Myth: A home can be “too tight”

A common myth in the home energy efficiency space is that a home can be too tight, and that you don’t want to do too much air sealing because “a house needs to breathe.”

Fact: the people in a house need to breathe, but the house itself doesn’t need to breathe.

The source of this myth is an understandable concern for indoor air quality. After all, we all want to be sure that the air in our homes is healthy and safe for our families. But a leaky house is definitely not the best way of ensuring healthy indoor air quality.

The mantra among building science professionals is “build tight, ventilate right.” This means that a building should be as air tight as possible to ensure energy efficiency, comfort, and building durability; but that when a home reaches a certain level of air tightness, mechanical ventilation should be added to ensure that healthy indoor air standards are met.

This also doesn’t mean that in an energy efficient home you need to keep your windows closed all the time, because opening will somehow mess up the delicate balance inside. To the contrary, on nice days when you would normally keep your windows open, doing so in an energy efficient building is perfectly fine.

As far as indoor air quality is concerned, energy efficient homes are actually better than leaky old houses, because the air that enters those leaky houses does so through areas like the crawlspace and the walls — areas that are full of mold and other hazardous toxins that can contribute to asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems. In a tight, energy efficient home, you’re better protected from these allergens.

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