Building Electrification & Health

When we think of air pollution, the first thought many have revolves around outdoor air pollution whether it be from traffic-related air pollution or pollution from manufacturing plants. However, indoor air pollution is a problem that more and more public health experts are becoming concerned about.

The average person spends about 90% of their time indoors. Indoor air pollutants can be just as dangerous as outdoor pollutants, especially over a long period of time. Fossil fuels, coal, heating oil, and other combustibles are used for space heating and cooking all over the world. In the United States, fossil fuels and coal are the main sources of energy. However, using fossil fuels to power gas stoves and furnaces releases harmful toxins into the indoor environment including carbon monoxide, nitric dioxide, and particulates. These pollutants act as respiratory irritants which can lead to childhood asthma and other respiratory conditions in both adults and children. In addition to the negative health effects of fossil fuels, there are also detrimental environmental effects. Carbon emissions are prominent with the use of fossil fuels as energy with Illinois alone being responsible for 10 percent of carbon emissions in the United States. 

There is a solution: making the switch from fossil fuels to building electrification. Electric stoves and electric heating sources, like heat pumps, are far more energy efficient and far better for your health. Chicago PSR is committed to working with local organizations and policy-makers to pass legislation that will lead to increased electrification in Illinois and the city of Chicago. Outfitting 500,000 new homes with heat pumps as opposed to a furnace with significantly decrease Illinois' carbon footprint. Policy requiring electrification in new buildings and encouraging retrofitting older buildings will lead to positive impacts in public health and environment. Heat pumps use electricity to move hot air out of homes during the summer and to move warm air in during the winter. Electric stoves also reduce the amount of pollution released into homes. 

While switching from furnaces and gas stoves with heat pumps and electric stoves is not possible for everyone, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the health effects of indoor air pollution. When cooking on a gas stove, use the back burners, make sure there is good ventilation (i.e. open windows) and avoid using the stove as an additional source of heat in the winter. 

The sources listed below provide information on costs of building electrification, health impacts of indoor air pollution, and heat pumps. Please contact us with any questions!

Electrification Fact Sheet

Public Health and BE Fact Sheet

The Impact of Fossil Fuels in Buildings: A Fact Base

Health Impacts of Burning Gas in Buildings

Building Electrification Help Illinois Achieve Climate Goals

The Economics of Electrifying Buildings