The events of the last several years have sparked the adoption of home upgrades that prioritize our health and well-being — from the installation of touchless faucets to freshly painted walls in neutral, calming colors. While these cosmetic changes are certainly beneficial, many homeowners are craving permanent upgrades that address more pressing concerns, such as indoor air quality (IAQ) levels. After all, poor IAQ can have both immediate and long-term effects on our physical health, from eyes, nose and throat irritation to respiratory diseases.
One way to improve and maintain a healthier indoor living environment is to install clean insulation throughout critical areas of a home, including the walls, roof and floors. While there are various types of insulation materials on the market, expanded polystyrene (EPS) offers incredible performance capabilities in a safe package, making it an ideal option for health-conscious homeowners.
Here are three tried-and-true ways that EPS insulation helps improve IAQ levels at home.
1. Does not release toxic contaminants into our homes
First and foremost, EPS has a clean composition and is one of the few types of building insulations that doesn’t experience off-gassing, meaning it will not leak dangerous contaminants into the air. On the other hand, some competitive insulation products employ blowing agents during the manufacturing process to achieve an abnormally high R-value. This can be appealing to many homeowners because typically, the higher an insulation’s R-value, the stronger its thermal performance and ability to provide a more comfortable living environment. However, these blowing agents will diffuse from the cellular structure of the material over its service life, steadily releasing a host of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. To our benefit, EPS offers reliable thermal performance and does not utilize blowing agents. Because the insulation doesn’t experience any off-gassing, homeowners can enjoy cleaner air at home.
2. Creates a nearly airtight home that keeps allergens out
Installed across the walls, roof and floors of our homes, EPS can help support continuous insulation (ci) — a building concept that results in a nearly airtight structure. Generally, airtightness can be compared to the zipper on a down jacket. On a mountain top, the down jacket is essentially worthless if the zipper is not zipped.
Like a down jacket and its zipper, panels of EPS can effectively create an air-impermeable building envelope. Without the blanket of EPS insulation, harmful outdoor air pollutants such as vehicle exhaust and smoke may unknowingly infiltrate our homes. Recognizing the importance of a nearly airtight home is one of our strongest weapons in the pursuit of healthier IAQ.
3. Maximizes the performance of HVAC systems to filter and dehumidify the air we breathe
Utilizing EPS across the building envelope will support a tight home and, in turn, maximize the performance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems put in place. In application, an effective ventilation system will usher fresh air into a home in controlled amounts and exhaust indoor contaminants to the outside. By limiting air exchange to controlled ventilation systems, we can breathe cleaner, healthier air at home.
An efficient ventilation system will also dehumidify incoming air to mitigate the risk of mold growth in wall cavities, floorboards and other damp, dark places. With properly functioning mechanical ventilation, there’s no need to worry about toxic mold curtailing IAQ levels.
With a growing focus on health and wellness in the home, now is the perfect time to prioritize making lasting changes that will improve your quality of life. Get started on the road to better IAQ by heading to your local home improvement store and looking for the aisle with EPS insulation materials (such as pre-cut R-TECH Insulation Panels) or turn to a contractor who works with EPS products (including the many options from Insulfoam).