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Home Performance Contractor

Breathing Better

Vilandre Case Study: Our home is making us sick
2000 Built, 2 Story, 1600 sq ft, Family of 4

Assessment 

A homeowner requested a full home assessment of air quality and energy efficiency after feeling that her home was contributing to chronic illness in her family of four.  The family wanted to open their windows for fresh air, but couldn't because heavy smoke from a neighbor with wood burning stoves. The whole family was suffering from respiratory issues.

 

  • Asthma: Two people were on medications, including a form of steroids. The other two family members were showing the beginning signs of asthma.
     
  • Allergies: Family members would frequently wake with sneezing attacks in the middle of the night .
     
  • Dry throats & itchy eyes: The family would wake in the morning with dry sore throats and scratchy eyes.
     
  • House always feels cold: The house stayed cold, even with the furnace turned up to 67 degrees, so the homeowners would supplement furnace heat with the gas fireplace.

Findings

We performed a full Home Performance Assessment with a Air Monitoring Test for seven days and also a Home Energy Audit to determine what could be causing the problems.
 

The testing showed house had the following issues:  

  • High levels of dust and chemical pollutants:The air report showed very high levels of dust and chemical pollutants.
     
  • Dry Air: We saw at certain time the air was getting down in to the 33% mark for relative humidity (which is very dry).
     
  • Leaky duct work: The home's duct work had never been sealed and was poorly constructed.
     
  • Negative pressures: When the furnace was on, the house was under a force of tremendous depressurization, which caused dust to be drawn in from the attic through recessed can lights and from the crawlspace through the ducts.
     
  • Over Heating: The upstairs of the house had too much air flow, which was overheating the upstairs and leaving the downstairs cold.

You can click on the full air report or energy report here to see the details.

Recommendations

We provided the family with a pathway to take care of their specific concerns: 

  • Duct Sealing: Sealing the duct work was the highest priority because our thermal imaging cameras recorded a lot of air leaking from the ducts, which were connected to the crawlspace, the attic, and the garage. Our goal was to get the system sealed to 5% or less in air leakage.

  • Air Sealing: We recommended air sealing the attic and the crawlspace away from the house, especially around the recessed can lights in the second story and also on tops of the walls in the attic. Even though the house was tighter, the recessed lights were allowing large amounts of air flow because the living room had 20 foot ceilings.
     
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation: We wanted to lower the homes carbon dioxide, dilute the chemicals and also manage the humidity levels. We used a Venmar heat recovery system that uses warm air from inside the house to heat the new fresh air coming from the outside. 
     
  • Honeywell AirBright: In order to take care of the lingering odors and scub the air for chemicals we recommended the Honeywell AIrbright system with UV Lamp and a VOC Scrubber.
     
  • Undercut doors & Balance Airflow: To reduce the negative pressure, we undercut the doors to allow the air from the bedroom's supply registers to properly return back to the system so the return didn't suck on the house. We also recommended balancing air flow with dampers to ensure even heat and air distribution. 

We did not include removing the 1 inch pleated filter and installing an electronic air cleaner which is a very costly appliance which would not address the root cause.

Results

We monitored the homes air quality before, during and after to ensure these solutions got the desired results.

The family shared with us that, after the first day of air sealing, they no longer woke up sneezing in the middle of the night.  They also said they felt much warmer in the home and that they didn't have to supplement the heat with the gas fireplace. They have also reported that all four family members are feeling better and are off $1,200 worth of asthma medications.  They are breathing fresh, comfortably humid air, and can relax and feel safe in their own home.

Home owners Angies List Review:

"This company is amazing. I have nothing but good things to say about them. They were punctual, friendly, and efficient. I began to see results after the first day of sealing off my house. Following completion of our ventilation system the changes in our house and our family were apparent. I have small children and they were very friendly and allowed them to "help". They came back after completion to show us everything that was done, show us how to change filters, and explain how it all works. I would recommend this company every single day. Amazing group to work with."

Table of Results

Chart Showing Improvements in Home Performance

 

We compiled the graphs and shared them below. If You are big on data you can see the charts for the results.