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

Project Funder: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Project Partners: National Center for Healthy Housing, Tohn Environmental Strategies, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Project Contact: Jonathan Wilson, jwilson@nchh.org, 443.539.4162.

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.

DOE Literature Review:
Home Rx: The Health Benefits of Home Performance ‎– A Review of Current Evidence
Home Rx: The Health Benefits of Home Performance ‎– An Expanded Matrix