Healthy Homes FAQ
Sick building syndrome & indoor air quality experts
- What are the steps to creating a healthy home?
At Halco, we recommend a four-prong approach to ensure healthy air in your home:
- Control excess moisture
- Clean the air
- How does Halco help with moisture issues?
Mold creates microscopic pollutants. If you can see or smell mold, that means there are microscopic spores in the air you breathe. Some spores are more harmful than others. The best way to prevent home mold is to keep organic building materials, like paper-faced wallboard, dry.
Halco can help you identify sources of moisture and recommend ways to reduce, and in some cases eliminate it. Common sources of moisture issues include:
- High humidity
- Condensation on uninsulated pipes, ducts, and heating and cooling equipment
- Water leaks in plumbing, foundations, roofs, or anywhere else in the building envelope
To eliminate water leaks and reduce mold, we provide dehumidifiers, duct and pipe sealing and insulation, basement waterproofing, crawlspace encapsulation, and a thorough inspection of the home's HVAC and plumbing.
- Why should I worry about crawl space mold if it's not connected to my living space?
Your crawl space does connect to your living space through hundreds of gaps and cracks around ductwork, plumbing pipes, electrical lines, and building materials. Research has shown that as much as 40% of the air you breathe can come from the basement or crawl space.
Microscopic mold spores travel from crawl space air into your living space by natural convection, a phenomenon that building scientists call the stack effect. So, instead of hoping that crawl space mold won't affect indoor air quality, because it will, it's better to eliminate this mold through:
- Crawl space encapsulation
- Mold remediation
- We have never had standing water in the basement but had issues with moldy wallboard and carpeting. We plan on replacing the damaged materials, but how do we prevent mold from returning?
Basements and crawl spaces are naturally moist environments, even when their floors are dry. Soil moisture is absorbed by the masonry walls and floors and released into the room. There are several improvements you can make to create a mold-free environment:
- Air-seal: Sealing the basement will prevent moist outside air from infiltrating through cracks and gaps around perimeter walls
- Rigid foam basement insulation: Rigid foam basement insulation on walls will reduce the number of cool interior surfaces where condensation can occur
- Basement dehumidifier: A basement dehumidifier will dry out the air, making it difficult for mold to survive below 60% humidity
- Eliminate organic materials: Limit the use of organic materials, including paper-faced drywall, plywood floor sheathing, and wood paneling, that will provide ideal mold habitats if they become damp
- What is causing mold in my attic on the underside of the roof sheathing?
Attic mold is a common problem in many houses - and it's most likely to occur during cold weather. As heated air from your living space leaks into the attic and the warm air comes into contact with a cold surface, like the roof sheathing, condensation occurs. When this happens continually during the heating season, sections of roof sheathing stay wet, creating ideal conditions for mold to take hold.
Attic mold problems worsen considerably if a clothes dryer or bathroom vent fan dumps moist air into the attic space. The solution to both these mold problems is to:
- Air sealing the attic
- Duct dryers and vent fans to the exterior
- How fast does mold grow?
After water damage, bacteria/fungal mold growth starts in as little as 48-72 hours. If you have had recent water damage with an unpleasant musty odor, you may want to consider contacting the experts at Halco. We can assess the situation and see if you need any solutions.
- Our house is very dusty, even though we clean and dust frequently. Where is the dust coming from - and what can we do to clear the air?
Leaky ductwork in a basement, crawl space, or attic can suck dusty air from these areas and circulate it throughout the home with the forced-air HVAC system. Having your ductwork sealed will cut off this dust supply. It's also smart to air-seal your attic and basement to stop the air movement that takes place because of the stack effect. This happens when warm air moves up and out of your living space through attic leaks and draws in an equal volume of outside air into your basement, creating upward air pressure that can carry dust from the basement to living areas.
- What can I do to improve my indoor air quality?
Scrub a dub dub! Cleaning is not anyone's favorite subject, but it's an important one if you want to keep the air you breathe and surfaces you touch clean. Kitchen countertops, cutting boards, sponges and scouring pads, bathroom floors and walls, joints around tubs, and gaskets around refrigerators and dishwashers are all breeding grounds for bacteria, mold, and mildew. They should be kept clean. Otherwise, mold spores can become airborne and bacteria can get on the food you eat.
- What type of products are safe to clean my home with?
Buy plant-based, perfume-free cleaning materials instead of conventional products. While they were once difficult to find, many supermarkets and home centers now offer them for sale. Conventional detergents, such as dishwashing liquids and detergents, contain petroleum and release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Avoid them in favor of more environmentally safe products. Recommended brands include:
- Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day
- Seventh Generation
- Earth Friendly
- Green Works (Clorox)
- Dr. Bonner's
You can also make cleansers using white vinegar for light cleaning jobs and killing bacteria. Pastes made from baking soda are useful as well.
- My central air conditioning system keeps the house cool, but there's still too much indoor humidity. What can we do to dry out the air?
Unfortunately, some HVAC contractors install oversize air conditioning systems that end up cooling too quickly before it can adequately dry out the air. When the thermostat calls for cooling, a high volume of cold air blasts into your living space, lowering the temperature so quickly that the thermostat cuts power to the AC unit after just a short time. Longer run time is required to remove more moisture from the air, but an oversized system doesn't provide this opportunity. More modern AC systems feature variable speed that moderates performance to optimize both cooling and dehumidification.
- What else can I do to make my home healthier?
One of the easiest things to do is to remove your shoes at the door. Shoes can track in contaminants, including lead, dust, asbestos fibers, pesticides, and dirt. Adopt a shoes-off policy for visitors as well and have a supply of slippers or sandals that visitors can slip on when they enter the front door.
Also, remember that carpeting collects dust, especially when pets are part of the family. Vacuuming carpets frequently will prevent dust and dander from accumulating.
Schedule an appointment with a Halco technician
If you think sick building syndrome or indoor air quality issues may be affecting your home's health, contact Halco to schedule an inspection and estimate today! If you live in Ithaca, Rochester, Syracuse or nearby, we have the solutions you're looking for!