Thursday, August 26, 2010

Indoor air quality

I posted some of the info here on a recent post in the homeone forum and I thought I would post it here too.

I had flagged my blog on our low VOC paint, and somebody pointed out - quite rightly - that paint is only one of a number of things that can pollute the indoor environment.

So here's the list of the other things we are doing to try to keep our air as nice as possible:
  • very low VOC kitchen
  • as low VOC carpets as we can find (and only in two rooms), with E0 underlay (rubber, by Bridgestone)
  • no plastics on light fittings
  • Marmoleum on the upstairs floor
  • all fans ducted to outside
  • blinds not curtains
  • wardrobes from Ikea, so E1 but better than the alternatives.

I think we are going to recover our old couch rather than buy a new one, although if I could find a new one that was E0 and comfy and under $2000, I'd buy it in a minute. (Any leads on this topic very appreciated)

And most of all, we're ready for new mattresses (ours have been trampolined beyond everyone's comfort zone) so will buy latex ones complete with pillows and have them delivered straight to the new house. The rental place we are in now is a cesspit of mould and dust, through no fault of ours. I want to leave the spoors behind! :)

Trouble spots: we want wallpaper in a few spots, and the options for low VOC are so fugly they aren't worth the effort of sticking to a wall.

And I can't seem to get a clear answer on house plants - some researchers say they clean the air, others say that potting mix and damp are inherently evil. My compromise at the moment is to have a few, but not a whole conservatory full.

What have I missed??


Catherine said...

Elizabeth, can you explain why blinds are better than curtains? I'm looking at window coverings for our place and had thought curtains would be better for insulation... hadn't considered VOC.


Elizabeth said...

Hi Catherine

Thanks for reading my blog.

As far as I know, the curtain/blind issue is more to do with indoor air quality than VOCs.

Curtains tend to drop to the floor, which means they (a) pick up more dust and (b) are more voluminous.

And if you have cats, then curtains tend to end up collecting more than their weight in stray fur! (At least, in my experience they do - but that might be just because I'm crap at vacuuming.)

Certainly, from a thermal performance perspective, curtains are a good option in terms of insulation. But you also need a pelmet - this is what stops convection currents, in which the hot air travels across your ceiling, down the window pane and ends up as cold air at floor level.

At this stage, our budget spreadsheet has provision for Duette Architella blinds, which have good insulating properties and inbuilt pelmets. But they are horribly expensive.

If you are on a tight budget, I'd go for thick curtains and pelmets. And vacuum them regularly. :)

For any readers out there with a damp home (i.e. where water condenses on the windows in cold weather), it's worth also checking your curtains for signs of mildew or mould. If you find any, I recommend this site:


Caromac said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Love your blog. I am building in Tasmania next year and will have curtains. They will be floor to ceiling without pelmets. I know it's extra length but I cannot stand pelmets. THis is a good way of getting around it.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Caro, I hate pelmets too. They remind me of my parents' place. They have pelmets on windows that don't even have curtains (though they are soon to rectify this ... after 35 years!)

You might already have thought of this, but just in case you haven't, with your set up, it might be helpful to make sure the curtains are as close to the wall as possible, to minimise hot air being drawn down behind them.

I keep meaning to email you to see if you have read this book:
It's magical and totally inspiring. I thought of it when I saw your post on building a small house on home one.


Caromac said...

Hi Elizabeth,
How weird, my close friends call me Caro!!!

Thanks for the info on the book, I am checking the site out and about to order the book.
Will let you know what I think.