When it comes to constructing a home, almost all homeowners are tempted to add an attached garage. And why not? They are amazingly convenient, allowing for a place to put your car in bad weather that connects with the house. No more carrying in groceries in the rain! Or worrying that your car is collecting pollen during certain seasons! No one likes a dirty car.
Not only is it a convenience for your car, a connecting garage also provides extra storage space for things you may not want in your home. Remember those VOC-laden products we discussed in our last post? The garage is a much better home for them than the basement or under a sink. An attached garage is really a convenience that improves air quality, right?
Not so fast…
An Attached Garage is a Convenience, But It Can Also Cause Some Problems…
While an attached garage is a convenience and is definitely a better place for products that produce toxic fumes, it can also drop the air quality of your entire home. Why? Because if they aren’t built and treated properly, attached garages can increase the amount of carbon monoxide and other toxins in your home substantially. All that car exhaust can pose a problem, if proper precautions aren’t taken.
So, what can you do to decrease the chance that your attached garage will become an air quality killer?
Solution #1: Exhaust Fan
The very first thing you will want to consider if you have an attached garage is your ventilation system. Every attached garage should have an exhaust fan that vents to the outdoors, to keep fumes from both your car and anything stored in your garage from getting into your house. The big question is, should this fan run continuously, or should it be manually controlled?
Ideally, the fan should run all the time, but many people are turned off by the energy cost required to make this a reality. But if the fan is manually operated, chances are that it won’t run at times when it needs to be on. A compromise is opting for a fan that senses when it needs to be on – this work by turning on as soon as a garage door opens. Owners can set the amount of time that the fan continues to run after the door is closed, saving money on electricity and providing a solution for getting rid of those nasty fumes.
Solution #2: Consider All Your Gas-Powered Equipment
The car, or cars, in your garage are the main source of potentially dangerous air pollution for your home. But think about all the other gas-powered machinery you may have in your garage, like a lawnmower, weed whacker, motorbikes, leaf blower, and so on. These gas-powered devices throw off fumes that are potentially dangerous and those fumes can end up inside your home if you’re not careful.
One of the best ways to avoid potential issues with these fumes is to not start these gas-powered devices while in the garage. Take them outside first, where the fumes will escape into the open air.
Solution #3: Be Aware of What You’re Storing Out There
Garages can be a source of pollution not only from your car and other gas-powered devices, but also from fumes given off from other substances like paint, paint thinner, and other products used for home repair projects. These products are major sources of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can impair the health of people who are exposed to them for too long.
The best way to avoid VOCs is to not bring them into your living environment, but that can’t be completely avoided. The next best thing is to store them in a space that isn’t attached to your home, like a shed. If a shed isn’t available, then make sure you are running your garage exhaust on a regular basis to minimize the amount of pollutants making their way into your home.
Solution #4: Make Sure Everything is Sealed & Insulated Properly
During construction, the garage should be sealed off from the main portion of the house as much as possible. The wall in between the garage and the home should have proper drywall and insulation installed, to prevent air going in and out between these two spaces. Quality construction will help to keep air pollution where it belongs…outside.
Over time, maintenance may be required to make sure these two spaces remain as separate as possible. If cracks or holes develop, make sure they are sealed properly. A good bit of weather stripping on the door will also help to make sure polluted air doesn’t sneak in.
Solution #5: Finish It Off
It may sound a little strange, but finishing off your garage with insulation, drywall, and paint will also help to keep fumes from building up in your garage and away from your living area. Finishing the surfaces of your garage means that pollutants have fewer areas available where they can be absorbed, so they’re more likely to be removed with an exhaust fan.
…And Don’t Forget the Carbon Monoxide Detector
Definitely don’t forget a good carbon monoxide detector near the door leading to the garage! This will be the first line of defense if fumes build up to dangerous levels in your attached storage space. So make sure you invest in a quality monitor to keep your loved ones safe.