A home is intimately tied to the health and well-being of its residents. It is where people go to take care of themselves and seek comfort. It is also where people spend a lot of time, which means that ensuring American homes are a healthy refuge is vitally important. Evidence in a new, groundbreaking Energy Department report, Home Rx: The Health Benefits of Home Performance, shows that home performance upgrades can improve the quality of a home’s indoor environment by reducing the prevalence of harmful indoor air pollutants and contaminants.
Until recently, no systematic review of this evidence had been conducted, limiting full understanding of the link between home performance and health. This new report by the Energy Department seeks to close this gap by documenting the full array of health benefits for homeowners and their families stemming from home performance improvements and green renovation practices. Ranging from general health improvements to measurable reductions in asthma symptoms and other respiratory illnesses, these benefits complement the energy cost savings and comfort improvements frequently produced by home performance upgrades. In some instances, the health benefits associated with home performance were shown to reduce both healthcare utilization and costs.
Home Performance and Health
Some of the home performance improvements considered in the report include those provided as part of the Energy Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program, such as air sealing, insulation, lighting, and adequate ventilation. Also considered were common green renovations as well as additional home performance upgrades supported by the Energy Department’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) program, including ventilation upgrades, moisture control, window replacements, and allergen-reduction repairs. It was presumed that measures installed for the purpose of achieving verified health benefits would be compliant with industry standards and subject to third-party quality assurance. Therefore, the potential health consequences of improper design, inadequate installation, insufficient maintenance, or equipment failure were not investigated.
Research into the overlap of home performance and health is still nascent, and more research is necessary to build on and reinforce existing findings, but there is substantial evidence to support that well-designed and implemented home performance projects can result in real and valuable improvements to the indoor environment of a home, potentially yielding positive health benefits for homeowners and their families.
This paper is just one part of the Energy Department’s broader Health and Home Performance Initiative. The purpose of the Initiative is to support the energy efficiency industry’s engagement with the healthcare sector, to find ways to account for the health benefits of home performance work, and to make home performance more accessible to people who want and need these services. Moving forward, the Initiative will engage with stakeholders to develop a roadmap to facilitate the industry’s engagement with the healthcare community. Workshops are slated for conferences in January, March, and May 2017. To learn more about the Health and Home Performance Initiative, or to get involved with development of the roadmap, email homehealth@CSRA.com.