With the end of February coming up, we’re getting closer to the end of winter. But as Canadians are well aware, there’s no reason to pull out the swim trunks just yet. We have a number of cold weeks still ahead. With that said, it’s important to note that the frigid outdoor temperatures stand to create an indoor air quality hazard in the form of condensation. Condensation occurs when the warm air in your home comes into contact with a cold surface, such as your windows.
What indoor air quality problems can condensation cause? As British Columbia’s Homeowner Protection Office explains it, “condensation can cause serious damage to the interior and structural elements of your home or building…Drywall and wood finishes around windows are two examples of materials in your home that can readily absorb moisture and become damaged if they remain wet for a sustained period of time.”
They go on to point out that when left unchecked, condensation can create crumbling or soft spots in drywall, decay in wood framing or corrosion of steel framing, peeling paint, damage to the insulation inside the walls and mould and mildew problems in your home. With respect to the mould and mildew issue, this is where your indoor air quality is significantly impacted. Mould spores are well known for causing respiratory problems.
So what can you do to eliminate a condensation problem in your home? Here are four ways:
1. Open the windows for ventilation. This tip may appear odd given that we are still enduring a chilly Canadian winter. But it’s still worth allowing some of the humid air in your home to circulate with the fresh air from outside. On CanadianWorkshop.com, Steve Maxwell points out that “this approach is about as easy as they come. Yes, opening windows will cost you a bit more in heating, but it still may be the cheapest way to solve your moisture problem.”
2. Minimize humidity in the home by regulating temperatures. The more humid it is inside your home, the more likely you are to promote condensation on your cold windows. The Homeowner Protection Office suggests that you follow a “rule of thumb” as it relates to your home’s temperature. “Interior air temperatures should generally be maintained between 18°C and 24°C with relative humidity falling between 35% and 60%,” they report.
3. Use the exhaust fans in your bathrooms and kitchen. The majority of moisture in the home is generally present in the bathrooms and kitchen. Whenever you take a hot shower or fire up the stove, you add to the humidity that promotes condensation. “Bathroom exhaust fans, in particular, should be used during every shower or bath and for at least 15 minutes afterwards,” advises Maxwell.
4. Install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). HRV’s are known for eliminating the condensation problem. However, Maxwell admits that having one installed is a bit pricey. Nevertheless, “it will also retain most of the heat that you’d normally lose through open windows and out of exhaust fans. In fact, HRVs are so effective and energy efficient that they’re now required by code for new houses in some jurisdictions.”
At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we highly recommend that you have your home evaluated for moisture sources. We offer Moisture Monitoring Services that locate envelop failures, leaking issues and occupant-based moisture sources that could be causing an indoor air quality problem in your home. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Canadians, we arguably do battle with winters better than anyone else in the world. But, sometimes, the measures we take to stay warm can cause other problems we didn’t expect to have to take on. Take, for example, the need for us to keep our homes airtight throughout the winter months. Sure, this makes sense when you consider the fact that we don’t want to freeze when we’re inside. But there’s a ramification to keeping ourselves all cooped up.
With little no ventilation, we can create warm and humid spots in our homes which make the perfect breeding grounds for mould. As Michelle Roberts makes clear on BobVila.com, “mould typically grows where there’s excessive moisture, like in a damp cabinet under the sink or around a leaky window, so it’s important to ventilate these areas and prevent moisture from accumulating.”
So what are the health risks associated with mould? The Government of Canada lists them as eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing and mucous (phlegm) build-up, wheezing and shortness of breath, worsening of asthma symptoms and other allergic reactions. “Some airborne moulds can cause severe lung infections in people with very weakened immune systems (like those with leukemia or AIDS, or transplant recipients),” they reveal on the Healthy Canadians website.
Are some people more vulnerable to the effects of mould than others? Yes, certainly. As we alluded to earlier, those who suffer from asthma and severe allergies are more likely to experience breathing difficulties when coming into contact with mould spores. The Healthy Canadians site also acknowledges that children and seniors are more likely to be more sensitive to the effect of mould than others. There is no “safe” limit of exposure, the site warns us.
Where does mould grow? According to Roberts, mould can form on literally any surface. “Even flat and smooth surfaces like glass, fibreglass, and steel are mould-susceptible,” she informs, “As long as mould spores (which are always in the air), moisture, and particulate matter (like dust) are prevalent, mould can grow. The only effective strategy to control mould is to control moisture, like installing dehumidifiers and fans in basements and kitchens.”
What can be done to prevent mould? Limiting moisture is definitely important. Now, of course, there is moisture in all homes. And it is most prevalent in kitchens and bathrooms. This is why both rooms are equipped with exhaust fans. It is highly recommended that they be used any time either room is in use for their intended purposes. In other words, when you are cooking and bathing, turn your fans on.
You’ll also want to make sure that you don’t let water pool or accumulate anywhere. “Homeowners can easily prevent water intrusion by staying vigilant of any leaks around the house, especially in bathroom faucets, showers and toilets,” adds Roberts, “Building experts urge homeowners to stay alert for signs of mould, including dampness, odours, discolouration, peeling paint, condensation, compacted insulation and actual mould outbreaks.”
At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we offer Mould Assessment Services that analyze, assess and report on your home, office or building. Our comprehensive assessments include visual inspections for sources of mould, analytical sampling for source and health impact potential from spore exposure, moisture analysis and thermal scanning. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email email@example.com.
Let’s be honest. It’s our fault. Each and every day, we humans engage in activities that serve to worsen our indoor air quality. Our often-not-even-thought-about bad habits can have serious health implications considering how much time we spend in our homes. We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors. And when we keep up with our naturally bad habits, it only serves to cause health problems – especially for those with asthma and allergies.
So what bad habits worsen indoor air quality? Here are seven:
1. Not opening the windows. We know – it’s the winter time in Canada. But guess what? Opening the windows for a few minutes a day won’t freeze you to death. By contrast, it can be good for your health. Exchanging the fresher outside air with stale indoor air out is “one of the simplest (and most affordable) things you can do to improve your home air quality,” according to NaturallySavvy.com.
2. Not cleaning heating and air conditioning filters. We often take the appliances that cool and heat our homes for granted. We can’t forget that they need to be regularly maintained. “Heating and air-conditioning filters and vents that are not regularly cleaned can trap pollen, dust and other allergens,” explains Mary West on Wakeup-World.com, “They are easily accessible in many systems, but if yours are in a difficult-to-reach area, have a professional cleaning service take care of them periodically.”
3. Opting for carpet over hardwood floors. Most of us probably grew up in homes that were predominantly carpeted. And such homes provided a warmth and comfort that we grew up to love. It’s hard to argue that carpets offer a cozy softness to walk on, making the home seem friendlier. However, carpets trap dust and other indoor pollutants creating a nightmare for allergy and asthma sufferers. Simply put, remove carpeting from your home for better breathing.
4. Using traditional household cleaning products. Most of us are still caught up with the idea that if our homes smell clean, then they must be clean. So we use scented aerosol sprays and other fragrance-riddled disinfectants that only serve to add harmful chemicals to our living environments. “Traditional household cleaning products are one of the leading contributors to poor home air quality,” says NaturallySavvy.com, “In fact, the average home contains 62 harmful chemicals.”
5. Not owning houseplants. It’s important for us to bring certain elements of the outdoors inside with us. Plants are especially useful as many of them serve as perfectly natural air filters. Plants such as the peace lily, the bamboo palm, aloe vera and the English Ivy (or Hedera helix) are known for removing such harmful chemicals as formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from the air we breathe.
6. Not making use of essential oils. “Essential oils will impart a wonderful scent into your home, and many have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can enhance indoor air quality,” writes West, “Use diffusers but place them on a high shelf out of the reach of children. Good ones to try include citrus, eucalyptus, thyme or peppermint. A nice one for the bedroom is lavender, which has an intoxicatingly fresh scent that promotes relaxation.”
7. Smoking indoors. Does this bad habit really need an explanation? There is literally nothing worse that you can do for your home’s indoor air quality than to light up a cigarette within its walls. Secondhand smoke as well as thirdhand smoke (as discussed in last week’s blog) can create disastrous health hazards that have been well documented. If you can’t quit smoking, at least endeavour to quit smoking in your home.
At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we strive to improve your indoor air quality by seeking out all contaminants and pollutants through our Air Quality Services. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By today’s standards, exclaiming that smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health is met with a “tell me something I don’t know” response. It’s actually hard to imagine that, not too long ago, researchers were tirelessly working to prove that such was the case. Today, we’re very well aware that both cigarette smoke and the secondhand smoke breathed in by surrounding non-smokers can cause cancer, among many other health issues.
But what is thirdhand smoke? A relatively new concept, thirdhand smoke refers to the smoke that lingers long after the actual cigarette smoking has been completed. You know that smell that persists within our clothes, hair, furniture and pretty much anything else that the smoke comes into contact with? That thirdhand smoke can be responsible for such health issues as asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
As reported by Susan Brink of National Geographic, “researchers now know that residual tobacco smoke, dubbed thirdhand smoke, combines with indoor pollutants such as ozone and nitrous acid to create new compounds. Thirdhand smoke mixes and settles with dust, drifts down to carpeting and furniture surfaces, and makes its way deep into the porous material in paneling and drywall.”
How can thirdhand smoke affects us? Brink writes when the after effects of smoke linger in the hair, skin, clothing and fingernails of a smoker, it can come into contact with those surrounding that person. “The new compounds are difficult to clean up, have a long life of their own, and many may be carcinogenic,” she informs us, “One of those compounds, a tobacco-specific nitrosamine known as NNA, damages DNA and could potentially cause cancer.”
Is thirdhand smoke really that dangerous? According to a CTV News report, studies have found that thirdhand smoke can be just has harmful as secondhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke accumulates on surfaces throughout the home and attaches itself to dust, which can progressively become more toxic over time. Not only does thirdhand smoke produce long-lasting foul odours, but it significantly worsens indoor air quality.
CTV News points to a University of California study that observed the effects of thirdhand smoke on mice. “For six months, the mice lived in ventilated cages containing materials that had been exposed to second-hand smoke,” they explain, “Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology who led the study, says at the end of the six months, her team found significant damage in the mice’s livers and lungs, such as higher fat levels in their livers.”
How can we get rid of thirdhand smoke? A thorough cleanup of your home will certainly help. Brink quotes Bo Hang, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California as saying that such remedies as repainting rooms, replacing carpets and cleaning up ventilation systems may be in order to remove the harmful effects of thirdhand smoke from a home. And naturally, no indoor smoking should be made a strict rule.
At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we are well aware of the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. In fact, there is nothing worse that a person can do for his/her indoor air quality than to smoke inside the home. Our Air Quality Services work to detect all sources of indoor contaminants in an effort to improve your indoor air quality. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email email@example.com.