Posts Tagged ventilation
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!
A friend of mine enjoys watching termites, says they are fascinating. I like mold for the same reasons but watching mold isn’t quite as much fun. I was browsing through the Journal of Light Construction magazine that I subscribe to and they went through a 30 year recap of their publication. I found “Mold” listed throughout.
In their very first issue in 1982 they say, “NEB (New England Builder, their first official name) takes on energy issues, like moisture problems from increased insulation and the role of roof ventilation.”
In 1983, “Poorly installed vapor barriers spawning mold and lawsuits”
1987, “More moisture problems, this time in tight houses and crawlspaces”
1989, “Builders report more moisture problems as houses get tighter”
1991, “First ‘sick building syndrome’ suit settled out of court”
1997, “Mixed-climate moisture control is complicated, drying potential to the interior/exterior studied”
1998, “Toxic mold plagues homeowners, delights media and litigators”
2001, “Mold lawsuits bankrupt big builder; ‘stachybotrys’ becomes a household word”
2011, “JLC author uses infrared camera to find moisture problems as well as energy leaks”
As you can see, mold is a big issue and one of the foremost magazines is keeping up to date with the developments. It’s a problem that isn’t going to go away, at least anytime soon. You can’t just look away. *start scary movie music* Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions.
If you have any of these symptoms, see or smell mold, it may be a good time to have your Indoor Air Quality tested. It just so happens I can take care of this for you, I am now a Certified Mold Inspector. Don’t suffer needlessly.
If you have to go in your attic for something this time of year, the heat is unforgiving. Besides trying to get out as soon as possible you should be thinking about ventilation and, “Do I have enough?”
Minimum recommended attic ventilation is 1 Sq Foot for every 300 Sq Feet of attic area. Multiplying the length by the width of your home should give you the area. You should have as much intake ventilation as exhaust ventilation. Truth is you can’t have too much ventilation if you stick to the 50/50 rule. 50% intake under the eaves and 50% exhaust at or near the roof peak. However, most homes have too little. So what’s the big deal?
When I do a home inspection I’m on the warpath for moisture. We often think of moisture in the form of rain or groundwater and these are culprits but moisture in the form of humidity can be just as evil. Moisture in improperly ventilated attics can cause mold, mildew and rot. Higher temperatures can shorten the life span of building materials like your roof. Ventilation is just as important in the cold months too, but the hot weather can bring it to the forefront of our thinking, especially if you have to go “up there.”
Gable roofs are the easiest to ventilate because they have the longest ridges. Hip roofs are more of a challenge as are Mansard roofs. Dormers create their own set of challenges. Surprisingly many builders don’t understand proper ventilation and sometimes opt for the cheapest way to “Git-R-Done.”
A good Home Inspector should be looking at the attic ventilation as part of the overall picture. If you are not planning on a home inspection in the near future, pick a cooler day and take a good look at your attic ventilation. You can save money and costly repairs by simply increasing it.
A source of good information on ventilation is Lomanco.