Managing your home’s Humidity

Posted by on Jan 5, 2024 in General, home improvement, Safety, Seasonal | 0 comments

The level of humidity in your home will affect your health as well as the health of your home.  If you have asthma, allergies or have had respiratory infections, humidity that has been very high or very low is a contributing factor.  These factors will also have an impact on the condition of your home. Humans are most comfortable and healthiest in an environment where the humidity is maintained at a level around 40% (Every home should have a hygrometer). When levels drop below 20% humidity, it means the air is very dry.  There is an increased level of dust and allergens in the air, our skin becomes dry and you begin to get a lot of static in the air.  Dragging your feet on the carpet is sure to give someone a shock.  This is also hard on your home.  Wood starts to dry out, hardwood floors creek and wood in expensive cabinets and furniture starts to shrink. When levels climb above 60% humidity, it means the air is very damp.  Humidity above 60% is ideal for the growth of mold which will start to grow within 48 hours.  Mold will irritate health concerns such as asthma, allergies and respiratory infections.  Mold will also deteriorate wood and over time weaken the structure of a home. In today’s modern home a lot has been done to improve insulation and energy efficiency.  High efficiency furnaces, hot water heaters and fireplaces combined with new windows and doors built to seal up a house, means very little fresh air gets in.  During the winter (and summer if you have central air conditioning), you trap the air inside the home.  In our daily activities, bathing, cooking and even breathing you introduce humidity into your home.  Consider how much humidity you introduce into your home during that big family Christmas dinner. If you notice your homes humidity above 50% (remember every home should have a hygrometer) it is time to take action!  Newer homes have a built in whole house ventilation system.  In this case turning it on will remove some of that humidity.  If you don’t have that luxury, running your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans will help remove the stale damp air.  Both of these solutions work very well in the cooler winter months.   During a damp summer the outside air can be even more humid than the inside air.  Ventilation alone may not help, consider getting a dehumidifier for the house.  A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air eliminating the possibility of mold growing in your home. When you notice the humidity is below 30% it is time to take action.  Most homes are built with a central humidifier on the furnace.  If you have one make sure it is clean and functioning properly.  This however, is not my favorite way to add humidity to a home (see my blog on humidifiers for more information).  Run portable humidifiers, in most cases one console unit is enough but smaller units can be used to humidify isolated areas.  You can also run those bathroom fans for a shorter period of time after a bath or shower.  In this case putting moisture back into the air is good for your health and your home. Winter creates another challenge with humidity.  When temperatures become very cold (in Alberta it is not uncommon to have temperatures below -30c) to much humidity in these conditions can create moisture problems which includes condensation and frost on your windows, condensation and mold on your exterior walls and frost build up in your attic.  When you hear extreme cold weather is on its way turn your humidity settings down.  20% or lower may...

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Fall Maintenance

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in General, Seasonal | 0 comments

When fall arrives it is time to start to prepare your home for the winter months.  Committing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon will reduce the risk of costly repairs in the future.  Here are some tips to help you, Test your heating system, I recommend a gas furnace be service every two years by a qualified technician.  Atco gas will also come out at a homeowners request and inspect all gas lines and gas appliances and no cost to the home owner. Check, clean or replace your furnace filter.  You should repeat this every month during the heating season, this will optimize air flow throughout your home and reduce heating bills.  If your house is equipped with an HRV clean those filters and finally clean your fresh and combustion air intake screens outside. Cover your air conditioner unit outside. Have your ducts cleaned.  I recommend you do this every 2 to 3 years, again it increases air flow and reduces energy costs. Clean your humidifier, it has been sitting idle for the past several months and likely has a build up of scale.  Consider removing your furnace humidifier and replacing it with a portable unit.  This can add years to the life of your furnace, and help improve your indoor air quality. Learn more about humidifiers here Check your sump pit and drain line to ensure proper operation. Check all your doors and windows to ensure they are closing and sealing properly, air leaks can make a home very drafty in the winter and increase heating costs. Check the garage door and the man door to the house.  Lubricate all the hinges and test the door closer and seal for the man door to ensure exhaust gases do not enter the home’s living spaces. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and test them with smoke. Clean your eaves troughs and check your downspouts the spring thaw will require these are directing water away from your home. Ensure the ground slopes away from the house so water does not end up in your basement. Check your fireplace chimney for obstructions such as nests.  Have the chimney cleaned if you have not done so in the past 2 years. Close the valve to your outdoor hose bib and remove the hose.  Drain the water from the hose bib. Winterize your exterior, store your outdoor furniture, prepare gardens and protect young trees or perennials if they are not very hardy.  This is also a good time to do some maintenance on you snow blower if you have one, you don’t want to be caught with a broken snow blower after that first snow storm. Review your home fire safety plan with your family!  Helpful fire safety tips are located on my website...

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Posted by on Aug 7, 2013 in General, Seasonal | 0 comments

Most homes have a Humidifier built onto the side of the furnace.  Recently there is new information that this type of humidifier is affecting both Air Quality and Furnace Life. Furnace mounted Humidifiers put moisture directly into your heating ducts. This moisture needs to be much higher in the ducts in order to control the humidity in your home. Moisture in the ducts, combined with dust and heat, promotes mold growth.  Once you have mold in your ducts, that mold is being blown around your home every time your furnace turns on. This same moisture is also blowing across the Heat Exchanger in your furnace.  This promotes rust and will shorten the life of the heat exchanger. Adding humidity to your home during the cold winter months, prevents dry skin and shocks and helps us feel more comfortable.  Wood flooring and furniture also benefit from having the right level of humidity during the winter (35% to 40%).  I recommend you purchase a console humidifier and place it in a central location on the main floor of your home.  These units require filling with water on a regular basis so it will be top of mind and you are more likely to take the proper steps to maintain this type of humidifier.  For more information follow this link to learn some tips on how to manage your humidity. I recently came across an article that explains the dangers in greater detail: Central Humidifier Dangers Humidifiers can cause various diseases. The young, elderly and infirm may be particularly at risk to contamination from airborne pollutants such as bacteria and fungi. These can grow in humidifiers and get into the air by way of the vapor where it can be breathed in. Some of the more common diseases and pathogens transmitted by humidifiers are: Legionnaires’ disease. Health problems caused by this disease range from flu-like symptoms to serious infections. This problem is generally more prevalent with portable humidifiers because they draw standing water from a tank in which bacteria and fungi can grow; Thermophilic actinomycetes. These bacteria thrive at temperatures of 113° to 140° F and can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is an inflammation of the lungs; and “Humidifier fever,” which is a mysterious and short-lived, flu-like illness marked by fever, headache, chills and malaise, but without prominent pulmonary symptoms. It normally subsides within 24 hours without residual effects. Other problems associated with humidifiers include: Accumulation of white dust from minerals in the water.   These minerals may be released in the mist from the humidifier and settle as fine white dust that may be small enough to enter the lungs. The health effects of this dust depend on the types and amounts of dissolved minerals. It is unclear whether these minerals cause any serious health problems; Moisture damage due to condensation. Condensed water from over-humidified air will appear on the interior surfaces of windows and other relatively cool surfaces. Excessive moisture on windows can damage windowpanes and walls, but a more serious issue is caused when moisture collects on the inner surfaces of exterior walls. Moisture there      can ruin insulation and rot the wall, and cause peeling, cracking or blistering of the paint; and accumulation of mold.  This organic substance grows readily in moist environments, such as a home moistened by an over-worked humidifier. Mold can be hazardous to people with compromised immune systems. This article makes a reference to portable humidifiers being a concern.  Like anything maintenance is the key.  Cleaning your humidifier on a frequent basis is a critical...

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Summer Maintenance

Posted by on Jul 15, 2013 in General, Seasonal | 0 comments

Inspecting your home on a regular basis and following good maintenance practices is the best way to protect the investment you have in your home.  Here are some tips to maintain your home through the summer.   Check your roof, using binoculars look for missing worn or curling shingles, damage to flashing around penetrations or a sag in the roof.  If you find these conditions consult a roofer. Check all the exterior wood and repaint as required include your doors, windows, deck and fence. Trim back any trees or shrubs that are approaching the home or its overhead electrical services In the basement check the floor drains for water in the trap and poor a bucket of water down them to keep the traps fresh, test your sump and check all water pipes for condensation or leaks Monitor your basement humidity and avoid humidity over 60%. Use a dehumidifier if necessary Clean or replace your furnace filter Inspect your doors and windows for proper operation of all looks and latches. Lubricate  and tighten the hinges on all your doors Vacuum your clothes dryer hood vent outside Clean your bathroom fan grills Check your exterior railings and guards and repair as required Check and repair loose or damage weatherstripping around windows and doorways Repair driveways and walkways as needed Test all your GFCI’s Ensure your furnace room is kept free of clutter and debris Inspect and lubricate your garage door, and door opener. Test those safety...

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Home Fire Escape Planning

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in General, Safety, Seasonal | 0 comments

A fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as three minutes to escape safely. Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning – a home fire escape plan that everyone in your home is familiar with and has practiced. These tips can help you put together and practice an effective home fire escape plan. Fire Facts • Most fire deaths in Alberta happen in homes, especially at night when people are asleep. People, who die in home fires, often die from breathing the smoke and toxic gases from the fire—not from being burned by flames. These toxic gases can render a person confused and disoriented or even unconscious after only a few short breaths. The effects may overcome you long before you have time to orient yourself to get out of your own home. If you plan and practice your escape drill, you will know exactly what to do, almost automatically, to quickly and safely get out from a burning house. • Once a fire starts it can spread rapidly. In as little as three minutes, a small fire can erupt into a “flashover” (when a room gets so hot everything suddenly bursts into flames). Three minutes isn’t a lot of time to notice the fire danger, round up your family, identify a safe escape route, and escape from your home. Seconds count in a fire emergency. Safety Tips Plan Your Escape • Have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and test your alarm(s) monthly to make sure they are in working condition to warn you of a fire. • Involve the whole household in drawing a simple floor plan of your home, marking exactly how to get out in a fire emergency. • Identify two exits from each room, particularly bedrooms that you can use to escape. Planning two escape routes could save your life if one exit is blocked by smoke or fire. • Establish a safe meeting place outside of the home. • Assign a designated helper for any person living in your home who may not be able to escape the fire emergency on his or her own. This may include young children, older people, or people with impairments due to mobility limitations, disabilities, medications, or alcohol. • Ensure your street number is clearly visible from the road so that responding emergency personnel can find your home. • Inform guests and visitors about your home escape plan and find out about others escape plans when you stay overnight in their homes.         Practice Your Escape Plan • Practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year with everyone living in your home. • Make the drill as realistic as possible. Sound the smoke alarm, and practice different scenarios and escape routes. Practice your escape using the escape tips identified below. • Most fire emergencies happen at night. Ensure you practice at night while everyone is asleep.   Home Fire Escape Planning How to Escape Get low and go under smoke. All household members should learn how to “get low and go” under the layer of smoke hanging under the ceiling during a fire emergency. In a fire, the air closer to the floor will be relatively free of toxic smoke and gases and will easier to breathe. Check the door with your hand. If the door is hot, fire could already be burning through! That’s when you’ll use your alternate exit. If the door is cool it may be safe. Brace your shoulder against...

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Shedding Water

Posted by on Sep 8, 2012 in General, Seasonal | 0 comments

The way a house “sheds” water is the key to moisture control inside your home.  I was called out to many homes this summer due to flooding basements to help find the source of the water or to investigate for mold due to the water.  In most cases the water problem was easily preventable. During the fall and winter months, water is rarely an issue due to the lack of rain and the frozen snow.  Many people forget to take the steps to get there home ready for the spring thaw and the rain that is very common in spring and early summer.  A little work can prevent serious problems later. Eaves troughs and downspouts are a key component to preventing water in the basement.  Fall is a time when the leaves come off the trees and can easily clog downspouts and eaves troughs.  Clean them out so you are ready or the spring thaw.  Make sure your downspouts are extended away from the house and are attached.  A loose downspout can get kicked off by the mailman or paperboy and go through the winter undetected. This will create all kinds of problems in the spring. Take a look at your grading.  I have seen many water issues simply because the slope of the ground lets water flow towards a house.  Over time the dirt around the foundation settles so what was a good grade a few years ago may be poor grade today.  Take the time to walk around  your home and correct the grade if required. Lastly take a look at all components of you sump pump if your house has a one.  Open the cover in the basement and lift the float to activate the pump.  This tests both the float and the pump.  I do recommend a sump pit alarm as a sump pump can fail at any time so an alarm will alert you of a failure before its is two late.  Look for how your sump pump discharges outside your home.  A sump hose should extend 6 feet from the property and should have a downward slope.  I often find long hoses attached to a sump extending the discharge to the end of a property, many times with high and low spots.  In the winter this hose can freeze and the water will not be pumped from the house.  You sump will run continuously and is likely to burnout. Use these tips wisely and your are not likely to see any water in your basement next...

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