By DR. MIRIAM ACZEL
Home performance describes how the different systems in a home work together to create comfortable, healthy, and energy-efficient indoor environments. This building science-based approach evaluates different factors such as air flow, moisture/humidity, and thermal protection to improve occupant comfort, energy savings, and indoor air quality (IAQ).
Why is home performance important?
Home performance addresses five key aspects:
- Health: Did you know: Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of air pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels! As one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, indoor air pollution can worsen preexisting medical conditions and cause adverse health effects like heart disease and cancer. A professional home energy performance assessment (also known as an energy audit) can help you identify issues that impact indoor air quality and propose solutions to protect your health.
- Safety: There are many issues that can affect occupant safety. Backdrafting, or the reversal of normal air flow from chimneys, and restricted air flow from fans may enable carbon monoxide—an odorless, colorless, and toxic gas—to enter the home. Moreover, inadequate ventilation may lead to a build-up of formaldehyde and trigger adverse health effects.
- Comfort: Humidity, air quality, and temperature can impact indoor comfort. A comprehensive home assessment can help you identify unwanted sources of airflow, moisture, and poor insulation and improve your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
- Efficiency: Is your home energy and water use-efficient? Home performance assessments provide cost-effective suggestions for making your home as efficient as possible. Reducing energy and water use also leads to lower utility bills—which is good for the planet and our pocketbooks!
- Durability: Is your home designed to last? Problems within a building can have long-term implications on its durability. For example, poor ventilation and high humidity in the attic, walls, and foundation can lead to rotting wood and structural damage. Proper moisture management and source control will help ensure your home is more comfortable, safe, and long-lasting.
Conducting an assessment
Certified home performance contractors use various methods to identify potential problems before, during, and after an assessment. First, the contractor conducts an interview and reviews past energy bills to better understand your household’s living and energy use patterns. Next, diagnostic tests are conducted to identify leakage, indoor moisture problems, and poor ventilation. For example, a blower door test can highlight leaks and cracks around doors, windows, pipes, and other openings. Once the assessment is complete, the contractor will provide a summary of their findings with recommendations on how to improve your home’s efficiency.
Just as we get regular medical check-ups or take our cars in for tune-ups, it’s important to assess the overall well-being of our homes. Improving home performance boosts occupant comfort and safety and creates a healthier, more sustainable indoor environment.
Cover image: Pexels
Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on the EcoBlock blog
Dr. Miriam Aczel is Leaders in Energy’s Director of Scientific Communications. Miriam is a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute for Energy & Environment (CIEE) based at UC Berkeley, working on the Oakland Ecoblock project. She is also currently an Honorary Research Associate at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, with a focus on international energy science and policy, with a focus on mitigation of environmental and health impacts of shale gas. Miriam earned her PhD at Imperial College London in 2020, where she was a President’s PhD Scholar. She is also co-founder and co-director of the Amir D. Aczel Foundation for Research and Education in Science and Mathematics, a nonprofit based in Cambodia.