Things to keep in mind for better indoor air quality:
- Never put the HVAC fan in the “on” position. Keep at “auto”. The fan in the “on” position can cause the HVAC unit to push unconditioned wet air through the system. It often results in mold growth in the plenum. The plenum is the duct board that stretches from the HVAC unit to up above the ceiling. Once mold grows in the plenum, all the air that passes through the HVAC becomes contaminated. Also, the moist air distributed throughout the home can create conditions favorable for microbial growth in the contents of the home.
- Do not run AC while sliding doors or windows are open. This is a recipe for condensation. Mold needs moisture to grow. When cold air meets hot air, condensation happens, creating favorable conditions for mold growth.
- If closets don’t have a diffuser and have solid doors, keep the door open when possible – allow for airflow and don’t overstuff the closet. Warmer air and a lack of airflow can create conditions favorable for mold growth. Check leather shoes, handbags, jackets, and belts. Also, look at the brims of hats. Leather and the sweat left on hats are wonderful food sources.
- Don’t close the fins of a diffuser. This will keep one room warmer (and wetter) than the others. It will also make a bigger temperature differential where some of the air escapes around the fins, once again creating condensation.
- Keep diffuser fins pointed into the room, not at the ceiling. The cold air from air conditioning meeting the hottest air in the room (hot air rises) can cause enough condensation to allow microbial growth to occur. Growth may also occur around diffusers because condensation can form when there is a gap between the diffuser and the ceiling that allows cold air to meet the warmest air in the home (hot air rises). Installing weather stripping between the diffuser and the ceiling should prevent this. Another possibility is that there is a gap between the duct boot and the ceiling drywall. This would allow hot attic air to meet conditioned air, again causing condensation. Caulking the gap between the boot and the drywall should stop this from happening.
- Burning paraffin candles will cause soot to accumulate at the diffusers and in the HVAC filter. The soot can be a health hazard. If candles are a “must”, use beeswax or soy without scent. Beeswax and soy burn cleaner. Any time there is a scent, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are present. Some VOCs can be hazardous.
- Change the HVAC filter more often if there are pets and/or smokers in the home. The filter helps keep the small particulate out of the breathing space. We recommend a MERV 9 to a MERV 11 filter. If the system allows it, a charcoal filter will help remove odors.
- If you feel tired and have headaches, there may not be enough oxygen in the home. The tighter the home is for energy efficiency; the more CO2 may build up in the home. Open the doors and windows for 5 to 15 minutes in the morning and evening to allow for air exchange.
- Do not use air fresheners. Studies show that on average, air fresheners (all kinds) give off 3 to 4 VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are listed as hazardous to your health by one or more government agencies. These may not be listed on the material safety sheets to protect proprietary information. Deodorize, don’t re-odorize.
- It is not uncommon to find elevated moisture at window reveals, especially in the winter and with single glazed windows. Condensation occurs on the warm side of a temperature differential.
For a few weeks in the winter, the outside is colder than inside the house. Condensation occurs and the reveals hold the moisture. Place towels on the sill to absorb the excess moisture.
- If the concrete ceiling of your unit is also the floor of the unit above, keeping your unit much warmer than the unit above can cause enough condensation to cause microbial growth on the popcorn ceiling of the lower unit. If you see discoloration on the ceiling, contact Sunsation Services.
- If the ceiling of your unit is mostly concrete, it is not unusual for growth to occur on the ceiling near the exterior walls. This is often called “hat banding”. In winter when the cooler concrete meets warm indoor air, condensation occurs leading to conditions favorable for mold growth. This is exacerbated when the temperature of the unit above the hat banded unit is colder that the temperature in the unit below. Contact Sunsation Services.
- Keep the temperature between 68 to 78 degrees and the relative humidity under 60%. Some molds begin to grow around 65% relative humidity. A hygrometer is a small device that measures temperature and RH. These are relatively inexpensive, often costing between $10 - $20, and can be purchased in a variety of stores or online. We recommend placing these in areas of concern where you can easily see them.
- If you plan to leave your home for an extended time, have someone check the unit weekly. Also, the homeowner may want to consider purchasing a WI-FI-connected thermostat that can alert them when the temperature or relative humidity spikes. Disasters can be mitigated faster, and less damage will occur.
- If you are a renter and water damage or mold occurs, remember that as a renter, your property will not be covered under the homeowner’s insurance. Purchase renters’ insurance.
- If there is a plumbing leak that has been happening for an extended time and was just discovered, call Sunsation Services. If the leak just happened, contact a water restoration company. If materials are not dried professionally, hidden moisture may cause mold growth and other damage to the property.
- If you smell mold, there is likely a water leak somewhere. The odor of mold is created from the metabolization of a food source. This means it is actively growing and mold needs moisture to actively grow. Contact Sunsation Services.