Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality in New California Homes with Gas Appliances and Mechanical Ventilation
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.20357/B7QC7X
Substantial energy is used to condition the air that enters California homes through leaks in the building envelope and ductwork - typically about a third of all heating and cooling. Reducing this through air sealing is essential to California achieving zero energy homes. However, this outdoor air also dilutes pollutants emitted inside homes and contributes to a healthy indoor environment and acceptable indoor air quality (IAQ). To address this IAQ issue, California’s Title 24 Building Standards have required mechanical ventilation in new homes since 2008. This report presents a comprehensive study of the impacts of these requirements in recently constructed homes with natural gas appliances. The study included a survey about satisfaction and activities that impact IAQ; a field study of homes built to 2008 or later; and simulations assessing how various ventilation rates would impact chronic exposures to an indoor emitted pollutant as air tightness improves in California. The report focuses on the field study; the webbased survey and simulation elements are described in appendices. The field study characterized 70 homes built between 2011 and 2017. Each home was monitored over roughly one week with the dwelling unit mechanical ventilation system operating and windows closed. Pollutant measurements included time-resolved fine particulate matter (PM2.5) indoors and outdoors, and formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon dioxide (CO2) indoors. Time-integrated measurements were made for formaldehyde, NO2 and nitrogen oxides (NOX) indoors and outdoors at all homes. Activity monitoring devices were installed on the cooktop, range hood and other exhaust fans, and the heating and cooling system. The field study found that most homes met most ventilation requirements and the dwelling unit ventilation fans on average moved 50% more airflow than the minimum specified in Title 24. Air pollutant concentrations were similar or lower than those reported in a study of recent construction California new homes conducted in 2007-08. Notably, the median formaldehyde level was 38% lower than in the prior study. Measured concentrations were below health guidelines for most pollutants, indicating that IAQ is acceptable in new California homes when dwelling unit mechanical ventilation is used. However, the dwelling unit mechanical ventilation fans were only operating in one quarter of the homes when first visited and the control switches in many homes did not have informative labels as required by the standards. Corrective action needs to be taken to improve labeling and controls for ventilation systems.