Environment

BayREN: Linking health and energy efficiency

Home office

The Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN) is putting a focus on energy efficient homes and buildings as a way to keep people well.

People spend approximately 90% of their time in buildings – and 50% or more of every day inside their homes. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic with shelter in place restrictions increase the amount of time indoors, it has also shifted focus to health in buildings.

“It’s simple,” says Demian Hardman, senior planner with the County of Contra Costa, and the BayREN county lead, “healthy homes make healthy people.”

“Healthy Home” programs are crucial in informing residents about potential home health hazards, many of which are not readily visible, like dangerous polluting culprits such as carbon monoxide. Indoor air quality can be worsened by mold, allergens, leaky windows and poor insulation.

Without proper air flow in a home, cooking and cleaning can increase the level of indoor air pollutants as much as two to five times higher than outdoor levels. Even our water heaters and furnaces can expose people to harmful gases if the combustion systems are improperly sealed or old. Unsafe indoor air quality can cause asthma attacks, bring on allergies, and impact overall comfort. Installing energy efficient equipment in the home results in better physical and mental health, and comfort while also saving money on utility bills.

BayREN  — administered by the Association of Bay Area Governments —  offers regional energy programs, services and resources that promote energy savings, while helping local governments evaluate ways to come into compliance with state energy code.