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Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades

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

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Purpose and Overview

Millions of American homes are upgraded or remodeled to improve their energy efficiency, make them more comfortable and affordable, or add features. 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.

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 single family homes. EPA has also published similar guidance for multifamily properties, titled Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for Multifamily Building Upgrades

In concert with EPA's development of these Protocols, the U.S. DOE developed the Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals, which 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 and the EPA have collaborated closely throughout the production of these documents which are complementary and mutually supportive.

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

  • Private sector home performance contractors
  • HVAC contractors
  • Remodeling and renovation contractors
  • Weatherization assistance programs
  • Federally funded housing programs

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

  • Help improve the quality of work performed in the remodeling and home performance industry
  • Assist trainers and program administrators in establishing standard protocols
  • Promote occupant health and safety
  • Assure consumers that high quality work is performed

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What's Included in the Protocols?

EPA's Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades documents focuses primarily on the health and safety of 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 used to evaluate existing conditions of concern and the potential for additional concerns that could arise from energy upgrade activities.
  • Minimum Actions include critical measures 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 that home energy updages contractors can take during a home energy upgrade project to promote healthy indoor environments.

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 Should the Protocols Be Used?

These protocols were developed to assist Weatherization Assistance Programs (WAP) and other home energy upgrade and remodeling programs to support 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 measures. EPA recommends that these protocols be 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).

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