Health Starts At Home This Spring

 

This article was originally published under Sustainable Communities: Thought Leadership on SaportaReport on March 19, 2018.

Spring is the season of rejuvenation — and for many, home reorganization. Freshly scrubbed baseboards, clean rugs and carpets, and sparkling windows revive your home and contribute to your family’s health.

Across the country, nearly 9 million families live in homes that are energy inefficient. As a result of these inefficiencies, residents are put at risk for exposure to contaminants. Allergens like pollen and molds can cause health problems like irritated eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, fatigue, and asthma. According to the Georgia Asthma Control Program, nearly 11 percent of the state’s children are asthmatic — and many more are undiagnosed.

The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) is the country’s leading nonprofit organization focused on breaking the link between unhealthy housing and unhealthy families. According to GHHI, nearly 6 million American houses have moderate to severe health and safety hazards, which can cause asthma, lead poisoning, slips and falls, and respiratory illness.

GHHI standards state that a green and healthy home boasts eight qualities: it is well-ventilated, well-maintained, dry, free of pests, contaminants, and hazards, and energy efficient. Energy inefficiency comes in many forms, such as drafts, air leaks, improper insulation, and appliances that consume a lot of energy.

Unhealthy and inefficient housing represent about 3 percent of total U.S. healthcare costs, representing a loss of approximately $82.4 billion annually. According to GHHI, low-income households bear the bulk of the energy inefficiency burden, spending 14 percent of total income on energy costs, compared to 3.5 percent for other households. Homeowners that employ the eight elements of a green and healthy home reduce their risk of illness, use less energy, and save money.

By carving out a spring cleaning weekend to make some simple, low-cost energy efficiency improvements, you can increase your home value while cutting your monthly utility bill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes outfitted with Energy Star-certified products use about 35 percent less energy annually. For example, an Energy Star-rated HVAC system can cut yearly heating and cooling costs by more than $115.

There are other, low-cost ways to boost energy efficiency as well. For instance, exchange your home’s incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent lights (CFL) or LED bulbs. Repair window or door drafts with caulk, and seal your heating and cooling ducts with mastic sealant or metal tape. According to the EPA, lead from paint is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning. Homes built before 1978 likely have lead-based paint which, if deteriorated, should be removed.

A certified Healthy Home Evaluator can also help holistically improve your home’s health. Certified Healthy Home Evaluators identify and prioritize hazards and select the appropriate solutions to improve energy efficiency. The Building Performance Institute (BPI) is America’s premier certification and standard-setting organization for home performance professionals. BPI develops technical standards for home energy audits and energy efficiency improvements, and from these standards BPI develops rigorous written and field exams for 14 certifications, including Healthy Home Evaluator. This certification is opportune for both building professionals and homeowners.

Along with empowering homeowners with education on sustainability and efficiency, BPI Certification is recommended or required for local incentive and rebate programs including Georgia Power EarthCents and Home Energy Improvement Program, as well as national programs like Home Performance with Energy Star.

Southface’s BPI training courses are designed to empower participants with knowledge and interactive, hands-on training from BPI-certified professionals. Whether you’re a seasoned contractor or a homeowner with a penchant for DIY weekend projects, make a fresh start this spring with a Healthy Home Evaluation.

On April 23-25 Southface offers a BPI Healthy Home Evaluator Course at the Southeast Weatherization & Energy Efficiency Training (SWEET) Center. Visit Southface’s website to learn more and register.

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