Energy Efficiency Resources to Improve Indoor Air Quality

This year, California Clean Air Day and national Energy Efficiency Day both fell on October 6th. The two holidays were not only a chance to celebrate progress within areas of science and health, but also an opportunity to understand how they are interrelated. With people spending more time in buildings than ever before – whether due to extreme heat, wildfires, remote work, or the pandemic – indoor air quality is rapidly emerging as a component of healthy buildings and humans. A growing number of studies have found that indoor air can be negatively affected by mold and mildew, carpets, cleaning supplies, infiltration of outdoor pollution from vehicles and wildfires. GHG emitting gas-burning appliances are also becoming a concern for indoor air quality as without proper air flow, these pollutants don’t filter out of buildings, thereby potentially causing and aggravating health problems including asthma and other respiratory conditions. Exposure to particle pollution results in aggravated health problems and contributes to the 5,500 new childhood asthma cases every year in the Bay Area. And this exposure is likely to be present in our homes, public buildings, and significantly more so in neighborhoods with higher percentages of people of color. These neighborhoods face, on average, double the rate of pollution-related childhood asthma compared to predominantly white neighborhoods.


Improving indoor air quality and reducing harmful pollutants have clear benefits to health and are even more essential considerations with the persistence of COVID-19. Employing a suite of strategies to improve ventilation and filtration and increase energy efficiency in buildings can improve general health outcomes. Strategies for both may involve replacing heating or cooling ducts, improving ventilation, sealing gaps to reduce moisture, or switching to electric cooktops, just to highlight a few. BayREN’s Single Family, Multifamily, and Business programs each offer opportunities for rebates and technical assistance in order to make homes and businesses better for inhabitants’ health and utility bills.


If you’re a renter, like half of the Bay Area, or a commercial property tenant, it can be challenging to make improvements within your home or business because most changes require building enhancements – and the property owner’s buy in. However, there are resources through a variety of Bay Area organizations for both residential and commercial tenants and property owners! For residents, see the resources listed below, including making a Clean Air Pledge, a D-I-Y air purifier, or verify your eligibility in the Clean Air Filtration Program or Asthma Mitigation Program. Businesses can explore BayREN’s many program offerings for improving ventilation and health.


Multifamily properties with over five units can access BayREN’s Bay Area Multifamily Building Enhancements (BAMBE) program to receive incentives for building upgrades that save energy and money, while also providing health and comfort benefits for tenants. The program offers no-cost consulting for property owners and assits parties in understanding a building’s energy goals while also incorporating the health needs of residents. A program consultant examines the property’s energy and water usage, then formulates a package of upgrades to improve the property’s efficiency, health, and comfort. These upgrades result in a $750 per unit incentive – but there are additional incentives for indoor air-quality improving measures such as electric heating and cooking appliances. The BAMBE program also partners with the Asthma Start program of the Alameda County Public Health Department to co-leverage health resources from both programs to ultimately reduce triggers that lead to emergency room visits and hospitalizations. “Through the BAMBE program, local tenants can benefit from home improvements on multifamily properties and address common health problems that affect our communities” shares Candis Mary-Dauphin, a Program Manager at StopWaste who leads the BAMBE program.


Maintaining healthy air quality in our workplaces is just as important as in our homes and other buildings since many of us spend half of our days in our workplaces. Beyond the additional exposure risk to COVID-19 caused by improper air filtration and circulation, a new study by the Environmental Research Letters shows that poor indoor air quality in offices is associated with subtle impairments in a number of functions, including the ability to concentrate and process information (read: productivity!). The BayREN business program can help small-and-medium businesses improve the air quality in their buildings while also reducing operating costs. The program provides rebates, financing, and a one-stop-shop for technical assistance to ensure small and medium businesses can leverage all available energy saving programs. Upgrades can include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) replacements, energy efficient lighting and refrigeration equipment, smart thermostats, and a building management system. Through these upgrades, BayREN Business can help a local business lower its operating costs up to 25% by making it easy and affordable to save energy. Just as importantly, there’s no upfront cost and the upgrade is paid for through a 36-month subscription fee that also includes 24/7 equipment monitoring. The subscription fee is offset by energy and maintenance cost savings so the savings can go back into the business. In October, qualifying businesses also get 27 months of the 36-month subscription for free, but the offer ends soon!


Let’s celebrate continued strides in clean air and energy efficiency by taking action in the places we love. Check out the resources section below to learn more.


RESOURCES

Residents

  • Last month, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced a significant expansion for the Clean Air Filtration Program, which will provide portable air filtration units to unhoused and low-income residents in impacted communities as well as to emergency and cooling centers Bay Area-wide. Bay Area residents can get more information about the Clean Air Filtration Program by sending an inquiry to: AirFilters@baaqmd.gov.

  • Through a partnership with Regional Asthma Prevention Management, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will provide some 2,000 individuals living in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Santa Clara counties with portable indoor home air filtration units through the Asthma Mitigation Program. The program caters to low-income residents diagnosed with poorly-controlled asthma who are enrolled in the state’s Asthma Mitigation Project to receive in-home asthma care services and provides culturally and linguistically appropriate asthma home visits, education, and environmental remediation. More information about the Home Air Filtration Program is available on this fact sheet.

  • DIY air purifiers - People that do not qualify for the programs can create DIY air purifiers that are expected to remove 75% of particulate matter. See these tips for creating your DIY filter.

  • Homeowners can call an Energy Advisor at no cost to learn about the improvements they can make in their homes to improve air quality and discuss available rebates at 866-878-6008.

  • Join Californians for clean air and take the Clean Air Pledge.

  • Save money and cut pollution by taking action on to retroactively celebrate Energy Efficiency Day.


Multifamily Property Owners and Managers

Multifamily property owners and managers can improve indoor air quality for their tenants while also benefitting from reduced costs associated with energy savings through the Bay Area Multifamily Enhancements (BAMBE) program. You can also learn more about the possibilities for multifamily properties through program case studies.


Businesses

Fill out the BayREN Business interest form to get started with air and energy efficiency improvements. Qualifying businesses get 27 months of the 36-month subscription free. Fill out the interest form now and take advantage of the October special!

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