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Indoor Environmental 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.

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.

Know these simple principles for maintaining a healthy home or building:

By | Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

Know these simple principles for maintaining a healthy home or building:

  • Keep it dry: Prevent water from entering your home through leaks in roofing systems, prevent rainwater from entering the home due to poor drainage, and check your interior plumbing for any leaking.
  • Keep it clean: Control the source of dust and contaminants, creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective wet-cleaning methods.
  • Keep it safe: Store poisons out of the reach of children and properly label. Secure loose rugs and keep children’s play areas free from hard or sharp surfaces. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers on hand.
  • Keep it well ventilated: Ventilate bathrooms and kitchens and use whole-house ventilation for supplying fresh air to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the home.
  • Keep it pest-free: All pests look for food, water, and shelter. Seal cracks and openings throughout the home; store food in pest-resistant containers. If needed, use sticky-traps and baits in closed containers, along with least-toxic pesticides such as boric acid powder.
  • Keep it contaminant-free: Reduce lead-related hazards in pre-1978 homes by fixing deteriorated paint, and keeping floors and window areas clean using a wet-cleaning approach. Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces, and foundation cracks. Install a radon removal system if levels above the EPA action level are detected.
  • Keep it well maintained: Inspect, clean, and repair your home routinely. Take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large repairs and problems.
  • Keep it thermally controlled: Houses that do not maintain adequate temperatures may place the safety of residents at increased risk from exposure to extreme cold or heat.

For more detail, visit https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/5675/healthy-housing-toolkit-for-housing-counselors/

Or

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

#breathehealthyinitiative

PROTECT YOUR BUILDING OCCUPANTS and FAMILY

By | Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

“A healthy home is a home that is maintained to avoid illness and injury.  Health hazards in the home can affect anyone, but children are particularly vulnerable.  Concerns include air quality, mold and moisture, lead hazard control, pest management, and injury prevention.” – US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Which hazards are at the top of the list?

  • Lead-based paint and lead hazards
  • Mold and moisture
  • Radon
  • Pests
  • Home safety and injury prevention
  • Carbon monoxide.

For more detail, visit https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/5675/healthy-housing-toolkit-for-housing-counselors/

Or

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

Don’t let your Home and Building Maintenance catch you off guard! Don’t let it get off-track!

By | Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

It’s Spring!  What are some of the items a building owner should be checking?

  • Deck/patio for mold and mildew.
  • Deck/patio slant so that water drains away from the house.
  • Hoses and outdoor facets to confirm they are working properly.
  • Gutters and downspouts for repairs or clogs.
  • Sprinklers for leaks or necessary adjustments.
  • All air filters. Replace where needed.
  • Windows and screens for damage.
  • Air conditioners and/or HVAC systems for proper performance.
  • Dryer vents and hoses for debris or obstructions.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for proper performance.
  • Kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans for debris, clogs and proper performance.
  • Caulking in showers, tubs, and sinks.
  • Roofs for leaks, cracks, broken shingles. Don’t forget to check the flashings.

For a more detailed HEALTHY BUILDINGS CHECKLIST, email a request to jm@baxtergroupinc.com.

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

What are the benefits to a Healthy Building Check-Up?

By | Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

Regular Healthy Building Check-Ups are inspections that ensure a building and all its systems function properly to keep the building healthy and safe.

  • Inspections help identify existing hazards in a building.
  • Inspections help identify potential hazards before they become a crisis.
  • Inspections help identify underlying causes of unhealthy buildings or safety risks.
  • Inspections reveal corrective actions needed to avoid compliance issues.
  • Inspections help monitor risks or hazards.

A Healthy Building Checklist can be requested by emailing jm@baxtergroupinc.com.

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

The Dangers of Deferred Maintenance!

By | Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

Preventative maintenance saves building owners thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a building.  Maintenance is a big part of making sure that equipment and building systems remain safe and functional.  With limited budgets it is tempting to forgo regular maintenance and healthy building check-ups.

Here are the dangers of deferring a Healthy Building Check-Up and preventative maintenance:

  • Costly equipment failure
  • High costs of reactive maintenance
  • Unhealthy or unsafe environments for occupants
  • Decreased occupant satisfaction with the property
  • Long lists of unexpected work orders or repairs
  • Fines from regulatory agencies
  • Shorter equipment life cycles
  • Hampered productivity
  • Negative impact of the store-front image
  • An overworked team experiencing burnout and stress

Preventative maintenance programs are designed to help a maintenance teams get ahead of maintenance issues, ensure properly functioning equipment, and save money over time.

How to Overcome Deferred Maintenance Issues?

  • Audit current maintenances processes, systems, and projects.
  • Employ a system of logging all maintenance activities in each particular building.
  • Employ a centralized work order system.
  • Prioritize maintenance issues.
  • Employ annual or bi-annual Healthy Building Check-Ups.

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

 

Time for a HEALTHY BUILDING checkup!

By | Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

Time for a HEALTHY BUILDING checkup!

Spring and Fall are great times to schedule your building(s) for a checkup.  In doing so, areas of concern can be identified and addressed prior to them becoming large, expensive cleanup or repair projects.  Here are just a view items that should be inspected inside your buildings:

  • Signs of roof leaks
  • Signs of plumbing leaks
  • Evidence of rodents, bats, roaches, termite and other pests
  • Paint intact
  • Dryer vents clear
  • Exhaust ducts clear
  • Gutters and downspouts intact and clear
  • No wet surfaces or puddles in crawlspaces and basement
  • Sump pump working
  • Radon system active and working
  • Insulation in place
  • Fans exhaust outdoors and are clear
  • Electrical wiring in good condition
  • Smoke and CO alarms are working
  • Refrigerator and icemaker drip pans are clean
  • Traps and drains are not leaking
  • Dehumidifiers operation properly
  • All filters are clean

For a more extensive check-up, join Baxter Environmental Group’s BREATHE HEALTHY INITIATIVE at baxtergroupinc.com.