What is a Combustion By-Product Free Home? Why is it More Healthy?

A well-known building scientist named Joe Lstiburek of the Building Science Corporation says there are seven steps to a healthy home.

He identifies these areas as:

  1. dry
  2. clean
  3. well-ventilated
  4. combustion by-product free
  5. pest free
  6. toxic chemical free
  7. comfortable.

Today I’m going to talk about the 4th step: a combustion product free home

The information I am providing is basic. If you have specific questions, please feel free to email me.


What is a Combustion By-Product?

Combustion (burning) by-products are gases and small particles created by the incomplete burning of fuels such as oil, gas, kerosene, wood, coal, and propane. Sources include combustion appliances such as wood heaters and wood stoves, furnaces, gas stoves and cooktops, and wood and gas fireplaces.

Why is it unhealthy in Your Home?

Combustion by-products are a leading cause of unhealthy carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels in a home, as well as other airborne particulates that can increase allergy and asthma symptoms and have been known to cause cancer.

How do I remove Combustion By-Products from my Home?

A completely combustion by-product free home is ideal, but not realistic for all homeowners. This would mean having an Electric hot water heater,  a high-performance electronic heat pump, all electric appliances, and no gas or wood burning stoves or fireplaces. While these products are now highly efficient in terms of energy use, they can be too expensive or impractical for some homes.

If you cannot remove combustion by-products from the home entirely, proper ventilation is crucial to ensuring good indoor air health for your home.

Proper Ventilation Reduces Combustion By-Products in the Home

To properly vent combustion by-products, you must look at both the air intake (where the combustion device draws in fresh oxygen to create combustion) and the combustion exhaust (where the by-products of combustion are vented to after combustion). For combustion furnaces and hot water heaters, an ideal system draws air from outside the home for combustion, and vents the exhaust outside the home, away from any air intakes for the home. This last part is important, because venting exhausted combustion by-products next to an air intake will virtually guarantee an unhealthy build up of those combustion by-products in the home.

For gas cooktops and ovens: Make sure you use an exhaust hood that vents to the outside, rather than one that just filters the air and exhausts it back into the home.

Green is a big passion of mine, and I love sharing my knowledge and experience with others. If you ever have any questions about how to make your home a more healthy living environment, more energy efficient, or anything else related to building and Real Estate, get in touch!

– Lou


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