November 2012

Healthy Environments – Everybody deserves a healthy, Energy Efficient Environment

Author: Tim Silcox: Owner of Healthy Environments

As the owner of Healthy Environments, I am frequently asked three questions: “Why are there so many problems with mold here?”; “Why do I have so many allergy symptoms since I moved into my home?”; “How can I lower my energy costs in this heat?”

Here in the Lowcountry, our humid, moist climate starts to create air quality concerns, even in brand new construction. When it is hot and the final sanding is being done in a new home and the air conditioning is running, the system is pulling in the fine dust particles which are settling on the porous duct board on the inside of the ducts. Add a little moisture to the mix when the tape that holds the ducts together gradually loosens in a hot humid attic and allows heat vapor from the hot attic to enter the system, and that creates the perfect environment for mold to grow; and it can happen in just one cooling season. It is best to remove the food source from the air ducts as soon as possible after construction as a preventive measure. This includes remodels where sanding, new floor installations, popcorn ceiling removal or drywall replacement is done.

Duct cleaning and sealing shortly after construction is complete should be part of the construction clean up. Just as you would vacuum and wipe up all the visible dust off your floors, carpets, counters, and wood work before occupancy, the same should be done in the air duct system, because even though you can’t see the dust, it is there and will eventually be more problematic than the visible dust that has been wiped up in the post construction clean up. As a bonus, sealing duct work saves energy and extends the life of the equipment by reducing the work load on the system that the accumulated dust can cause.

Fiberglass insulation can be a problem in new homes, especially those that have blown-in insulation. Because our codes do not require duct sealing during installation, fiberglass particles are being pulled into the living space whenever the air conditioning system runs and puts the home under a negative pressure. If you have a constant tickle in the back of your throat or a dry cough, consider cleaning and sealing the duct work, and sealing other venues where unsealed gaps are pulling the fiberglass particles into your living space.

Musty smells that emanate from a raised crawl space can cause respiratory issues, especially in children, the respiratory compromised, or even for those who are just sensitive to odors. As moisture seeps into the crawl space from outside air infiltration, soil evaporation or duct condensation, it is absorbed into the fiberglass insulation.

This keeps the sub flooring under the insulation constantly wet and provides an ideal environment for mold to grow, creating the musty smell. Pulling the wet insulation, treating the mold with an EPA registered cleaner, allowing the floor to dry and applying a Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation will create a vapor barrier through which the mold can no longer grow. It also keeps the marsh rats from moving in to nest in that comfy fiberglass insulation in the winter months, and that’s a plus! In addition, installing Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation to the attic roof can save hundreds of dollars in cooling and heating costs.

Since we live in an area where we treasure the beauty of the views that surround us, the windows in our homes that enhance our views can also wreak havoc on our power bills, fade furniture, and make our homes oppressively hot. There is a newer window film on the market called VKool that can reduce heat by 98 percent but won’t darken your view. It also does not heat up the glass and cause seal failures as some tinted films do, so you can keep your view clear.

For 20 years, Healthy Environments has been upgrading homes, businesses, local schools, and medical facilities to improve air quality, save energy, and to make work and living spaces more comfortable.

For more information, visit healthyenvironments.net or call one of their three locations: Hilton Head Island (843) 363-6751; Bluffton (843) 757-5522; or Ridgeland (843) 726-4729.

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