Clean Interior Air

By being aware of the factors that can contribute to poor indoor air quality, builders can work proactively to install systems for a healthy living environment.


Today's new homes are better insulated, are more tightly sealed and have fewer holes in the exterior shell than ever before. While these advances in technology and building science have greatly improved energy efficiency in new homes, they have also helped foster a potentially harmful environment for the homeowner.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is rapidly becoming a concern among health care professionals and builders. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air quality within a home may be five times as unhealthy as the air outside. Poor IAQ can lead to many health issues, including headaches; eye, nose and throat irritation; fatigue; and dizziness. Poor IAQ can also trigger asthma attacks, as well as pneumonitis and humidifier fever.

Some of the major offenders in creating poor IAQ are carbon monoxide, pet dander, dust mites and mold spores.

When a new home is under construction, builders have the best chance to help create a clean breathing environment for their customers. By being aware of the factors that can contribute to poor IAQ, builders can work proactively to install systems within the home that can lead to a more comfortable and healthy living environment.

Causes of Poor IAQ and Solutions for Builders

  • Common combustion appliances, such as furnaces and hot water heaters, produce carbon monoxide, which is normally vented through the flue to the outside. Sometimes, through a process known as back drafting, this dangerous gas can be released into the home. To prevent back drafting, builders should install sealed combustion appliances. A sealed combustion furnace has two pipes, one to draw fresh air for combustion and another used to push exhaust fumes out of the house. These units are installed with a fan that maintains proper airflow to ensure that back drafting of harmful fumes can't occur.
  • Another contributor to poor IAQ is volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs are often noticed as that "new car smell" in the home. These invisible vapors are a result of cleaning and finishing chemicals used within the home during construction; paint, varnish and cleaning products emit VOCs. Builders should try to reduce the residual fumes from construction as much as possible before the homeowner moves in. To do so, builders should make sure that the workspace is well ventilated and that HVAC systems have fresh filters. Also, there are many cleaning and finishing products now available that are specifically designed to reduce VOCs.
  • One of the most significant choices a builder can make to help create a clean, healthy breathing environment within the new home is to install an independent ventilation system. These ventilation systems remove dangerous elements from the air. By filtering household air and circulating fresh air into the home, these systems can greatly improve the home's IAQ, especially in areas like the kitchen and bathroom.

Builders who strive to build durable, comfortable and safe homes may find that potential customers respond well to efforts to improve their indoor air quality. By being proactive, builders not only deliver a healthier home, they create a competitive advantage for themselves in an environmentally conscious market.

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