Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Wellness Wednesday: Indoor Air Quality and Energy Efficiency
It’s official: escrow closed and the fiancé, two kitties, and I are now in our new house. Phew! There was a gap of about a week and a half from when we vacated our apartment and moved into the house. (Note to readers: when you tell your apartment complex you plan to be out on a certain day they will take you seriously! Shout out to the U-haul of Mid City in Fresno for having a truck available last minute.) My über generous parents took all four of us in and we took the opportunity to make a few repairs and clean every nook and cranny before settling in.
Low-VOC Paint: So long stench!
The 1949 home had been vacant for a few years because the previous owners (the one and only owners before us) had passed away and left their five children in charge. The place is in pretty good condition for its age and while it was empty for a few years, it was kept up nicely; however, one thing I couldn't get past was the smell of ‘old’ – that would be the technical term. Throwing out the frilly curtains definitely helped but I knew fresh paint would make the place feel clean and personalized to fit our style. We used Valspar Signature interior paint and primer which is one of the options on the market for a low odor, low-VOC paint. I was absolutely adamant that our paint choice be low or no VOC – like I have said before, control the controllables! Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are released from solids or liquids, such as paint, and can result in both short-term and long-term adverse health effects including dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, damage to internal organs and the central nervous system, and possibly even cancer. These toxins are often a more significant factor in indoor air pollution than outdoor air pollution! It is a frightening thought that the comfort of our own homes may not be any better than the hazy Central Valley skyline.
Other products that contain VOCs include paint thinners, cleaning supplies, permanent markers, and glues and adhesives, to name a few. While you might not always be able to completely avoid these and other products, I try to search for the low and no VOC varieties and more natural alternatives. Side note: I recently have started to make my own natural cleaning supplies (like these here) with basic pantry supplies to save money and to save the health of myself, my family (including pets), and our environment. This also allows me to reuse containers to help save energy that would have been used in the production of the plastic.
A word of caution when painting no matter what level VOC: ventilate, ventilate, ventilate! Even the greener and more natural products can be hazardous to your health if you trap yourself indoors with them. Lucky for us our home needs some serious weatherization so while we froze painting at all hours of the night, the large one and two inch gaps around our doors (check out the one in the pic on the right) kept the stench at bay and allowed for decent airflow. Who would have thought a serious flaw would be so beneficial?
Home Energy Tune Up
In all seriousness and now that most of the painting is complete we will definitely be taking care of those gaps to ensure an energy efficient home. While I enjoy being very hands-on with my home improvement projects it is important to have qualified professionals assess and work on your home because, as I read in a 2011 online article, ‘Energy-Tight is Chemical-Tight’. It’s important not to go overboard with the way you caulk and seal up your home because you could be doing more harm than good. In order to avoid testing each bowl of porridge I decided to go straight for the professional opinion so I could get it just right.
I recently signed up for the FREE Home Energy Tune Up program offered through the City of Fresno. FREE: music to my ears! The program offers Fresno and Madera county residents a professional, whole house energy audit to help identify where homeowners can make improvements and save on their energy bills. The audit includes a detailed report, low and no cost solutions for saving energy and helps point a homeowner in the right direction if and when he or she chooses to make improvements to their home. Did I mention this is FREE? My parents not too long along had this done on their home and discovered they had duct work that was completely detached! No wonder they had such sky high utility bills! Our very own CourtneyKalashian went through the program as well and I too look forward to sharing my own experience.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, energy-efficient home!
photo credit: Maureen Hoff
photo credit: http://www.fresno.gov/Government/DepartmentDirectory/DARM/HomeTuneUp/Default.htm