Is Mold Making You Sick?

Molds are various types of fungi that grow in filaments and reproduce by forming spores. The term mildew is sometimes used to refer to some kinds of mold, particularly mold in the home with a white or grayish color or mold growing in shower stalls and bathrooms. Mold may grow indoors or outdoors and thrives in damp, warm and humid environments. Mold can be found in essentially any environment or season. The most common types of indoor household molds include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria and Aspergillus. Stachybotryschartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra and sometimes referred to as “black mold”) is a greenish-black mold that can also be found indoors. Although, it is less common than the other types of mold found in homes. Stachybotrys grows on household surfaces that have high cellulose content, such as wood, fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust and lint. There are types of mold that can grow on substances as different as foods and carpet.

Molds produce irritating substances that may act as allergy-causing substances (allergens) in sensitive indiviuals. Furthermore, some molds produce toxic substances known as mycotoxins, but mold itself is not poisonous or toxic. The conditions under which some molds produce toxins are poorly understood, and the presence of mold, even a mold that is capable of producing toxins, does not always imply that toxins are being produced. Mold may not cause any health effects, or it may lead to symptoms in people, including adults and children, who are sensitive to molds. Allergic reactions to mold are the most common health effects of mold. Allergic reactions may happen immediately or develop after a period of time following exposure. Both growing mold and mold spores may lead to allergic reactions. Allergy symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • water eyes
  • redness of the eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • skin irritaion or rash

Sometimes people may develop severe reactions to mold exposure. Symptoms of severe reactions, which are uncommon, include fever and difficulty breathing. People with compromised immune systems or those with chronic lung disease can develop serious infections of the lungs due to molds. It is not possible to predict the degree of severity of the health risks associated with mold in the home. Allergic individuals vary in their degree of susceptibility to mold, and the risk may also depend upon the extent and exact type of mold that is present.

Studies suggest that chronic sinusitis is caused from exposure to fungus and mold spores. Chronic sinusitis patients should try to limit their exposure to mold spores, which can be a challenge when you are outside. Pay attention to the weather, particularly air quality alerts that report high levels of spores and pollen, and limit outdoor activities. With respect to your home environment, you have greater control, meaning you want to ensure that your indoor air quality is optimal for long term health, particularly since the likely cause of chronic sinusitis is mold. Here are some tips:

  • Maintain healthy humidity levels, 30 – 50%, to minimize moisture and prevent mold growth.
  • If you have mold, ensure that the root cause of the problem (ie. the moisture source) is first fixed, and then hire a professional to remove the mold.
  • Ensure that your HVAC system is functioning properly and circulating clean, healthy air. Yearly maintenance and inspection by a professional is highly recommended.

If you suffer from asthma, sinusitis or other respiratory ailments, call a professional mold inspector to determine if you have a mold problem. If you do, the short term cost to remove the mold will be minor compared to the long term health benefits you will gain.

Sources: http://www.medicinenet.com/mold-exposure/page2.htm. http://mszrestoration.stfi.re/is-your-sinus-infection-caused-by-mold/?sf=vzggj&utm_content=buffer9bb01&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Why You Should Clean You Air Ducts

Before and after air duct cleaning.

If you’re a home owner, it might be easy to forget to take care of your air ducts. However, you should make an effort to make it a part of your regular home maintenance. Keep in mind that air duct cleaning is still in its early stages, so it is difficult to pinpoint when exactly to clean your ducts. For these systems, it is best to consult a professional before jumping into the cleaning practice. Regardless, here are some tips to help you get your bearing in the process.

Before you begin, you should note that duct cleaning has not actually been proven to prevent health issues. No study has conclusively demonstrated that a home’s internal particle levels increase due to dirty air ducts. Much of the dirt and dust adheres to the system’s surfaces and isn’t guaranteed to enter any particular living space. Pollutants from cooking, smoking, cleaning and moving from outdoors to inside may cause greater exposure to harmful contaminants than your home’s air ducts. Additionally, there is not legitimate evidence that suggests that light household dust poses any health risk. That being said, keeping clean ducts as a potential preventative measure couldn’t hurt.

What Exactly is Air Duct Cleaning?

In general, duct cleaning involves the cleaning of the components of forced air systems. This extend to both heating and cooling elements. Possible parts can be:

  • Heat exchangers
  • Cooling/heating coils
  • Fan motors
  • Air handling unit housing
  • Condensate drain pans or drip pans
  • Grillers
  • Diffusers
  • Supply/return ducts and registers

Your chosen service provider will use tools to dislodge debris and dirt and then vacuum away the particles. He or she may want to apply chemical biocides or other chemical treatments to combat microbiological contaminants. The use of UV light treatment may also be discussed.

Ultra violet light for HVAC system, to purify air and prevent mold growth.

Air Duct Cleaning Benefits

There is no evidence to suggest that clean ducts leads to better over all health. However, it should be noted that some homeowners report feeling less congested or stuffy. Other individuals have also stated that their homes smelled better and there was visibly less dust within the household. Regular maintenance will help elongate the life of the system, as service providers can make repairs to leaks and catch any mold growth early on. It might also be a good idea to check for excessive moisture, as this can lead to other air system problems.

Air Duct Health Concerns

There are four major reasons to clean your ducts:

  • Vermin Infestation prevention (insects or rodents)
  • Preventing clogging due to dust or debris
  • Avoiding substantial mold growth
  • Regular maintenance practice

Much of your heating and cooling system is probably inaccessible for visual examination, so you may need to consult a professional for proper inspection. Insulated ducts are at risk for moisture and mold and will need to be replaced if the insulating material has been compromised. If you have mold, you must take care to fix the conditions that allowed for mold growth or the problem will reoccur.

Frequency of Air Duct Cleanings

Because your HVAC system is integral to your home’s overall health and functionality, you should call and consult with a professional on a yearly basis. Depending on your household’s conditions, you may need to perform maintenance with more or less regularity. Take into account your home’s age, air quality, climate and type of HVAC system. Be sure to share this information with your service provider. This annual visit will not eliminate all day-to-day concerns, but you can take care of the basics in between visits.

Air Duct Contamination Prevention

First, you should guard against the build up of dirt and debris by:

1. Changing your filters periodically

2. Vacuuming your home regularly

3. Using High efficiency filters

4. Sealing HVAC systems during home construction until you’ve cleaned the dust and debris

Vacuum your home regularly to reduce dust.

Second, keep your vents and ducts dry by:

  1. Fixing leaks promptly
  2. Checking insulation near cooling coils for moisture
  3. Properly sealing and insulating ducts in spaces without air conditioning
  4. Making sure you HVAC unit is an appropriate size for your home

Stay on top of these points in between professional maintenance sessions.

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is a top concern for many homeowners. In the average six-room home, up to 40 pounds of debris and dust is circulated annually. Throughout normal home use, you and your family will generate plenty of dust, chemicals and other air pollutants. These substances are re-circulated anywhere from five to seven times a day. This can cause a build up of particles in your ductwork. Dirty ducts don’t necessarily mean poor air composition, but they likely make some contribution to your indoor air quality.

Energy Savings

Build up from contaminants, dirt and debris can cause an HVAC system to work harder that it should. Over time, this will shorten the life of your system. While filters are expected to get dirty and should be replaced regularly, ducts should not have significant obstructions if you want them to work properly. The United States Department of Energy states that 25 to 40 percent of energy used in household forced air systems is wasted. Keeping ducts clean will help you reduce your monthly energy expenses.

Finding a Good Air Duct Cleaner

Stay away from air duct cleaners who boast about the health benefits of their service. These claims are not supported by any studies or scientific evidence. Consult customer reviews and make sure the company holds the relevant state licenses. Additionally, check with your local consumer affairs office or the Better Business Bureau for any complaints lodged against your prospective service provider.

PRS personally uses Action Air of Clearwater Florida, (727) 365-8461, ask for Alex.

What to Expect From a Professional Duct Cleaner

A professional cleaner will perform an inspection before the actual cleaning. They will bring their own specialized equipment, including a vacuum. They will follow NADCA standards and NAIMA practices for ducts with fiberglass linings. Plus, they will know how and make and effort to protect your carpet and furnishings.

Cleaning your air ducts can get a little tricky as you navigate the various aspects of the service. Be extra careful when choosing a service provider and always check licenses. Keep track of filters in between professional inspections and you will be able to get the most out of your HVAC system. With proper maintenance, you can keep unwanted dust, chemicals and debris out of your household and away from your vents.

Sources: Allergy & Air. Why You Should Clean Your Air Ducts. Web blog post. Indoor Air Quality. Allergy & Air.

New Years Resolutions for Your Home

As the clock winds down towards the New Year, we all begin ticking off our lists for our New Years resolutions. The usual suspects of losing weight, going to the gym more or finally getting in shape will always make their appearance on that list, only to fall by the wayside as life gets busy. This year, why not try a new approach? Add to that list some things that will make your home healthier, possibly save you some unexpected stresses (financial & health) in the long run. We’re going to run down some resolutions that can be made for your home all year long to keep your life, health and family running smoothly.

1. Seasonally (or every six months), have your heating or air conditioner inspected and serviced. You should also change or clean your air filter every 3 months or according to manufacturers instructions. This will help the quality of your inside air, as well as upkeep on the maintenance of your system.

2. Inspect and repair all caulked areas:  Sinks, faucets, tubs/showers, windows and doors, all penetrations (fireplace, chimney, ducts, vents). Do this twice a year.

3. Look for plumbing leaks and clean your faucet aerators of lime deposits.

4. Check for and repair damage/cracks to the interior and exterior walls of your home.

5. Clean and repair your homes gutters seasonally. Ensure they are free of debris that could inhibit water flow to downspouts. Make sure your water deflectors at the base of downspouts are directing water away from your home’s foundation.

6. Extend the life and good condition of your water heater by flushing your hot water heater and refilling. Do this annually or more often, depending on the hardness of your areas water. It is a good idea to test your hot water heater safety valve, as well.

7. Inspect all fire extinguishers and test and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Create a family fire evacuation plan. Ensure everyone knows how to exit and where to meet outside.

Adding these (or even a few) to your resolutions for the New Year may put you on the road to New Years Resolution success! Make the safety of your home and family a part of your focus for the year 2020.

Source:  https://insideandoutpropertyinspectors.com/florida-home-maintenance-checklist