As we’ve discussed in our previous articles and blog posts, when a home is built to be energy efficient, whether that be with ICF, or another superior building method, its carbon footprint is typically less than that of an average home, and it can help to save households on their utility bills because of the reduced heating, cooling and electricity required to fuel the home. This is especially important when considering that a person’s environment and circumstances can greatly impact their physical and mental health.
Negative psychological effects can often stem from anxiety or stress related to fuel poverty and other financial concerns. A household is generally considered to be in fuel poverty when they are unable to afford energy related services—specifically, when the household spends more than 10% of its income on energy services to achieve a satisfactory indoor temperature. This is often due to a combination of low income, an energy inefficient home, and the subsequent high cost of that home’s energy bills. Stress and depression are also related to consistent thermal discomforts that are caused by fuel poverty or an inefficient home. While not necessarily all in what’s considered fuel poverty, at least a third of households in the U.S still struggle to afford their energy bills.
The negative physical effects seen as a result of an inefficient home are most often in the realm of respiratory issues due to poor indoor air quality. This includes the exacerbation of preexisting health problems like asthma and allergies. But even the previously mentioned thermal discomforts can play a role in poor physical health. Research has shown that consistently cold indoor temperatures are linked to increased risks of heart attacks, strokes, and coronary heart disease.
Because of its improved ventilation and insulation, an energy efficient home can see protection from outdoor air pollutants and create a more “thermally consistent” environment that can help to alleviate many of the related health concerns.
The improved insulation of a home plays an important role when also considering external factors such as power grid failures, like those that happened in the winter of February 2021 in Texas. More than 10 million people were left without power, resulting in the deaths of at least 246. These deaths were caused by freezing, and carbon monoxide poisoning as people tried their bests to escape the cold temperatures. On average, a standard home will only retain its warmth for 8 to 12 hours before gradually cooling. A well-insulated, energy efficient home, especially one of ICF, will retain its heat for much longer due to its superior insulation. While building energy efficient homes does not solve the root problem as in the case of the freezes in Texas, it can certainly help to prevent incidents like this from being as catastrophic in the future.
Solutions for an Inefficient Preexisting Home:
- Replace the inefficient appliances in your home. A well-insulated home wont do you much good if your appliances use up almost as much energy as you’re trying to save. If you’re unsure which appliances to switch to, a good place to start are the appliances with the energy star label. These are appliances that are backed by the EPA and guaranteed to be energy efficient and cost effective. Such appliances include water heaters, dishwashers, fridges, washers/dryers and ACs.
- Replace the insulation in your attic and upgrade to foam insulation. Up to 40% of the energy used to regulate the temperature of a home is lost to air infiltration. Spray foam insulation like that provided by EcoFoam, does exceptionally well compared to traditional insulation types because it can seal up areas such as soffits, vents and gaps around windows and doors, and closed cell spray foam has an R-Value of 7, compared to the 3.8 or less of cellulose or fiberglass batting.
- Invest in new windows. While some windows can simply be resealed, this may not be enough for some older types of windows which are often made with single pane glass. Double-pane and triple pane windows are better sealed and better prevent excess heat from entering the home. You can also block heat from entering the home by making use of window films.
- Change your lights to LEDs. LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs.