What is BEEP?
BEEP is the Central Coast’s association of certified contractors, energy auditors and design consultants offering assistance on home system issues that address both indoor air quality and energy efficiency. “Home Performance” is the term commonly used to cover all such problems, which include safety issues such as combustion appliance gases and moisture and fiberglass dust intrusion which can lead to serious respiratory problems. Contractors are certified by state or national agencies such as BPI (Building Performance Institute). In the case of HERS raters (Home Energy Rating System), Cal-Certs is the certifying agency. Many members are licensed design professionals such as LEED-certified architects. This website provides articles and resources that document typical problems as well as unbiased lists of qualified service providers, and their client reviews.
FREE SEMINARS: Healthy Home Clinic Held Every Month in SLO! Upcoming Clinics on May 16th, June 13th and July 11th at the SLO Library, 5:30pm to 6:30pm. Questions and discussion until 7pm.
The Healthy Home Clinic is a free public seminar where you can bring a list of your symptoms and photos of your home and professional home inspectors and combustion safety and indoor air quality experts will give you their opinion on what your home’s problems are and how dangerous they may be. In many cases, these experts will come to your home at no charge for a free energy and indoor air quality assessment. So if you’re allergic to your house and you sneeze every time you turn on the furnace (which is true of up to 80% of the homes in SLO County), you must come to the Healthy Home Clinic to learn about the typical building flaws and system failures that can make you sick. Duct-leakage, the most common problem, is known to contribute to fiberglass dust and CO infiltration. This monthly seminar is conducted by building science experts and home inspectors in our community that are trained in diagnosis and mitigation of these home safety problems. You will also learn about the energy savings that usually result from the repair of indoor air-quality problems as well as $4,500 in rebates to offset repair costs.
Healthy Home Clinic Speakers and Topics (about 15 minutes each for a total of 1-hour):
Paul Menconi, P.E.(Professional Engineer), Building Science Specialist: HVAC Systems that Result in Poor Indoor Air Quality: This seminar segment will focus on combustion issues that cause appliances to produce unsafe levels of CO and contribute to other indoor air quality problems.
Butch Valko, Home Inspector, Mold Remediation Specialist: Controlling Moisture and Eliminating Mold: This seminar segment will focus the causes of common molds and their toxicity.
Bruce Severance, Energy Analyst, General Contractor: Fixing Air Quality Problems Saves Energy & Money! This seminar segment focuses on how the solutions to most indoor air quality problems also result in significant energy savings and there is up to $4,500 available in rebates for repairing such problems.
Kevin Hauber, Loan Officer at iMortgage: Rebates & Finance Packages That Will Make You Cash-Positive: This seminar segment focuses on how energy upgrade rebates are structured and other finance options that can make your home improvements “cash positive” by trading your high utility bills for a lower loan service payment.
Key Facts on Indoor Air Quality:
- One in five homes in SLO County has an appliance with CO levels that exceed national standards.
- CO monitors sound an alarm when 70 ppm are detected for four hours. Osha’s standards are 50 ppm averaged over 8 hours and flu-like symptoms can occur with as little as 35 ppm.
- The average home in the state has 30% duct leakage due to widespread “duct tape” failures.
- It is common to find up to 50% duct leakage in homes built before 1980.
- Duct leakage causes air-pressure imbalances that increase allergen and fiberglass infiltration.
- Fiberglass is a suspected carcinogen.
- Forty percent of the “fresh” air comes in from the crawlspace in homes that have them.
- Chronic respiratory problems such as severe allergies and asthma are up 75% since 1980.
- The EPA estimates that indoor air quality is ten times worse than outdoor air.
- Most indoor air quality issues are fixed with energy upgrades which yield significant energy savings.
- Rebates up to $4,500 are available to reimburse some of the indoor air-quality repair costs.
Why Your Home’s Air is So Bad For You:
One of the key objectives of the Association of Building Energy Efficiency Professionals (BEEP) is to bring attention to the nation-wide failure of “duct tape” which has not lived up to its name, resulting in significant and widespread indoor air-quality problems. Traditional duct tape, has been found by Lawrence Berkeley Labs not to last more than a couple of years and the resulting duct leakage poses a significant health issue: Because most ducting is located in the attics and crawl spaces – areas outside the building’s air barrier, duct leakage results in “depressurization” of the house which causes infiltration of dust, allergens and other toxins.
The most dangerous condition that can result is the “backdrafting” of combustion appliance flues that can bring unsafe levels of CO into the house. Surprisingly, an informal survey of about 50 homes in SLO County revealed that about a quarter of them have unsafe levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Energy Upgrade California offers rebates that can pay up to $4,000 of the needed repairs including combustion appliance problems and the repairs that address air quality issues also reap benefits in terms of immediate energy savings.
The average home in the US has 30% duct leakage and about 85% of all homes in SLO County, even homes built five years ago, have 20% to 40% duct leakage. Depressurization, or air-pressure imbalances are found in almost every home, and they increase particulates like fiberglass dust and allergens, which infiltrate from attics and crawlspaces. On average, homes with crawl spaces under the floor are drawing in 40% of their supply air from this unhealthy source. When ducting leaks in the crawlspace, the heat picks up moisture there, and moves the moisture into the house, increasing mold and indoor air quality problems. Fiberglass typically located in both crawl spaces and attics is a suspected carcinogen.
Very serious health issues do not generally arise unless you have both severe depressurization and naturally drafted gas appliances that are in need of a tune up. The confluence of these conditions is fairly common, and it can bring in a host of indoor contaminants. The EPA estimates that indoor air quality is up to ten times more unhealthy than outdoor air, even in urban areas. This is even more significant when you consider that Americans on average spend 90% of their time indoors. Respiratory problems such as asthma have increased 75% among children since the 1980’s. Although there are no causal links established, one must suspect that the building performance issues described above are a significant contributing factor to such statistics.
Duct leakage is fairly inexpensive to repair, usually ranging in cost from $500 to $2500 depending on the size of the system and other factors, but the investment also produces energy savings that usually pays for the cost of repairs in a year or two and you end up with a safer home for your family as well.
Some Steps to Affordably Fix the Problem:
The action item list in order of priority generally includes the following:
1) Remove and replace all duct tape with a UL-approved type. While you’re there, re-insulate ducts with R-8 or higher insulation.
2) Seal and fill the electrical and plumbing pass-throughs at the tops and bottoms of stud walls which can be accessed from attic and crawlspace. These are the holes drilled through the stud or “plates” at the top and bottom of interior stud-walls that allow electrical and plumbing to pass through from the wall to the attic, and they are the primary source of air intrusion from the attic and craws pace.
3) Replace all recessed “can” lights with “air-tight, insulation-contact” type to prevent heat loss.
4) Consider a “balanced” ventilation system such as a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). An HRV can cost as little as $300 to replace a bathroom vent and consists of two fans, one drawing air in, the other pushing air out, with the outgoing air serving to preheat the incoming air through a heat exchanger. It’s a great way to be sure you’re getting fresh air without losing heat and without depressurizing the house.
If you are in need of an energy audit to check for these problems, please refer to our auditor reference page. If you are in need of a BPI-certified general contractor to assist you with home repairs and apply for grants, please see the contractor page. If you have any general questions about indoor air quality, please contact the Association of Building Energy Efficiency Professionals (BEEP) at 805-268-4444. Bruce Severance is the Secretary of the organization.