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Mold & Mildew Growth Can Create Serious Indoor Air Quality Issues

Published on: November 11, 2013

Mold and mildew can result in significant health risks to your family and home. Understanding how and why mold and mildew forms can better equip you to deal with the issue should it arise in your home.

Both mold and mildew are fungi which occur naturally throughout the world. Some mold varieties such as yeast and penicillin are beneficial. Other varieties can be harmful if inhaled and can result in serious health issues, especially for individuals who have compromised immune systems.

Four things must be present in order for mold to grow:

  • Spores – Mold spores exist virtually everywhere and are microscopic, invisible to the human eye.
  • Food – Nearly any organic material can provide food for spores. Common household building materials such as wood provide the perfect food source. There’s no way to clean away food sources as spores can grow on soap residue and the oil from your fingerprints.
  • Temperature – Mold and mildew can grow in a variety of temperatures. Although the fungi flourishes in warm temperatures, it’s also able to grow in colder temperatures, although at a slower rate. You can’t eliminate mold growth by keeping your home cool.
  • Moisture – Mold requires water to grow. This water may be in the air as vapor. Humidity levels of 70 percent or higher are ideal for the fungi to thrive.

Where Is Mold and Mildew Likely to Form?

  • Attic -During the winter months, moisture, heat and organic material combine in your attic and the upper levels of your home. Warm air naturally rises. When the warm air meets the cold roof, the temperature of the air is reduced and condensation is formed. The result is a moist, warm attic that’s the perfect location for the formation of fungus such as mold and mildew.
  • Moist rooms – Moist areas of your home including the bathroom, laundry room and kitchen are, by nature, areas where mold and mildew will thrive.
  • Vinyl wall coverings – In the southeast, having vinyl wall coverings can pose a problem for homeowners. The vinyl wall covering prevents the building materials from breathing. Therefore, the moisture becomes trapped behind the wall which results in mold growth.

Identifying Fungi

There are several indicators of the presence of mold and mildew:

  • Odor – Mold and mildew have distinct odors that are often described as musty.
  • Appearance – Many people are familiar with the strains of mold that occur on food that’s stored too long in the refrigerator. A foreign fuzzy substance growing on your household items or building components may be mold. Mold that grows on walls may not have the fuzzy appearance but may instead be black or green and grow in clusters that aren’t able to be cleaned away.

Reducing the Likelihood of Fungi Growth

  • Decrease humidity – Use your air conditioner or a dehumidifier to reduce the levels of humidity in your home. Take care to ensure moist areas such as laundry rooms, kitchens and bathrooms are properly ventilated. Run the dehumidifier in your basement or crawl space to reduce the chance of mold formation.
  • Evaluate air circulation – Ensure the return air registers are unobstructed so that air can properly move through the home HVAC system. During humid weather, resist the urge to open your windows. Additionally, don’t use ceiling fans to circulate moist area. Both of these items can result in mold growth.
  • Seal leaks – Even small air leaks in your home foundation or around windows can allow in moisture. Over time, that moisture can result in mold growth. Take time to ensure that any leaks are promptly sealed.
  • Your home exterior – Walk the perimeter of your home to make sure your landscaping slopes away from the house. Having adequate drainage means water will not accumulate near your house and set the stage for mold and mildew growth.

Are you concerned about your indoor air quality? For professional advice about mold and mildew, contact us to find a qualified HVAC contractor in your area today.