Is there a more beautiful time to live here in Vermont than after the summer heat has subsided and before the harsh winter sets in? The leaves have put on a show this fall, bringing leaf peepers from all over the world to our little corner of New England. Unfortunately for many, the change in colors is accompanied by allergy-like symptoms that can suck the enjoyment out of a beautiful time of year.
Homeowners feeling the Vermont allergies without reprieve often wonder, “Is my home making me sick?” This is especially common when those health symptoms don’t go away after spending extended periods of time indoors. Here is what you should know about how your home could be contributing to your indoor allergies, and how you can remedy the situation using a little building science knowledge and a trusted home performance contractor like EnergySmart of Vermont.
How Autumn Leaves Affect Your Health
Did you know that the leaves of many types of trees act as the factory where food is made throughout the year? The leaves of a tree are where chlorophyll is broken down, and used to fuel a tree’s growth. But in the fall, the daylight patterns begin to change, and in anticipation, the trees around New England begin a slow and beautiful death as they prepare to “hibernate” for the winter. With 4.5 million acres of forest land here in Vermont, that’s a lot of dead leaves in a short amount of time!
Dead leaves begin to decompose once they hit the forest floor. This provides the perfect feeding ground for mold, which also means elevated levels of mold spores in the air, and a reduction in the overall air quality. As these mold spores, additional allergens, and pollutants make their way into your home, they will recirculate in your HVAC system and cause a number of health symptoms — and not just for those suffering from a mold allergy! These symptoms can include:
Post nasal drip or runny nose
Increased asthma symptoms
Sneezing, couching, or wheezing
Itchy or watery eyes
So how can you maintain healthy fall IAQ (indoor air quality)? Well, a little building science knowledge can go a long way.
Energy Audits: Take Inventory of Your Home Performance
The first step towards separating the air you breathe in your home and the unpredictable air quality of the outdoors is to understand where your home may be allowing outdoor air to infiltrate. Air leaks and gaps are often hiding right under your feet or over your head, in the attic and crawlspace. These holes can also appear around your windows, or around your ceiling fans and recessed lighting.
EnergySmart of Vermont uses a series of diagnostic tests to locate these areas of weakened home performance during what is called an energy audit. The EnergySmart energy audit includes a blower door test, which gives us a reading on the total air leakage present in your home. From there, we pinpoint those air leaks using infrared camera imaging. Infrared imaging will also uncover areas where your home could be under insulated. An under insulated home will also be prone to year-round temperature issues, since insulation works to keep the summer heat outside, and your winter warmth inside.
Air Sealing & Insulation
The results of each energy audit will vary depending on each home. But we find that many homeowners looking for relief from their fall allergies will benefit from our air sealing and insulation services. When EnergySmart of Vermont air seals a home, we utilize a spray foam material that expands as it hardens to fill each and every hole once and for all.
If your energy audit has uncovered that your insulation has deteriorated over or is just not up to par, our team can properly remove your old insulation and work with you to determine the best insulation material for your indoor air quality and home comfort goals. Plus, as your home’s indoor temperatures stabilize after your home improvement projects are complete, you will see a reduction in your energy costs!