- November 2013
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If you’re one of many homeowners who think that mold issues go away in the winter, you may be surprised that mold is a year-round problem in homes. Mold grows best when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees and there’s enough humidity or moisture to support its proliferation.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a naturally occurring fungus that reproduces by sending minuscule mold spores through the air. It occurs everywhere, even in dry, hot deserts. Its role in nature is to decompose organic matter, which it does efficiently.
A few types of mold can create serious health problems, especially black mold. It’s not as common as other kinds of mold, but it’s by no means rare. Besides irritating allergies and asthma, it can cause serious lung damage and even cause lung bleeding and cancer.
Where It Occurs
Since indoor humidity level is relative to the temperature, it can be an issue when temperatures fall outside and the humidity level stays constant indoors. These are the places where mold can grow uncontrolled in your home during the winter:
- Pipes. Any pipes inside the exterior walls can get cold and condense the humidity. The moisture trapped inside the wall cavity provides a living environment for mold spores once temperatures start to warm.
- Attics. If your attic insulation is inadequate or you have air leaks between the ceiling and the attic, the heat and humidity from your home can seep into the attic. If you have ice dams on your roof during the winter, suspect air leakage into the attic. The cold surface of your roof will condense the moisture in the air and the droplets will fall, feeding any mold spores. The mold will grow on your insulation, reducing its effectiveness. Mold will also cause wood rot, leading to an expensive structural repair.
- Windows. Condensation on windows promotes mold issues, especially if yours are wood.
- Basements. By their nature, most basements have higher humidity levels. If you smell that musty odor of mold or mildew, you may need to take steps to dry the area out with a portable dehumidifier.
- Ductwork. Your home’s ductwork is vulnerable to mold growth since the spores pass through it each time your HVAC system turns on. A licensed HVAC contractor can inspect the ducts to check for the presence of mold.
Dealing With It
Good sanitation habits can stop the proliferation of mold throughout your home, as will preventing water leaks and condensation on pipes, the windows and in the attic and basement. If you find it, remove the mold if you can. If you’re not sure whether it’s the toxic black mold, you can send a sample to a laboratory for testing. If it is black mold, you should probably contact a mold remediation specialist who will recommend the best course of action for your mold issues.
Fix all plumbing leaks promptly and look under the sinks occasionally. Leaking pipes raise humidity levels and can foster mold growth if left unchecked. Tighten the pipe connections, but if there’s still a leak, contact a plumber who has the tools to stop the leaks.
Other Steps to Consider
- A humidity meter (hygrometer) will show you the humidity levels indoors. If a cold front is approaching, it’s a good idea to try to reduce the humidity inside if it’s 50 percent or higher. The air in your home will dry out, reducing condensation around uninsulated areas, including the basement and windows.
- If your HVAC contractor confirms that your ductwork contains mold, consider having it professionally cleaned. Avoid using anyone but a licensed, reputable HVAC contractor for this task, since duct cleaning by an unlicensed provider could leave you with damaged ducts that will reduce your system’s efficiency.
- Keep the air filters for your home’s HVAC system clean and use an efficient filter that will trap mold spores.
- When you’re considering a whole-house humidifier, choose one that has a humidistat that senses outdoor temperatures. It will automatically adjust the amount of humidity inside based on outdoor temperatures.
- Have a professional energy audit that will show precisely where your home has air leaks and thermal losses that contribute to mold issues, particularly in the attic. These audits combine a powerful blower door test with thermal imaging to pinpoint places where air leaks exist in your home’s envelope.
If you need help with mold issues in the Griffith, Munster, Highland, St. John, Schererville, or Gary areas, contact the pros at Meyer’s Company today.