Home Rx: The Health Benefits of Home Performance (DOE)

This U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report, Home RX: The Health Benefits of Home Performance, summarizes evidence that home performance upgrades can improve the quality of a home’s indoor environment by reducing the prevalence of harmful indoor air pollutants and contaminants.

The report seeks to document the full array of health benefits for homeowners and their families stemming from home performance improvements and green renovation practices. Ranging from general health improvements to measurable reductions in asthma symptoms and other respiratory illnesses, these benefits complement the energy cost savings and comfort improvements frequently produced by home performance upgrades. In some instances, the health benefits associated with home performance were shown to reduce both healthcare utilization and costs.

Key findings include:

  • Base energy efficiency work, such as work performed under DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program, can also create healthier living environments. Health-related outcomes include improved general health, reductions in some asthma symptoms, fewer cases of hypertension and upper respiratory risks, and some improvements in indoor air quality contaminants.
  • Enhanced energy efficiency upgrades have been shown to reduce indoor air contaminants linked to chronic illnesses, control environmental contaminants (dust mites, mold/moisture) that can trigger respiratory symptoms, and improve symptoms of asthma and other respiratory health conditions.
  • Green new construction research includes four studies that have documented observed reductions in healthcare utilization. Multiple studies of green renovation and new construction also found reductions in indoor air pollutants, other asthma triggers such as pests and mold, and, ultimately, asthma symptoms.
  • Studies of enhanced ventilation strategies have documented reduced indoor air quality contaminants that have been linked with chronic illnesses or respiratory risks, fewer respiratory risks among people with asthma, and reduced allergens.
  • Several stand-alone home services/upgrades have been shown to improve occupant health and could be incorporated into home performance work specifications. These include in-room HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) air cleaners, replacement of gas stoves with electric stoves, and upgrades from older wood stoves to cleaner-burning models.
  • Additional studies are needed to build upon existing research that demonstrates improved indoor air quality and reported health symptoms to also document reductions in healthcare utilization -- the extent to which a given group uses particular healthcare services in a specified period, and/or costs.

The report was prepared by the National Center for Healthy Housing, Tohn Environmental Strategies, and the DOE.

Occupant Health Benefits of Residential Energy Efficiency (E4TheFuture)

This report summarizes the existing research in an accessible format, provides examples of how energy programs have monetized health co-benefits, and highlights examples of innovative programs linking energy and health-focused repairs to help further such collaboration.

The report can help health, housing, and energy programs as they explore opportunities to innovate and more fully value and secure health co-benefits in program design, work protocols, and cost-effectiveness practices.

Key findings include:
  • Occupants can experience fewer asthma symptoms and respiratory-related emergency department visits after energy efficiency (EE).
  • Occupants report better physical and mental health after EE.
  • Programs delivering EE with added home repairs and client education can produce more significant improvements in asthma symptoms and indoor environmental conditions.
  • Whole-house ventilation strategies using heat or energy recovery ventilators (HRVs or ERVs) can reduce asthma and respiratory symptoms in children with pre-existing risks. Such strategies are increasingly being considered in EE programs.
The report was prepared for E4TheFuture by Tohn Environmental Strategies, the National Center for Healthy Housing, and
Three3. For more information, contact jwilson@nchh.org or info@e4thefuture.org.