Association of Residential Energy Efficiency Retrofits with Indoor Environmental Quality, Comfort, and Health: A Review of Empirical Data

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Journal Article

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This paper reviews empirical data from evaluations of the influence of residential energy efficiency retrofits on indoor environmental quality conditions and self-reported thermal comfort and health. Data were extracted from 36 studies described in 44 papers plus two reports. Nearly all reviewed studies were performed in Europe or United States. Most studies evaluated retrofits of homes with low-income occupants. Indoor radon and formaldehyde concentrations tended to increase after retrofits that did not add whole-house mechanical ventilation. Study-average indoor concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds other than formaldehyde increased and decreased with approximately equal frequency. Average indoor temperatures during winter typically increased after retrofits, usually by less than 1.5oC. Dampness and mold, usually based on occupant's reports, almost always decreased after retrofits. Subjectively reported thermal comfort, thermal discomfort, non-asthma respiratory symptoms, general health, and mental health nearly always improved after retrofits. For asthma symptoms, the evidence of improvement slightly outweighed the evidence of worsening. There was insufficient evidence to determine whether changes in thermal comfort and health outcomes varied depending on the type of energy efficiency retrofit. The published research has numerous limitations including a lack of data from retrofits in warm-humid climates and minimal data on changes in objective health outcomes. Suggestions for future research are provided.


Building and Environment

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