People are increasingly concerned about mold, radon, carbon monoxide, and toxic chemicals commonly found in homes. In fact, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies show that levels of air pollution inside the home are often two to five times higher than outdoor levels. And poor indoor air quality is associated with a host of health problems, including eye irritation, headaches, allergies, and respiratory problems such as asthma.
How Can Building Practices Affect Indoor Air Quality?
Builders can employ a variety of construction practices and technologies to decrease the risk of poor indoor air quality, including careful selection and installation of moisture control systems, heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) equipment, combustion venting systems, and building materials. But it’s not easy for homebuyers to keep track of all the preferred construction details that lead to improved indoor air quality and energy efficiency. That’s why EPA created the ENERGY STAR Indoor airPLUS program.
We do not strictly control Google ad content. If you believe any Google ad is inappropriate, please email us directly here.
Homes that earn the ENERGY STAR Indoor airPLUS label are designed to have lower utility costs, greater comfort, better durability, and reduced risk of indoor air problems. Homes with the ENERGY STAR Indoor airPLUS label are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2003 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and are designed to have improved indoor air quality compared to code-built homes.
How Do Homes Earn the Label for the ENERGY STAR Indoor airPLUS?
Start with ENERGY STAR
A home must first be designed and built to earn the ENERGY STAR—the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. The result is a home that is significantly more energy efficient than a code-built home.
Add Indoor Air Improvements
More than 70 additional home design and construction features are included in Indoor airPLUS to help protect qualified homes from moisture and mold, pests, combustion gases, and other airborne pollutants.
Complete the Package with Independent Testing and Verification
The home’s energy performance and many key features of Indoor airPLUS are inspected by an independent third-party to ensure that the builder has properly followed EPA’s guidelines for energy efficiency and specifications for indoor air quality.
Here are the key focus areas:
- Moisture Control: Moisture problems can lead to mold and other biological pollutants that can negatively impact health. With Indoor airPLUS, builders use a variety of moisture control features designed to minimize these risks, including improved control of condensation and better roof, wall, and foundation drainage.
- Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) System: Poorly designed and installed HVAC systems can lead to comfort and air quality problems. Homes with Indoor airPLUS include properly engineered system sizing, improved duct and equipment installation, improved filtration, and whole-house and spot ventilation to dilute and remove indoor pollutants. Inspectors also check air-handling equipment and ductwork to ensure they are clean and free of debris and provide adequate air-flow.
- Pest Management: Residue from pests, such as rodents, dust mites, and cockroaches, is known to trigger allergy and asthma episodes. In addition, wood-eating pests, such as termites, can quickly destroy a homeowner’s most valuable investment. With Indoor airPLUS, builders provide a firstline defense against these problems by fully sealing, caulking, or screening possible pest entry points and using termite shields in areas of the country subject to termite infestation.
- Combustion Venting Systems: In homes with Indoor airPLUS, builders can help protect residents from potential exposure to combustion pollutants by using fossil-fuel heating equipment that cannot spill combustion gases inside the home, installing carbon monoxide alarms in each sleeping area, and taking steps to prevent pollutants in the garage from entering the house.
- Building Materials: The types of materials builders choose and the way they manage them during construction can affect a home’s indoor air quality. Builders following the Indoor airPLUS specifications reduce sources of pollutants by protecting materials stored on-site from weather damage, using materials with reduced chemical content, and ventilating homes prior to move-in to help improve indoor air quality.
- Radon Control: Exposure to radon, a naturally occurring radioactive, invisible, and odorless gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. In high-risk radon areas, homes with Indoor airPLUS are built with radon-resistant construction techniques. Homebuyers in these areas are also provided with test kits to check radon levels after they move in.
- Homeowner Education: After purchasing a home with the ENERGY STAR Indoor airPLUS label, owners receive a manual explaining their home’s indoor air quality features and showing how to operate their home to continue minimizing the risk of indoor air quality problems.
The Indoor airPLUS specifications have been developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recognize homes equipped with a comprehensive set of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) features. Homes that comply with these specifications and are verified with a completed Indoor airPLUS Verification Checklist can use the “Indoor airPLUS” as a complementary label to ENERGY STAR for homes. Only ENERGY STAR qualified homes are eligible for this label.
The specifications were developed with significant input from external sources, based on best available science and information about risks associated with IAQ problems, and balanced with practical issues of cost, builder production process compatibility, and enforceability. EPA may change these specifications as more information becomes available.
The construction practices and technical specifications that comprise the ENERGY STAR Indoor airPLUS program are designed to contribute to improved IAQ in new homes compared with code-built homes. However, these measures alone will not guarantee that homebuyers will not experience IAQ problems in their homes. Rather, the Indoor airPLUS program should be viewed as a way to reduce the likelihood of experiencing such problems. For example, homeowner behavior may negatively impact the home’s IAQ and the performance of the measures specified in the Indoor airPLUS program.
The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on HealthyHouseInstitute.com as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.
While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.