Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades

New guidance will help ensure that home energy upgrades protect the health of Americans while saving energy and money.

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[November 15, 2011] EPA has developed a voluntary guidance document, Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades, that provides a set of best practices for improving indoor air quality in conjunction with energy upgrade work in homes.

The guidance was developed in collaboration with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Recovery Through Retrofit Initiative and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) initiative to develop Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals.

The EPA protocols and DOE guidelines are intended for voluntary adoption by:

  • Weatherization assistance programs
  • Federally funded housing programs
  • Private sector home performance contractors
  • Others working on residential energy upgrade or remodeling efforts

Together, the complementary documents provide a robust and practical set of resources for:

  • Home energy upgrade contractors, trainers and program administrators
  • Help improve the quality of the work performed in this expanding industry
  • Promote occupant health and safety
  • Assure consumers that high quality work is performed

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Why EPA developed Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades

Millions of American homes will be upgraded or remodeled in the coming years to improve their energy efficiency, make them more comfortable and affordable, or add features their owners want. The benefits of home upgrades are tremendous — improving quality of life for occupants, protecting the environment and sustaining American jobs. Integrated healthy home and energy efficiency upgrade activities can simultaneously lower utility costs and improve indoor air quality. Leading energy efficiency upgrade programs have demonstrated the feasibility of integrating many indoor air quality and safety improvements. However, home energy upgrade activities might negatively affect indoor air quality if the appropriate home assessment is not made before work begins or if work is performed improperly. The EPA developed Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades to provide practical guidance on improving or maintaining indoor air quality and indoor environments during home energy upgrades or remodeling.

The protocols apply to existing single-family and multi-family low-rise residential buildings. They provide guidance for conducting home assessments and undertaking the responses necessary to maintain or improve indoor air quality and safety. The protocols also can help improve the quality of home weatherization projects and other energy efficiency efforts, thus reducing failures and call-backs.

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What information is included in Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades?

EPA's Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades focus primarily on the health and safety of the building occupants. The document identifies priority indoor environmental issues and includes Assessment Protocols to evaluate existing conditions, Minimum Actions to be taken during home energy upgrade activities, and Expanded Actions that provide opportunities to promote improved occupant health through home energy upgrades, as described below:

  • Assessment Protocols are protocols for evaluating existing conditions of concern and the potential for additional concerns that may arise from energy upgrade activities.
  • Minimum Actions include critical actions that home energy upgrade contractors should take to help ensure their work does not introduce new indoor air quality concerns or make existing conditions worse.
  • Expanded Actions include additional actions to promote healthy indoor environments that can be taken during many home energy upgrade projects. They can be performed by properly trained home energy upgrade workers who have sufficient resources.

The protocols often refer to national standards and guidance; however, work should be conducted in compliance with state and local requirements as well. Supplemental guidance information is referenced. The document also includes appendices on worker protection and client education.

The protocols are not intended to:

  1. set new EPA regulatory standards
  2. provide guidance on diagnosing occupant health problems or building-related illness
  3. address emerging issues that have not been linked to adverse health effects
  4. make training or training documents unnecessary
  5. provide detailed guidance on how to achieve the intent of each recommendation in all situations or
  6. identify funding availability or which programmatic funding sources should be used

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How these protocols relate to other federal programs

Recovery Through Retrofit, November 9, 2010

Vice President Joe Biden announces three new initiatives that will help grow the energy-efficiency industry and help families make improvements that will help save money on their energy bills.

In May 2009, the Vice President's Middle Class Task Force asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to develop recommendations for federal action to lay the architecture for a self-sustaining home energy efficiency upgrade industry. In response, CEQ facilitated a broad interagency process that resulted in the development of six recommendations described in detail in the report, Recovery Through Retrofit. These recommendations were carefully crafted to stimulate the growth of a vibrant, private sector-led market for residential energy efficiency upgrades. They include establishment of a uniform set of national guidelines to promote high-quality, safe and healthy energy efficiency upgrades.

The U.S. DOE is developing the Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals in response to this recommendation, in concert with EPA's development of Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades. The DOE Weatherization Assistance Program and the broader residential energy efficiency upgrade industry are experiencing significant growth as a result of investments made through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and increased public awareness of the economic, employment, and health benefits of reducing home energy consumption. DOE'sGuidelines for Home Energy Professionals contain standard work specifications and referenced technical standards for a wide range of energy efficiency upgrade measures. These standard work specifications define the minimum requirements for high quality energy efficiency upgrade work and the proper conditions necessary to achieve the desired outcomes of a given installation or upgrade measure.

DOE's Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals and EPA's Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades have been developed in conjunction with one another and are complementary and mutually supportive. Both are intended to provide a set of measures that the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program and other energy efficiency upgrade efforts can adopt to increase the quality of the work performed while maintaining or improving the health and safety of the occupants.

DOE and the EPA have collaborated closely throughout the production of these two documents. In particular, the two agencies have strived to integrate the EPA minimum actions into the DOE Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals, so that upgrade workers following DOE guidance will inherently achieve the EPA minimum recommendations. Additionally, both DOE and EPA fully support the home energy upgrade industry going above and beyond the minimum actions by adopting the EPA-recommended expanded actions, but both agencies also understand that financial or programmatic constraints may impede this in certain cases.

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How EPA Recommends the Protocols be Used

These protocols were developed to assist weatherization assistance programs and other home energy upgrade and remodeling programs to support their existing practices that improve the indoor environment and protect occupants. The protocols provide additional guidance for those able to go beyond minimum requirements and incorporate additional health oriented measures. EPA recommends that these protocols are voluntarily adopted, in whole or in part, for the following purposes:

  • Develop or enhance standardized training program requirements.
  • Refine and update program performance standards, materials, and resources to continue to protect occupant health.
  • Inform revisions to program funding rules if and where needs are unmet (i.e., specify allowable expenses for health and safety as appropriate).