Construction industry working to limit offgassing


By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: What is offgassing and is it something I need to worry about?

Offgassing, also called outgassing, is a term used to describe any chemical compounds or irritants that are emitted from something. Any building products such as plywood, paints or carpets, construction glues and varnishes can emit chemicals for extended periods after they have been installed. Offgassing is common in solvent-based or petroleum-based products. Good ventilation is an important factor in combating offgassing.

Current building codes require mechanical ventilation in new construction to ensure that a house gets enough fresh air. If you want to build an eco-friendly home, or you have chemical sensitivities, look into building a home with little to no offgassing components. In the big picture, the construction industry is changing the way it manufactures products in order to limit or eliminate the use of materials that offgas.

Q: What’s an acceptable temperature to keep my garage at throughout the winter?

If the house is attached to the garage, you will want to keep it a little warmer, about 50 degrees.

In many cases, if you have a boiler and pipes in the garage, they may warm the garage more than you want just from the heat they give off, especially if your boiler is an older unit. Since it is not living space, if you have a garage that is 70 or 80 degrees, you may be using a lot of energy to heat that space. Also, that is a lot of heat that could be leaking out through the walls, which adds up to wasted energy. Don’t heat your garage anymore than you have to because it is a wasted expense.

A cooler garage is a good place to keep a refrigerator or freezer.

Keep the temperature at 60 to 40 degrees, or whatever your comfort zone is. On that note, if you are seeing a lot of condensation in the garage, which can happen by parking a wet vehicle inside, you might want to keep the temperature a little warmer or ventilate more.

Q: If I am interested in putting up a wind turbine.

Is this something I can do myself?

Installing a wind turbine is not that hard, but you definitely want to do it right or it will become very hard and very expensive. Even if installing the tower goes well, you are talking about lethal voltages of electricity, just as in any home. You don’t have to be a trained professional to do it right, but it’s prudent to work with people who are trained to install such specialized equipment.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.