+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 9 of 9
  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Austin TX
    Posts
    3

    Angry How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    How to destroy your homeís air quality...

    I bought a mid 70ís ranch in 2003 which was not in a great state of repair. The first winter was brutal; windows leaked, doors leaked and the heat pumps would run continuously to maintain 67 degrees. Humidity would drop to 5-10% in the winter and run as high as 50-55% in the summer.

    I did what any good homeowner would: over the next two years I replaced all the windows, installed new heat pumps, sealed and replaced ductwork, put weather stripping on doors, put gaskets behind electrical plugs and used about 30+ tubes of caulk.

    About a year after doing these things we noticed that odors seemed to accumulate in the house and at about that same time my daughter had an increase in her asthma. Humidity is now well controlled in the winter but seems to rise rapidly if the house is not ventilated during the non-cooling/heating season.

    In 2011 I installed wood flooring in about one third of the house (1000 square feet of flooring). Ever since then we have experienced a series of chemical smells. I have had eye and sinus irritation ever since. I suspect outgassing from the flooring or cement used to install it.

    I hired a guy to perform a blower door test because I suspected the house was too airtight. At 50 pascals my air change rate was 3.43 with a calculated Ďnaturalí air change rate of about 0.17 which is about one half of the ASHRAE recommended minimum. Yes, itís way too tight! I never dreamed that so little work was going to result in that level of air tightness in a mid 70ís home!

    I am now looking at the requirement to add an energy recovery ventilator to provide a decent ventilation rate in the house with a self-installed cost of about $1200 plus the electricity to run the thing at about $15 per month. This is going to pretty well offset any energy savings my improvements gave me.

    Now I wish I had just kept my old leaky windows so none of this would be an issue!

    So, before you go off into any energy retrofits I highly recommend you obtain an air change rate from a blower door test first to prevent the creation of an indoor air quality issue.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    7,189

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    Yes, an air tight house can cause you some problems. Just as important is how you live in and maintain that home. A vacuum cleaner can be the #1 source of bad indoor air quality, because most of them spew more dust into the air than they pick up. Here's a tip, if you can smell your vacuum cleaner, it's polluting your air. Change the bag or dust bin and clean/replace the filters, if none of this helps, it's time to invest in a better quality vacuum cleaner.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Granville, Ohio
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    Hi, bmwbmw462 Ė thanks for sharing. Iím Doug Walden and the product manager of air sealing at Owens Corning. Sorry to hear that you had a bad experience, but hopefully I can provide some helpful advice if you ever go down this road again.

    First off, I canít stress enough that every house should be air sealed tight Ė itís always a good idea to air seal (full disclosure: we actually have a product called EnergyComplete Sealant, which an insulation professional can install). At the same time, after sealing, every house should also have fresh air ventilation. Based on your post, it sounds like air ventilation may be an issue and there are a couple of likely causes Ė either your home is not getting enough ventilation or itís not getting enough fresh air.

    When your windows were replaced, a source of fresh air was closed off. If you donít have deliberate fresh air intake, the air coming into your house is from an unknown source, rather than a fresh air supply.

    With that said, there are multiple ways to properly ventilate your house. You mention an energy recovery ventilator, which would be a good option. You could also pursue a ducted whole house dehumidifier or even continuously running exhaust fans with adequate fresh air supply. A good HVAC contractor will be able to point you in the direction thatís best for you.

    Hope this helps for next time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Portland, Oregon, formerly of Chicago
    Posts
    1,808

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    A few years ago, I had to replace my furnace. I had my choice of an 87% efficient furnace which was still drawing household air, or a mid 90% furnace that drew outside air to a sealed combustion chamber. The higher efficiency furnace would cost twice the more conventional furnace. Just on price alone, I went with the cheaper furness because, at the then price of gas, the payback period would have been twenty years!

    But more importantly, during the A/C season, my wife would complain that after several days of having the house closed up tight, it would start to smell stale in the house. Now if I were to install the super efficent furnace, the house would no longer draw household air and the house would now smell stale in the winter too! Now I would have to open a window to change the air. So much for the high efficiency furness if you have to open the windows in winter to get fresh air!

    How much natural gas can I buy for the cost of an air handler? Sometimes we are just too smart for ourselves! Sometimes a little leaking air is a good thing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,387

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    Howdy consider opening some windows ..... fresh air. Oh to be so luck of having a tight home. The cost of the air exchanger over the life of it is likely less the the costs for hvac in a leaky home...


    Ok the high humidity got a basement or crawlspace? is there a vapor barrier to isolate the earth from the home? if exposed earth need to install plastic and seal the area as the transfer of water vapor moisture can be gallons a day in a seemingly dry space. Vented basement / crawlspace? Humidifier on the furnace? if so turn it off. Are your baths power vented an d
    o you run the fans 20 minutes after showers? The humidity can also be addressed with the air changer. It will get better just might cost some more $.
    Any an all of my comments are just my opinion and not to be confused with facts.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    When I built my first home I went all out sealing everything, including a full layer of Celotex over the plywood sheathing. The celotex was caulked and taped at the seams.

    Inadvertently I have closed off all the fresh air supply, forcing the smoky chimney air backwards down the oil burner chimney and into the basement. The house reeked of a forest fire. I added fresh air intake to the wood stove. It still stunk to high heaven. Finally I drilled a 6 inch hole through the basement wall to the outside and screened it over. That solved the problem and balanced the negative air pressure.

    I now live in a leaky 1920's bungalow and still spend under $100 a month for utilities which aren't cheap here.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    Quote Originally Posted by A. Spruce View Post
    Yes, an air tight house can cause you some problems. Just as important is how you live in and maintain that home. A vacuum cleaner can be the #1 source of bad indoor air quality, because most of them spew more dust into the air than they pick up. Here's a tip, if you can smell your vacuum cleaner, it's polluting your air. Change the bag or dust bin and clean/replace the filters, if none of this helps, it's time to invest in a better quality vacuum cleaner.
    I had no idea a vacuum cleaner could be the culprit. Talk about a Trojan horse! Time for a new one.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Boston area
    Posts
    99

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    I hope to have this problem someday. I'm just happy I no longer have rain and wildlife passing through my roof.

    However, I installed central vacuuming. Now there is zero dust and smells and never will be (except in the basement, but I could vent it outside). This is good as my fiancee has allergies, I have a cat, and the house has lead, asbestos, mold... And modern central vacs are soooooo much quieter than my parent's, in the basement it's about as loud as a conversation, and in the house unless you are right above it all you hear is air rushing in the hose.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: How to wreck your air quality - a lesson learned

    Quote Originally Posted by bmwbmw462 View Post
    ...put gaskets behind electrical plugs...
    I don't know how big your house is and how many electrical outlets you have, but it might make a small difference just to remove the gaskets behind your electrical outlet covers.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •