When it comes to the real-world application of these programs, utilities can sign on to the ENERGY STAR program as a sponsor for residential new homes. This allows them to promote energy efficiency in the residential market and complement their other residential energy efficiency initiatives. Cities like Lancaster, California, counties like North Westchester, New York, and states like Massachusetts all have healthy home incentive programs that can be included on top of energy efficiency incentives.
Utilities typically focus on the energy savings aspect of buildings. However, one unintended consequence of making spaces tighter in order to improve energy efficiency is that the indoor air quality can be degraded. Inadequate ventilation can actually increase indoor pollutant levels.
Indoor airPLUS consists of seven elements:
- Controlling moisture
- Controlling radon
- Controlling pests
- Optimizing the HVAC system (including ventilation)
- Limiting combustion pollutants
- Specifying low polluting materials
- Ensuring all the systems are working as specified through third party verification
Going a step beyond energy efficiency is a concrete way for utilities—and the builders they partner with—to sell health benefits to customers.
The future of indoor air quality
The interest in indoor air quality has never been higher, but outreach and education continue to be important to growing the program. For example, we led a webinar for the Salt River Project to encourage builders to participate in the ENERGY STAR for Homes program as well as a training webinar for AEP Texas and Texas-New Mexico Power. We also support EPA in the development of sales and training webinars for builders at trade shows and conferences such as BPA (Building Performance Association) and EEBA (Energy and Environmental Building Alliance).
In Dallas, Beazer Homes announced that all new homes built will now be designed and built Indoor airPLUS qualified. Nationwide, Indoor airPLUS has certified more than 36,000 homes and is growing at an average rate of 64% per year to meet buyer demand for healthy homes. We continue to work with the EPA on ways to illustrate the benefits to builders and their associated utilities.