Posts Tagged ‘mold’

Retrofit For Health? Why Yes!

May 7, 2014

Hard to breathe? One of our advisors after working in an attic!

Remodeling and home improvement is done for many reasons but health doesn’t usually come to mind first, but maybe it should. This is Asthma awareness month , indoor air quality and health seems a fitting subject.

It may not be clear why some suffer from Asthma, but reducing triggers can sure help make it more manageable. It just so happens that some of those triggers are the same concerns we have in everyone’s home.   Dust, mold, by products from combustion, and chemicals stored in the home can all cause problems.

We’ve talked about it in the past and improving the indoor environment may help you keep the outdoors out since that can be a trigger too.

Breathe easy in an efficient, safer and more comfortable home, your home. Click here for more information.



Helping and Staying Safe after the Storm

November 7, 2012

Housing is near and dear to us here at GreenHomes, and even closer is safe housing.  Hurricane Sandy has significantly changed what many have taken for granted just as we go into colder weather in the Northeast.  Tens of thousands have found themselves without a home because of the storm.  Many more have found themselves with extensive damage to their homes and a long struggle to recover.

There are many ways to support efforts to support those affected, the Red Cross is collecting donations, and Feeding America has been working to provide food and water for example.

It is also important to keep in mind how to stay safe as people return to their homes.  The CDC has some useful information about what to look for when coming home to water damage, the dangers of electrical issues, and mold.   For many our homes are no longer the safe havens they once were.

Losing power means often means relying on a generator, which is a great concern since they are one of the leading reasons for CO poisoning.    I often preach about the importance of checking heating and cooking equipment, having a CO alarm in your home, but when all goes wrong and we need a generator just to get by, it is even more important to make sure it will be helping not harming us.

The dangers of unvented fireplaces  also true for generators in your home or garage.  A garage or enclosed porch may be more connected to your home than you think.   When using a generator; always make sure there is enough fresh air to dilute any of the exhaust fumes.  Keep them out of your homes!

Help the people in need; stay safe please, no matter where you are!



Photo of the New Jersey coast from the National Guard

Cleaning up those basements after the flood

April 28, 2011

Something we may have to get used to:  Heavy rains in the Northeast are causing flooding like we saw in California earlier in the year.

And many people whose basements never flood are taking on water.

This might be a good time to touch on flood cleanup.  Water from flooding can create real problems.  When things get wet for more than a couple of days they usually get moldy. Add that to bugs and other microbes that come in during flooding or that thrive on moist conditions, and you’ve got a problem.

So if you’ve had flooding in the house, it’s important to clean and dry your house and everything in it as quickly as possible.  First, get the water out.  Throw away anything that was wet with flood water and can’t be rapidly dried and cleaned.  This includes not only belongings, but things like insulation and drywall, too.  And use fans (if the air is dry) or a dehumidifier to speed drying.

Clean and dry hard surfaces such as floors, walls, furnishings, etc.  Use a detergent or use a cleaner that kills germs.  Do not mix cleaning products together or add bleach to other cleaning products—this may generate and release toxic chemicals that can hurt or even kill you.

If you’ve got mold, you can clean it up—however if there is more than 10 square feet (about a 3 foot by 3 foot area), you may want to hire a professional to clean up the mold.  [See EPA’s mold cleanup recommendations.]

After you’ve solved the immediate cleanup, you’ll want to think about long-term prevention—keeping the water out—so you don’t have to do this again.  We’ll touch on that in another post later.

Which end is up? Either way breathe easy.

March 23, 2011


From zimbio

For being the foundation of the house it is surprising how basements and crawlspaces can be ignored.   Whether a dirt root cellar, basement or crawlspace these sub surface spaces can be a big headache to us. For some it’s not the Robin that is the harbinger of spring but the song of the sump pump humming and gurgling as the snow melts.   Or maybe it’s the beginning of the long run of the dehumidifier and the utility bill to match.

Mike brought up odor and air quality issues such as mold and mildew related to spaces that the team at Energy Efficient Solutions, a GreenHomes America location in Yorktown, Virginia sees, and the same issues that happen there happen on the west coast and the northeast. 

As homeowners we too often come to accept the problems in our house as just the way it is or hope they will go away.   We take care of our roofs and siding to keep the water out.  These underground spaces ought to be treated with the same importance.  Air sealing like we recommend for attics can help a lot down below as well.  You can flip the house upside down and treat it the same way.  We need something to keep the water out and drain it away, insulation and good solid air barrier between the living space and the outside. 

 Either way you look at the house, there is an optimum relative humidity for healthy air inside.   Higher (and lower) ranges are ones ripe for growth of bacteria viruses, fungi and mold.  Lower and we get to be too uncomfortable and suffer from the effects.

There is a sweet spot right down the middle.  Preventing big moisture issues is important for our well being.  Because they are out of sight down below doesn’t mean they should be ignored.  Make sure any contractor who does work on your home understands this and how it relates to the work they’re doing.  If not, you could be headed for trouble.

Crawlspaces don’t have to be stinky!

March 21, 2011
Dead Rabbit in Crawlpace

Often a smelly crawlspace is caused mold or mildew. Sometimes, by dead animals. Occasionally, both.

While it is snowing AGAIN today in parts of the Northeast, many folks are hoping the ice-damming season is over.  (Smart folks who recognized the problem are looking ahead to prepare for next year, though.  Remember, ice damming is only one symptom of a year-round problem.) 

Meanwhile, crawlspaces in the Southeast are already ramping up to reach their full stinky potential.  I’ve been in some that literally made me sick.  And many people live in houses that are well connected to that wet, smelly, allergen producing mold farms.

Typical Poor Crawlspace Installation

If your crawlspace looks like this, it probably isn't working well

Let me state the obvious.  Moldy, stinky crawlspaces aren’t good.  But as with ice damming, the smell is a symptom.  The problem is poor moisture control and energy detailing.  Some of it stems from older building codes that got it exactly wrong and required counterproductive “ventilation”.  And a lot stems from unwise material choices and poor attention to installation.  (As Jason hinted at a couple of weeks ago, they’re building homes faster than we can fix them!)

Mold and mildew  in the crawlspace are signs that you could be in for more trouble, including rotting wood framing that can put your whole house in jeopardy, and critters including rodents and snakes, and high utility bills.  Much of this is driven by designs and construction practices that don’t control moisture.

A clean, properly sealed and insulated crawlspace can tranform your home.

Fortunately, there are good solutions, and the right folks to deliver them.  For example, the team at Energy Efficient Solutions, a GreenHomes America location in Yorktown, Virginia sees this all the time—they live in stinky crawlspace country.  But they’ve been doing an excellent job transforming people’s homes from the ground up.

A good crawlspace encapsulation, controlling water and moisture, using a strong vapor barrier on the ground, and sealing and insulating the crawlspace walls, make the crawlspace the foundation of a well-performing home as it should be, rather than a nightmare below the floorboards the plagues your home constantly.  The benefits are amazing.  You can virtually eliminate mold and mildew and the smells and the rot that accompany them, make the space less interesting for rodents, increase the comfort and livability of your home, and save money by reducing your utility bills.

If you’ve got a stinky crawlspace, cold floors in the winter, high utility bills, or musty odors in your home, you do NOT have to live with it.  Start with a good assessment of your home and let us fix the problems!


Avoid Home Repair Scams

May 10, 2010

Reader’s Digest has a blog post about not getting ripped off by unscrouplous home repair sharks.  They counsel caution in five areas:

  • Leaky roof repair
  • Wet basement fixes
  • Termite conrol
  • Chimney cleaning upsells
  • Mold testing and removal

They offer good basic advice.  Including having your gas or oil burning equipment serviced annually–something GreenHomes certainly recommends for both efficiency and safety reasons.


Panasonic Bath Fan Recommendation

July 28, 2009

Must be product review day!  Some friends just had a question about what fan to get for their bathroom.  Great question.

Bath fans are important because they can remove the tremendous about of water vapor created by showing and bathing before it has a chance to create mildew or mold issues.  And they can be part of your home’s overall ventilation and indoor air strategy.

Too often, though, the cheapo fan—rattle boxes or noise makers, I call then—make a lot of noise, but don’t really move much air.  And some older fans can suck a lot of electricity even while they’re not helping much.

We use the Panasonic Whisper Series fans.   First and foremost, they work!  They have a great energy-efficient motor that really moves air very close to the nominal rating.  And as the “Whisper” implies, they’re very quiet—some models you really have to listen hard to hear at all.   And they’re reliable.  They are built to last and run a long time—continuously if needed.  An excellent choice.

I should mention that regardless of the type of exhaust fan you use, the fan should be ducted to vent directly outside.  Do not vent them into your attic—that’s a potential mold farm waiting to happen.  And even venting out a soffit isn’t a great idea, especially soffits designed to pull air up into the attic.


Addendum, Sept. 11, 2009:  I’ve just finished an initial evaluation of Renewaire’s new bath fan line, and it appears every bit as strong as the Panasonic line.  I can recommend it, too.

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