Step Code 3 and Indoor Air Quality

Step Coe

Effective May 1, 2023, all new residential buildings in British Columbia must meet Energy Step Code 3.  This province wide objective aims to improve energy efficiency in new construction by 20%.  Builders are now required to hire a certified energy advisor and homes will need to be carefully sealed to achieve the desired air tightness requirements.

Homes Need to Breathe

As homes become more airtight, it’s critical that the issue of healthy indoor air is addressed.  It’s a common practice during the summer months to open windows and doors resulting in airflow.  However, as outdoor temperatures cool and families spend more time indoors with their windows closed, an airtight home will not breathe, resulting in stale indoor air that does not escape.  This now becomes a breeding ground for mold and respiratory illnesses.

Heat Recovery Ventilator

When a home is sealed as tightly as Step Code requires, addressing year round air flow is crucial to the health of the home and the families in the home.  A well designed high performance, Step Code compliant home uses a Heat or Energy Recovery Ventilator (H/ERV) system to maintain a balanced level of air flow day and night all year round.

An HRV (or ERV) allows fresh air to be distributed throughout a home.  A properly installed system sends indoor air pollutants and excess humidity to the outdoors while distributing fresh air throughout the house.  It’s important the filters in the HRV are cleaned every 3 months to keep it running well.  As the temperature outdoors falls, the HRV captures heat from the outgoing air and uses it to preheat the incoming filtered fresh air.  In the summer, the process is reversed.  The outgoing air cools the air coming into the home.

Common Pollutants

An HRV can go long way in removing common pollutants that can stay trapped in a home when there is poor airflow.  Some of these include:

  • Excess moisture and mold:  caused by cooking, showering, laundry, etc.
  • Urea formaldehyde:  found in various cabinetry finishes, flooring, furniture, etc.
  • Radon gas:  the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.  Found in groundwater, soil, granite, gravel etc.
  • Chemicals:  found in cleaning products, paint, solvents, sprays etc.
  • Combustion by-products:  caused by gas appliances including furnaces, gas ranges and dryers, fireplaces etc.

Step Code is a “step” in the right direction to improving the overall performance of new homes in terms of energy efficiency.  Let’s take it another “step” further by ensuring our indoor air is improved and healthy as well. Contact us today for more information.