Is Your Garage Making You Sick?
In response to the frigid temperatures, many of us warm up our vehicles before leaving the garage. But for homes with attached garages, this practice can result in our garages making us sick. Even at low concentrations, carbon monoxide (CO) can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. At higher levels, CO can be lethal. When you start your car in the garage even with the garage door open, CO can move from the garage into the living space of your house.
Additionally, your vehicle emits a multitude of contaminants for several hours after it has been driven for a time and then turned off. This is especially important when driving a warmed vehicle into the garage, turning it off, and closing the garage door.
Be aware that while we’re talking about the impact of cars/trucks on indoor air quality, there are additional contaminants like stored gasoline and equipment that uses gasoline like snow blowers, lawn mowers as well as paints and pesticides that can cause problems.
How Do These Pollutants Get into the House?
Contaminants enter the house through cracks and holes in the common wall between the garage and living space; through such things as inadequate weather-stripping around doors. But to enter the house there must be a pressure differential between the house and garage. Especially in colder weather, the house pressure is lower in the house than the garage. Thus, air and contaminants move from an area of high pressure, the garage, into an area of low pressure, the house.
The most important solution is to limit operation of vehicles in the garage as much as possible. Pull the vehicle out of the garage when warming it up. Additionally:
• Limit air infiltration by having adequate air-seals between the common walls and ceilings.
• Install proper weather-stripping on all entrances.
• Store all gasoline and chemicals in approved containers.
• Install mechanical equipment that limit negative pressure in the house (e.g. sealed combustion furnace & water heaters, replace exhaust fans with air-to-air heat exchangers).