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Replacement windows: No Big Secrets, Some Negative Aspects (part 2)

by Scott Best

This article is long over due so let’s recap just a bit.  I stated in an earlier article that it’s true that replacement windows save money in energy costs. It’s true that the proper replacement windows, installed properly can add value to your home. It’s true that the cost to replace windows today is by comparison, cheaper then it has ever been. 

And I stated that 70% of homes 10 years old or older can benefit from the installation of replacement windows, all true and good.  Then I went on to explain how the determination of the windows and seals leads to energy loss and how to spot it. Then I tried to explain how in some cases replacing windows could cause some heating systems to be less efficient, by virtue of combustible air starvation.  If you need any clarification on this please see the first article, and read about negative air pressure. 

Now it’s long past time for me to talk about another concern when replacing windows and doors in your home, and that is indoor air pollution.  You might think that the idea of indoor air pollution is, well almost incongruous, but it really isn’t.  In fact indoor air quality under the right (actually wrong) conditions, can be as bad or worse then many major metropolitan cities during a smog alert.  That’s right; the air in a tightly sealed home can be worse then city smog, if not dealt with properly.

It might seem laughable, but its very serious business indeed.  Here’s what happens.  With your old windows and doors, there was enough rogue air passing through all those cracks and crevasses to do a fair rate of air exchange.  Then when the windows and doors get sealed up, and you feel the big drafts from other places that you never knew existed you seal them up as well.  You finally eliminate all the drafts, and possibly get that heating system replaced with one that draws directly from outside air and you feel pretty good about saving on the energy bill, and that’s good, you should.   

But you may have created a big problem in the process.  We humans breathe in air, more over oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.  Yes that’s the greenhouse gas, but global warming isn’t the concern here.  As we breathe carbon dioxide builds up in the air in our homes, which in and of it self is a concern.  But more of concern are the VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds that are emitted by just about everything now days.    

What are VOCs?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines them as organic gasses that are emitted from certain solids or liquids. VOC’s include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. A short list of some products that are known to contain VOC’s in varying amounts are such things as paints and lacquers, paint strippers, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, cleaning supplies, glues and adhesives, permanent markers.  Varnishes, and wax all contain some type of material that will release VOCs, as do many other cleaning, disinfecting and cosmetic products.  Even the carpet underfoot will give off VOCs. 

And why now are VOCs such a problem?   As homes get tighter, via replacement windows and doors, with the installation of high efficiency heating systems, fresh air doesn’t seem to find its way in as much as it use to.  In our effort to seal out the cold and heat, to maintain our optimal living temperature we have managed to squeeze out the fresh air that we need to live healthy.

More and more it’s becoming a reality that complete air management systems are needed in homes to deal with the indoor air pollution problem that are created from having a tightly sealed, energy efficient home. 

So you see installing new windows comes with the responsibility of thought.  If you are going to have a tightly sealed energy efficient home you need to consider all aspects of what that might mean.  If you are not sure about the quality of the air in your home, you might want to do some investigative work, or hire someone to do it for you. It’s easy to have an indoor air pollution problem and not ever realize it.

 Not that I am advocating against such things as installing new windows and doors, quite the contrary.  I just think that it behooves us to know as much as we can about the way we live and the choices we make. Not paying attention to these types of details can be costly not only in money but to our health and well being as well.  So do yourself a favor and check into the quality of the air you live in, in your own home.  It might surprise you.  And you just might live longer for it.

 

 

Copyright 2006 Scott Best: All rights reserved

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