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Professor to Study Effects of Energy-Efficiency Measures on Indoor Air Quality

BOONE—Weatherization improves a building’s energy efficiency by keeping cold air out in the winter and hot humid air out in the summer. But do these measures affect indoor air quality?

That’s what a team from Appalachian State University plans to find out.

Dr. Susan C. Doll, an assistant professor in building science program in the Department of Technology and Environmental Design, has received a three-year $696,810 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to compare air quality measurements in homes in North Carolina mountain and coastal communities to see if weatherization affects the level of indoor air contaminants.

“One approach for improving energy efficiency is to seal up the buildings so you are not losing conditioned air, but we can’t forget about the people living in these buildings,” Doll said.

Home Energy Upgrades and Radon Testing Go Together

When you make that decision to weatherize your home for energy savings, take a minute to also consider what effect these measures may have on your indoor air quality, especially on radon levels.

Radon, the naturally occurring soil gas, invisible and odorless, becomes a concern when it accumulates to unsafe levels inside buildings. High levels of radon can cause lung cancer and is blamed for about 21,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Fortunately, testing for radon is simple and inexpensive, and every home can and should be tested.

Many people erroneously believe that having a drafty home disqualifies them from having a radon problem. The reasoning is that with all the fresh air coming in, indoor air contaminants are diluted or flushed out. This may or may not be true.