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Is your Home Too Airtight?

Is your Home Too Airtight?

There has been a lot of talk lately about folks worrying their new home is built too tight. The story goes something like this. A couple saves their money to build their dream home and they find a custom builder who specializes in building “tight” homes. (The benefits being energy efficiency and improved air quality.) And because this is the new way to build homes, the incremental cost increase is just that-incremental. Unfortunately, they soon discover “because the home is so tight” mold is growing, the air is stale and the kids are starting to get sick! So what gives?

Before we get to that answer some context and history is in order. Back in the day when homes were first being built, the exterior walls consisted of a wood frame with wood siding on the outside and wood siding (eventually drywall) on the inside. Unfortunately these homes were as hot (or cold) inside as the outdoor air temperature. So the next evolution in what is now known, as “building science” was to insulate those walls.

Well, that insulation did a heck of a job in keeping the interior of the home much more comfortable all year round. But it did nothing to stop the air from moving through the walls between the outdoors and the indoors. In fact today, in these older homes, we just call the insulation a good air filter! Now, in the summer with the air conditioner on you want to close the windows so the air doesn’t leak outside right? But how do you stop that conditioned air from leaking out through the walls? Well, you build tighter walls (and ceilings and attics!)!

And we have also learned that in most parts of the country the quality of the air inside of the home is actually worse than the quality of the air outside the home. The moisture content of the indoor air from cooking, washing clothes, showering and bathing is almost always higher than the air outside. Additionally, the chemical content in all your furnishings is typically higher than outside air and then you add in all the cleaning products, candles and perfumes and you realize we really have quite the witches brew of air quality that needs to be regularly exhausted from our homes. Which leads us back to where we started… can your home be too tight?

The short answer is no. The correct question to ask, however, is can your home improperly manage the air exchange necessary to keep the air quality high and the cost of heating and cooling low? And the short answer to that is yes!

Today, the best Building Science Practices recommend a super tight home with the proper exchange of air between the indoors and outdoors. Depending on the Climate Zone you live in these best practices will vary, but the bottom line is don’t just ask your builder if they build a tight home, ask them how they manage the air exchange for your home in your climate zone. At Nautilus, we will be happy to show you how we do this and we promise you that you will love the results!

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