Saturday, July 25, 2009

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: A Healthy Place to Live - The Role of Energy

By J Mahoney

Health and Indoor Conditions

If a home is energy efficient it will be a healthier place to live in too. The fact is your home energy is utilized mainly for maintaining a comfortable environment where the temperature, humidity, and air quality is well regulated. Energy also provides a drive force for a hygienic modern life style where every device and appliance used makes use of energy for achieving the desired output.

If energy is used almost in every aspect of running the home unless it is managed properly your hard earnings will simply seep out of your house.

Comfort conditions

Irrespective of the geographical location of your country, the nationality you belong to, your race or physical features all human beings experience comfort within a narrow band of environmental parameters. Personal factors (e.g. health), air temperature, mean radian temperature, air movement and velocity, relative humidity, clothing and activity level all influence human sense of comfort.

Studies have shown humans feel comfortable only within:

  • The temperature range of 23.5 to 25.5 0 C at an air velocity of 0.18m/s in the summer and 21% to 23% 0 C at an air velocity of 0.15 m/s in the winter.
  • Humidity range of 30% to 60%

In extreme conditions complications such as hypothermia, frost bite may result in lost limb or even death. Similarly extreme high temperature may lead to dehydration and heart malfunction leading even to death. Low humidity may cause dehydration and high humidity will cause lack of body heat transfer which too may be fatal in extreme cases. A lack of concentration, drop in efficiency etc is characteristic of high body temperatures.

Indoor Comfort Environment

Only heating or air conditioning accompanied by humidification or dehumidification can maintain the required indoor comfort conditions. Heating constitute about 60% of your annual energy bill while air conditioning (which uses electrical energy only) share too is about the same.

Indoor Air Quality

In home health issues indoor air quality (IAQ) plays a very big part. Today more than ever people are concerned about their health. Home or indoors are where you spend most of the time of the day and what you breathe in if not clean will lead to numerous health problems.

Unlike in the past the thickly populated urban regions with its smog, chemical fumes, smoke, dust, pollen, microbes, toxic gas emissions etc makes indoor as well as outdoor a very unsafe environment. While we cannot do much with regard to outdoor air quality as individuals, indoor quality is entirely within our purview when it comes to pollution control. Ironically it has been observed that indoor air of buildings is many times more polluted than the outdoors.

The way to tackle this issue is better ventilation (or dilution) with less polluted outdoor air using forced air circulation. Air movement and velocity will depend on the design of the ventilation system. Obviously when you want fresh air to come in, part of the air within the house has to be forced out. Along with the air expelled thermal energy used to heat the indoors (in colder seasons) or cool the indoors (in hot seasons) is lost.

While the use of heat recovery or enthalpy recovery ventilators addresses this problem well inevitably a minute amount of energy too is wasted. To filter out particulate pollutants and odors the ventilation system need to incorporate High Efficiency (HEPA) Filters and activated carbon filters (which too increase the energy consumed).

In conclusion a healthier place to live in is energy efficient homes i.e. a home where energy is managed better. Optimizing energy usage and minimizing wastage therefore must precede all other actions.

John Mahoney is a freelance author who writes about various Renewable Energy through topics including Energy-Efficient-Homes. For more info contact

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