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Breathing Easier—and Reducing Energy Costs

Victoria and Jerry have owned their two-story, center unit row home in Baltimore’s Belair-Edison neighborhood since 2000. Their 12-year-old son Montez suffered from frequent asthma episodes, caused by triggers in the home stemming from mold, poor insulation, improper drainage and a broken furnace. Even though they kept their home tidy, they continued to have mice and cockroach infestations. After hearing about Montez’s recent asthma hospitalization and numerous missed school days, a neighbor recommended contacting Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Baltimore (GHHI Baltimore) for help.

GHHI Baltimore conducted a comprehensive home assessment that revealed lead hazards, dust mites and a nonfunctioning carbon monoxide detector. Then the GHHI intervention team came out to the home and fixed those problems, along with air quality issues and energy inefficiencies. Simultaneously, GHHI’s health educator taught Victoria and Jerry how to maintain the repair work and provided environmental tips for managing their son’s asthma triggers. The team insulated and sealed ducts; replaced the furnace, refrigerator and washing machine; performed integrated pest management; installed a dehumidifier and carbon monoxide detector; and repaired the gutters and downspouts.

In the year following the intervention, Montez’s asthma symptoms have greatly improved and he is now sleeping through the night. He has had perfect attendance in school and has not needed his nebulizer nor visited the doctor or hospital since the intervention. The energy efficiency upgrades lowered the family’s utility bills and decreased their energy usage by 8 percent.

“There are so many people like us out there. We pay the mortgage but don’t have a lot extra for expensive repairs on these old homes,” Victoria said recently during a visit with GHHI Baltimore staff.  “And GHHI didn’t just fix one thing; they looked at all the problems—the whole house.” Then she laughed, “I hope you don’t mind, I tell all my neighbors about this program!”

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