A Focus on Indoor Air and Light Quality

Brought to you in collaboration with the publishers of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines

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The air within a home can be far more polluted than outdoor air. Recent EPA studies show the level of indoor pollutants may be two to five times higher—and in some cases 100 times higher—than outside air.

A key to maintaining a healthy indoor environment is to ensure that HVAC and other systems are working together to effectively ventilate the home.

Natural ventilation is a viable alternative to air conditioning in moderate climates, but an air exchanger may be an effective option in hotter and more humid locations. Typically installed as part of a home’s HVAC system, an air exchanger balances out the humidity level while reducing contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and mold.

While interior building materials and furnishings are common sources of indoor pollutants, these toxins can be reduced by choosing healthy products and installing them with care. Because new carpet can release organic gases, it’s important to choose low-emitting adhesives and to ventilate carpet during installation. Draperies, paneling, pressed-wood furniture, and cabinetry should also be ventilated before installation, as they may be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish.

Reducing moisture sources will lessen the risk of biological pollutants and allergens, such as mold, mildew, dust mites, and cockroaches. Exhaust fans and a dehumidifier are valuable resources for keeping the interior environment dry. Installing roof gutters and downspouts can help maintain a dry basement, as can the application of waterproofing sealants to the basement's interior walls.

Seeing the Light

One of the most effective ways for improving the interior environment and occupant health is by strengthening connections to the outside.

Sunlight naturally reduces mildew and mold growth while providing numerous health and wellness benefits:

  • Boosts vitamin D storage, an essential mineral important for absorbing calcium and promoting bone growth, as well as helping prevent certain types of cancers, heart disease, depression, and weight gain.
  • Promotes higher productivity. According to a Swiss Federal Institute of Technology study, employees working in artificial light recorded lower levels of energy than those working in natural light.
  • Reduces eye strain. Natural light helps the eye produce dopamine, an aid in healthy eye development, which has been shown to lower the risk of nearsightedness in children and young adults.
  • Promotes sleep. A half hour of sunlight received during the day, especially early in the morning has been shown to have a direct impact on how much sleep a person gets at night. Artificial lighting on the other hand has little to no similar effect.
  • Improves mood and energy. Multiple studies have confirmed that exposure to sunlight increases levels of serotonin in the brain and is proven to regulate some disorders, including Seasonal Affective Disorder.