture damage is eliminated. The rigid foam is faced with a radiant barrier that reflects heat for additional energy savings -another advantage over spray foam.

CONS: The system is available in limited areas, so it’s not as widely available as spray foam. Installation cost is greater than fiberglass batts and blown insulation, but competitive with spray foam.