Considering an upgrade to your vintage or historic home? In this ongoing energy retrofit series, master craftsman Daniel Westbrook interviews industry expert Mark LaLiberte, founding partner and president of Construction Instruction. Mark has been educating the building industry on the science and physics of construction for more than 30 years, and is sharing the benefits of constructing durable, energy efficient, healthy homes in this series.

In this video, you’ll learn how air movement affects air quality in your house. Here are two key takeaways:

Misconception: a leaky house has good air quality

There are a few misconceptions around air movement and air quality, and some very important truths. One misconception is that a leaky house has good air quality—that’s not always the case. You could be bringing in air from many places that have a less-than-ideal or even harmful air quality, whether it’s air from a backyard or dog kennel or from a basement or crawlspace. The better solution is to build a tight building so you can control the air inside.

Air quality is based on the building itself (the paint, the materials, etc.), everything that’s kept in the building (products, furniture and decor, cleaning supplies), and the people and animals who move around in it. A clean, healthy lifestyle still opens up opportunity for air quality issues, so it’s important to ensure good air quality in your home even if you aren’t aware of any obvious pollutants.

Three options to improve air quality in home

There are three fundamental options for ensuring each room has a supply of fresh air.

  • Have a fan running at all times with a direct connection to outside
  • Push fresh air in and bad air out through supply ventilation—this works best in climates like ours in the Seattle area; with colder climates, there’s a higher risk
  • Have a fan that brings a certain amount out and the same amount in—this method is called “balanced ventilation” and works especially well in colder climates

If you don’t have a system in your home currently, invest in a fan, some duct work, and a filter. If you want a simpler system, you can buy a quiet bathroom fan, put it inside the house, turn it on, and get at least basic ventilation.

The important thing to keep in mind is that a little bit of awareness and effort can go a long way in improving the air quality in your home.

Watch previous installments of our energy retrofit series on the Dunn Solutions blog, and stay tuned for more from Daniel and Mark as they continue to discuss energy retrofitting over the coming months.