Archive for category IAQ
All the windows are closed and the doors are shut. We are in the midst of winter and trying to get the most out of our heating systems since to date, no one I know is giving away heating oil. For those of us with wood or coal stoves our problems can run from layers of dust to dry skin, not to mention that we are maintaining a fire in our homes! For homes with boilers, as long as the system was checked you should be in good shape. However, most of the homes I inspect have furnaces and constant air movement can cause its own set of circumstances.
If the air quality in your home is questionable, recirculating air through a furnace can perpetuate a host of issues. Molds and allergens, if present will not just go away unless you take steps to keep them at bay. While high humidity usually isn’t a problem, improperly vented clothes dryers and bathroom fans can add high levels of moisture. Maintaining humidity levels below 50% can help here. Some furnaces have humidifiers that add moisture to the air as it leaves the furnace. These are often neglected and if there is fungus in the unit or in the ductwork, what you are doing is moving those spores through the home. The same holds true for Heat Pumps which are even more neglected. The same ductwork for the air conditioning is used for heat and since there are usually no service contracts for Heat Pumps they are often left alone until they need repair.
Air filters need to be changes frequently. If allowed to accumulate dirt, not only does your furnace have to work harder but you are potentially forcing dirt, dust and lint along with spores and allergens through the building over and over. Invariably many people get sicker during the winter months. Add more people and you add more issues. You can of course, tell everyone to not visit during the holidays but most of us enjoy hosting friends and family.
High humidity not only is a prerequisite for mold growth it can also foster an environment for dust mites. The flip side is not enough humidity. Again, allergy issues in a too dry environment can cause sore throats, sniffles, dry skin and poor sleep. We have to strike a balance for better health.
Until we can once again open our windows and allow fresh air back in, we need to be aware that our homes can kill us. Change your filters, maintain humidity between 30% and 50% and vacuum often. If your air quality is poor or someone is suffering continually, get you home checked!
I sat down last night before our show came on and decided to peruse one of the Internet forums on a ‘mold’ discussion. It’s amazing the controversy around this issue. Some claim it’s all snake oil and others insist it’s valid. OK, so the EPA says mold is a potential problem and just because they say it is doesn’t mean the Lemmings get in line and go off a cliff, http://www.epa.gov/mold/ nor does it mean that you put your head in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t affect people.
An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.
So let’s educate ourselves! The unfortunate truth is some people really do have an issue with the presence of mold and if they do then it needs to be dealt with. The first thing that should be recommended to a client is, “Have you seen a doctor about your sensitivity to mold?”
Some of the snake charmers will take any money they can talk you out of, taking advantage of the naive or simply jumping on the hype bandwagon and scaring the client, stating the worst possible scenarios. Simply put, if you see mold then you probably have a mold issue. The most common remediation for mold is to eliminate the source of moisture. Since mold never really goes away eliminating moisture usually will stop it from growing. Once you stop it from growing then it can be cleaned up or your physical issues may improve.
If you can smell mold or musty air and can’t see anything then you should have the air tested, have a full mold inspection performed, or both. Avoid companies that test and remediate. That could be a conflict of interest. I am a Certified Mold Inspector and a Certified Remediation Contractor. I do NOT do remediation but prefer to only do the testing. As a Home Inspector I do not offer repairs even though I have been a carpenter for 33 years. I may give a client several contractors to choose from or refer them to the Chamber of Commerce.
With the rainy season coming and as things thaw, moisture will start to seep in unwanted areas of your home. Be aware of changes in your health or the health of children or seniors. If mold rears its ugly head be prepared, know what to look for and have someone to call…..me!