With the past year’s pandemic, indoor air quality has become the focus of attention for homeowners who wish to protect their health. Designing your new Katahdin Cedar Log Home offers the opportunity to take advantage of modern home performance science and to protect your family’s health from viruses, mold, and other indoor pollutants.
Growing Attention to Indoor Air Quality
Before energy efficiency became a focus for homeowners, most homes were moderately insulated but poorly sealed. As construction practices developed less leaky homes, it became apparent the ventilation needed to be improved to maintain a healthy indoor environment. In the 1980s, tightly sealed, poorly ventilated homes developed problems with mold and buildup of other indoor pollutants, so home performance science began developing strategies for good ventilation to pair with tightly sealed, well insulated homes.
Enter the Dangers of Airborne Viruses
Improving indoor air quality became a healthy goal in construction because it made homes perform well in using energy and provided improved airflow. The reduction of indoor pollutant gases and particulate matter improved the health of occupants, especially those with breathing issues like asthma. When the Covid-19 virus emerged, it was apparent early on that good ventilation was essential to stopping the spread of the airborne virus in enclosed spaces. Heating and cooling manufacturers scrambled to adapt products and develop new technologies to meet the demand for safer indoor air.
What Tools Can Improve Indoor Air Quality?
Several different elements can combine to improve indoor air quality. For fighting COVID-19, it appears that exposing incoming air to UV light has been scientifically proven to reduce airborne viruses. Employing a high MIRV-rated air filter in your HVAC system can also reduce common indoor air pollutants like bacteria, allergens and dust. Combining a MIRV filter with ionization, like Carrier’s Infinity® Air Purifier takes the MIRV filtration to a new level that is especially effective against COVID-19. Other indoor pollutants like radon gas need mitigation systems. Radon gas seeps into homes from the ground and is only detectable through testing on a completed home. Mitigation is relatively simple and involves using negative air pressure under the foundation to draw the radon away from the structure and vent it outdoors.
Don’t Forget Ventilation!
Combining air sealing your Katahdin Cedar Log Home’s exterior envelope and the pumped-up insulation of the Energy Envelope System can make your new log home energy efficient to save money for years to come. But building science has determined that healthy indoor air starts with a healthy level of air exchanges per hour. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends that residential air exchanges per hour fall between 0.35 and 1. Achieving a healthy air exchange rate involves a bit more than a bathroom exhaust fan. The most practical method is to include whole house ventilation through either an ERV or HRV unit to circulate air and capture the heat or cool to reduce lost energy.
Increasing Air Circulation
Healthy indoor environments also benefit from circulating air, often best achieved using ceiling fans. One ceiling fan manufacturer, Big Ass Fans, is equipping two of their residential ceiling fans, Haiku and Essence, with UV technology to kill COVID-19 virus while circulating air.
Creating a Balance
Often the factors that arise when planning for an energy efficient Katahdin Cedar Log Home with healthy indoor air require some attention at the planning stages and testing during construction. Running blower door tests at various stages throughout the construction continuum can provide valuable feedback and ways to maximize your log home’s performance over time. Operating a blower door test before interior walls are closed in can really make a big difference in spotting the inadvertent slip of insulation or missed gap sealing.
This may seem like a lot to absorb but working with the right HVAC contractor can get you started on the right road to healthy indoor air quality that supports the energy efficiency of your new log home.