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Indoor Air Quality

Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

By | Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

Have you ever taken a minute to think about everything that happens in your home? All of the meals, the movie nights, the sleepovers, the get togethers’, the barbeques, the arguments, the birthday parties, and the list goes on. Your home is the central hub of the whirlwind of activity that is your life.

With everything that is happening in your home, the quality of the air may not be at the top of your priority list. While there may more pressing concerns that are commanding your attention, it makes sense to consider whether or not you should be looking to improve the air quality in your home.

Why Should You Care About Improving the Air Quality in Your Home?

It can be easy to overlook the state of the air quality in your home. After all, how bad can it be? You would know if there was something wrong… right? Not necessarily. Air quality issues can lead to everything from allergy-like symptoms to bacterial infections and disease and they can be hard to detect. Air quality is influenced by many factors but there are simple steps you can take to improve the air quality in your home.

1. Properly Ventilation

Proper ventilation includes making sure your HVAC systems are in good working order as well as having good airflow through open windows when the weather permits (assuming the air quality is good outside). Makes sure to keep interior doors open and utilize the bathroom and kitchen fans.

2. Controlling Humidity

Did you know that water does not need to be present for mold to grow? 60% humidity is enough to create the right conditions for mold growth. By taking steps to control the humidity levels in your home with a dehumidifier, you are reducing the risk of mold and other dangerous bacteria.

3. Changing Filters Regularly

This is a really simple, easy and effective step that can greatly improve the air quality in your home. Using a HEPA filter will filter out 99.97% of all contaminants 0.3 microns or bigger. (For scale, a human hair is 80-100 microns.) Using high-quality filters and changing them regularly will make a significant difference in the air quality in your home.

4. Perform Regular Maintenance

By performing regular household maintenance in your home, you are improving the air quality by making sure that avoidable contaminants aren’t introduced into the air. This could be from a leaky pipe, a blocked air vent or jammed gutters. All of these things can contribute to poor air quality.

5. Perform Regular Housekeeping Tasks

Everyone’s favorite! Housekeeping. You may not be jumping for joy about housekeeping tasks but your lungs will thank you. Vacuuming, dusting, cleaning windows, and sweeping regularly all go a long way to help improve the air you breathe.

6. Controlling Contaminants

Items such as paints, chemical cleaners, old paints, smoking, and vaping all have a negative effect on the air quality. Removing these items and activities from your home will be a positive change for those living there.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to air quality, you want to make sure that you are giving yourself and those in your home the air quality you deserve. These simple steps will help you in providing the best air quality you can for you and your loved ones.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Considerations When Doing HVAC Ductwork

By | HVAC, Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

A space quite often forgotten and left unprotected during renovations is the HVAC ductwork or mechanical equipment. Sawdust is biodegradable but if it gets into the ductwork, it can become moist making it the perfect nutrient for mold growth. When the HVAC unit kicks on, it spreads the mold spores throughout the building.

If replacing the ductwork, avoid duct board and flex duct. When duct board becomes moist, mold will root into it. The best option to remove the mold is to remove the duct board so the roots are eliminated. Flexible ducts are not easily cleaned. Solid metal ducts are the best option.

Properly insulate ductwork in attics and crawlspaces. Otherwise, condensation may occur when there are changes in temperature. Moisture and dust in the ductwork create a perfect environment for the propagation of mold. Ductwork should be insulated on the outside of the ductwork, not the inside. Otherwise, it cannot be adequately cleaned.

Use filters recommended by the manufacturer. Initially, filters should be checked monthly to determine the replacement timing required for the building. All buildings will be slightly different depending on the use and occupancy of the building.

Before re-occupancy after renovations, consideration should be taken to have the HVAC system professionally cleaned.

Many IAQ investigations end in the identification of poor indoor air because of dirty or contaminated ductwork. Protecting the ductwork during renovations is crucial.

The amount of ventilation will be determined by the size of the area being renovated and the amount of construction dust and off-gassing that will occur. It is crucial to have the air pulled from the area and exhausted to the outdoors rather than forcing fresh air into the work area. Doing so will cause polluted air to enter areas adjacent to the work area. 

Cleaning should occur daily along with a deep cleaning after the demolition and a final deep cleaning upon completion of all construction and renovation. Proper deep cleaning must be employed, including HEPA vacuuming, damp wiping, and a final HEPA vacuuming, and when applicable, cleaning of the ductwork.

Material encapsulation is the process of placing a barrier between the material of concern and the indoor air. This reduces the number of gases or particles emitted into the indoor air from the building component or the products used to perform their installation. Although some encapsulation occurs automatically as a result of the work plan, it is usually safer to specify the use of materials that do not off-gas or that are low-VOC instead of attempting to encapsulate all surfaces.

Encapsulants typically include high-pressure plastic laminates, factory-applied coatings or films, and coats of water-based polyurethane lacquer.

So if you are planning to do ductwork anytime soon, keep these points n mind and contact Baxter Environmental Group, Inc. if you need help making sure your indoor air quality stays healthy!

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

What should I do when I find mold when I am renovating?

By | Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality, Mold, Renovation | No Comments

Many D-I-Yers that take on home renovation projects like interior painting, kitchen remodeling, bathroom renovation, floor replacement, and window replacement, rarely understand the risks of mold. Even if they do, they may not know how to ensure that the mold contamination is prevented from spreading throughout the home.

The biggest risk you encounter by doing the renovation yourself or hiring an inexperienced contractor is contamination, meaning the mold spores spread throughout the home. You need to contain the area where you find mold to prevent this from happening. Most importantly, prevent the spores from entering and contaminating your HVAC system and air ducts, which could spread spores throughout your home.

With this in mind, if you find mold during the teardown process of drywall, removal of carpet or flooring, and/or during the removal of bathroom fixtures such as the tub, shower liner, etc. your  FIRST STEP is to determine the extent of the problem. 

Before you continue with your project, determine what the underlying moisture issue is because mold only grows when there is moisture present. Further renovations and reconstruction should only resume once the cause of the moisture problem is identified and fixed. Failure to do this will result in future costly headaches if this step is not taken.

If you are seriously considering removing the mold yourself, contact an indoor environmental consultant for an educated assessment and further advice on how to tackle the issue.

It is worth getting a mold inspection and/or air quality test on your home before you decide to remove any mold yourself. It is better to be safer than sorry when you are dealing with mold because exposure can cause health issues.

If you decide to remove the mold yourself, make sure you keep these tips in mind:

  1. Prevent cross-contamination by setting up containment, using a polyurethane barrier at least 3 mil thick that you can get from your local hardware store. Also, be sure to cover any vents or shut down the HVAC system in the area of mold removal.
  2. Understand that mold can be life-threatening, so be safe. Wear safety glasses, rubber gloves, an N95 or equivalent respirator, and a disposable suit.
  3. Don’t just spray the mold-contaminated materials with bleach, praying your mold problem will go away. Bleach is not effective on porous materials, so it is best to properly dispose of contaminated ceiling tiles, carpet, drywall, etc. Be sure to use 3 mil thick trash bags and dispose of mold-contaminated materials properly, double bagging is recommended.
  4. Mold contamination on non-porous materials can be scrubbed or brushed off then possibly encapsulated with mold inhibiting paint. You may find a microband at your local hardware store or online that could be effective.
  5. To prevent mold spores from becoming airborne and spreading use a HEPA-equipped vacuum that filters up to 99.97% of contaminants.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Do You Know The Most Dangerous Material In Your Pre-1980 Home?

By | Home Improvement, Indoor Air Quality, Renovation, Safety | No Comments

Do you know what it is?

And more importantly, do you know if you’re at risk?

Let’s say you’re deciding whether or not to go with a new look with your kitchen or bathroom this summer before the holidays. You’ve created a checklist of things like

  • New cabinets
  • Paint
  • Appliances
  • Flooring.

After doing some research and finding out what direction you want to go in, you now schedule to have a licensed contractor come and give a few estimates. During this inspection, he mentions your home has asbestos 9×9 tile in the kitchen.

Now you’re stuck wondering what to do next, how much it will cost, whether your health is in danger, and many other questions you will have along the way.

We have the information you need.

Our first recommendation is: Get it tested

Not all 9×9 tile is asbestos positive, but most 9×9 tile in a home built before 1980 is greater than 1% asbestos.

Our second recommendation: See if it is in good condition

If the tile is in good condition then don’t disturb it. Asbestos is only dangerous to your health once it is disturbed. In most cases, you can cover the existing floor with another layer of flooring material which lowers the risk of being exposed to asbestos fibers.

Our third recommendation: Take action if it’s in bad condition

In this case, you should think about contacting a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. The risk of exposure once the tile is disturbed, whether it be broken already or breaking the tile during removal, is extremely high and without proper P.P.E your health would be at risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the dangers of asbestos can be Asbestostis (chronic lung disease), Asbestos.com lists various types of cancer and also some nonmalignant diseases. Either way, it’s best to keep yourself educated to make sure you are doing everything possible to keep you and your family safe.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Mrs. H isn’t feeling too well… Here is another story on the importance of safe renovations

By | Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality, Mold | No Comments

The early 21st century home was in immaculate shape, nothing seemed wrong from the looks of it as I walked up to the front door and knocked on it. I was greeted by Mr. H and he explained to me that Mrs. H hasn’t been feeling the best. I asked if she was doing anything out of the ordinary. He replied with no, she works from her new home office which is next to the newly remodeled and installed bathroom.

We proceeded to the basement where the remodel had taken place and as I walked down the hallway I started to smell a musty odor as we got closer to the bathroom and office. As we went into the bathroom the odor got worse and I asked if it has always smelled like that, he replied with no and we started investigating.

The ceiling was made up of a grid with 2×4 ceiling tiles and one had a vent to vent out moisture. As I pulled up one of the tiles I felt it was really soft and somewhat mushy on the corners, I was told it was completely out of the track and it was covered with mold on the other side. I peeked my head through the rest of the drop ceiling and 75% of the ceiling tiles in the bathroom and the adjacent office were covered in mold, along with the top 12-16 inches for the backside of the drywall that separated the two rooms. He asked me why this happened, I replied with a lack of ventilation and moisture building on the tile. He said that they use the exhaust fan every time they shower and he didn’t understand why it would build up if the fan is on.

After further investigation, we found out the duct the fan was connected to wasn’t coupled correctly causing a leak which is pushing hot moisture-filled air out of the bathroom and above the drop ceiling causing the issue.

What I take away from this experience, and what I want you to take away from this story, is to never underestimate the unseen. There are so many things behind walls and under floors and tiles that it is not always easily apparent when there is an issue.

If you suspect that something is causing sickness, it is worth it to allow us to assess your situation thoroughly and use our experience to remediate the area and protect your family once and for all.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Seven Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality During the Winter

By | Indoor Air Quality, Uncategorized | No Comments

Seven Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality During the Winter

  1. Clean your floors and carpets regularly using a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
  2. Choose non-toxic cleaning products.
  3. Avoid fragrant products.
  4. Maintain humidity around 35-45%.
  5. Introduce fresh air at least once a week.
  6. Use low-VOC materials during home improvements.
  7. Inspect your HVAC ducts and clean when appropriate.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.

COVERING UP THOSE NASTY ODORS?

By | Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

Growing up, that was the solution.  Something smelt bad, we were taught to spray it with a fragrance.  Then the fragrance market got smart and added disinfectants.  So, we bought fragrant disinfectants and sprayed the nasty smell till it went away.  And, when it returned, we knew it was time to spray it again.

Indoor Environmental Professionals are spreading the word:  Don’t ignore that odor or cover it up.  Odors are our best indicator of a real problem.  Mold, bacteria, the wrong mix of products or chemicals, smoke, gas leaks, sewer leaks, rodent infestations, improper air circulation . . . are just a few of the culprits behind odors.  The odors indicate a deeper issue.  Rather than covering up the odor, eliminate the source.  Ultimately, eliminating the source yields a healthier environment.

A simple example:  Mrs. K complained of an intermittent foul odor that gave her headaches while she worked in her shop.  Upon investigation, we removed all the chemicals from under her utility sink and placed them on the back porch.  She stopped having headaches.  She was unaware that the product containers release vapors.  The use of equipment in her shop circulated the air releasing the vapors into her work area, causing the odor and the headaches.

BEST RESOLUTION TO ODORS:  Eliminate the source!

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.

SHOULD WE GET OUR AIR DUCT CLEANED?

By | HVAC, Indoor Air Quality | No Comments

SHOULD WE GET OUR AIR DUCT CLEANED?

  •  Is there visible mold growth on the hard surface ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system?
  • Are the ducts infested with vermin such as rodents or insects?
  • Are the ducts clogged with dust and debris or are particles actually being released from the supply registers?

If any of these are true, the EPA recommends the air ducts be cleaned.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.

BUSTING MYTHS ABOUT RADON

By | Indoor Air Quality | No Comments

Myth:         Scientists disagree on whether or not radon is a real problem.

Fact:           The dispute is not whether or not radon is real. Scientists are in agreement that radon causes lung cancer. The dispute is over the number of preventable lung cancer deaths every year.

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Myth:         Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

Fact:           Testing is easy. You can do it yourself. Average cost to test ranges from $20-150.

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Myth:         Radon only affects homes with basements.

Fact:           Radon can be a problem on all types of buildings.

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Myth:        The test results on the home next door are a good indication as to whether or not our home/building has radon.

Fact:         Many factors play into how radon infiltrates a building. The only way to know for sure is to test.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.

 

WHAT IS RADON & SHOULD I REALLY BE WORRIED?

By | Indoor Air Quality | No Comments

Radon is a radioactive gas that cannot be smelled, seen, or heard.  It moves up through the ground to the air above and into our buildings through cracks and other holes in the foundation.  Buildings then trap the radon gas inside where it can build up.

Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the US is estimated to have elevated radon levels.  Elevated levels of radon have been found in buildings in every US State.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Start by testing.  It’s quick, easy, inexpensive, and can save the lives of your building occupants.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.