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Sealing Your Home Could Result In Harmful Air

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As temperatures soar into the 100s again this summer in Austin, many homeowners will be cranking up their air conditioners. However, unknown to many, the desirable, cooler air they’re breathing could be harmful.

Richard Corsi, a professor at the University of Texas who studies air quality, notices that many U.S. homeowners, particularly those living in warm climates, are sealing up their houses by fixing cracks around their windows, replacing old weather strips, and so on.

While this practice makes A/C units run more efficiently (and decreases electricity bills), it also contributes to the toxicity of indoor air, Corsi says, which is important when the average American spends approximately 72 hours of their entire life indoors.

“We spend about 18 hours indoors as Americans for every one hour we spend outdoors,” Corsi told KUT News. “Study after study after study shows that levels of most toxic pollutants are higher indoors than outdoors. So we’re spending almost all of our time where levels of toxic chemicals are the highest."

As a solution, Corsi suggests homeowners ventilate when appropriate. Opening windows and doors at night allows toxic substances to escape. As well, using energy recovery ventilators reduces electricity costs and increases air quality, according to Corsi. In essence, an energy recovery ventilator decreases the costs of ventilating a building by allowing some of the energy lost during ventilating to be recovered.

Corsi spoke at the triennial Indoor Air conference, at the Austin Convention Center until June 10. The conference brings together researchers and practitioners, as well as more than 200 students to discuss their research and ideas.

Erin is a summer news intern at KUT. She is currently a student at the University of Virginia.