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Community and Q&A

Is the ERV going to help reduce our VOC levels?

tmuchacho | Posted in General Questions on

Having IAQ problems with a 5 year old home on the coast in South Carolina. We had the attic foamed with Demilec Open Cell Foam and crawl space done with closed cell a few months after we moved in. Blower door tests performed after the foaming (forgot the #) revealed the home is very tight, and in summer months we are experiencing the “Fishy” odor when the sun beats on the house and the AC is running on the second floor, first floor not too bad, also not too bad during the winter. Have Dehumidifier running in attic set at 40% to keep the humidity down up there where second floor air handler is located. Home Air Check test (by me) revealed 5500 TVOC levels in the attick (Severe) and 4800 in second floor landing by Demilec. Demilecs report from Prism Analytical revealed top four compounds were: Acetone, Ethanol, Isopropanol, a-Pinene. About six months later, I again performed a second floor bed room Home Air test with all exhaust fans in the house running and still had “Elevated” results of 2900 TVOC from Prism. CO2 levels are also high not surprisingly. We were just out of town for 10 days, and upon return – the house certainly didn’t pass the “Smell Test” since we were overwhelmed by the odor. I figure the VOC problem is either coming from the Open Cell Foam in the attic or possibly outgassing from Urethane coated reclaimed floors on the first floor, going up the stairs and on the second floor landing. I have Leukemia, worked in the coatings industry and sold industrial spray equipment for over 30 years, and have breathing difficulty and balance/dizzy issues since we moved in here (felt better being away for 10 days). Will an ERV system properly installed exchange the air enough to reduce our VOC levels to a normal or moderate level. I can deal with the fishy odor as long as I know the foam is not the main contributor of the VOC’s. Sorry for the long explanation, wanted to give as much info as possible. Have learned so much on this site doing research over the past couple of years, and I’m now reaching out to you folks, thanks.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    It sounds like you need to stand in line with the other "fishy odor" homeowners who have been negotiating to try to get Demilec to take responsibility for their lingering odor problems. You may want to contact a lawyer or other homeowners who are in the same boat as you. If you haven't seen it, you should read this article: Spray Foam Jobs With Lingering Odor Problems.

    I can't comment on your VOC readings or health issues, because I don't have expertise in those areas. While the use of an ERV or an HRV will dilute or reduce the concentration of indoor VOCs, I have no idea whether the effect of those reductions would be enough to improve your health or eliminate the indoor odor.

    Many homeowners in your position have moved out of their homes as they negotiate with Demilec. Good luck.

  2. tmuchacho | | #2

    Thanks so much for the quick response Martin, great information on this site. The ERV has to improve the air quality here, will keep y'all posted.

  3. wjrobinson | | #3

    Sell. I would never live in a home with bad spray foam.

    I only somewhat trust my sub who shoots water blown Icynene and is dang good at mixing it right at least for me so far. You can bury your nose in the foam after a few days anyway and nothing to smell.

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