With more time being spent at home, we are all breathing more of the air inside our homes. This is especially true with COVID changes, and now with colder weather upon us. It is time for an assessment of the indoor air of your home to see if there are ways to improve the quality of the air you are breathing.
Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that is a byproduct of decay of certain radioactive deposits present in the ground. Radon seeps into homes through cracks in foundations and floors and via exposed earth such as sump pits and crawl spaces.
Licking County has a geology that generates radon levels in homes that rank highest in the State of Ohio. It is wise to test for radon – through test kits that you can purchase at home improvement stores or that are available through the Licking County Health Department.
Elevated levels of radon are mitigated with systems that create a mild vacuum under the basement slab or under a plastic cover of a crawl space. Systems run $1000-$1800 and use a small turbine fan and 4” PVC piping to convey the radon gas away. When selling homes, I’ve found that the radon tests conducted by buyers as part of inspections show higher-than-acceptable levels of radon about 75% of the time. I can recommend good, licensed radon mitigation companies if you want to do something about elevated levels.
Even if you don’t believe radon is a hazard, when you sell your home it is almost a sure thing that buyers will test for radon levels, and will look to you, the seller, to mitigate. It’s best to test and mitigate high levels now, and reduce the potential for health impacts. It is likely to cost more to mitigate in the future.
Mold can cause sniffling, wheezing, eye irritation, or rashes, and can cause major health problems with the immuno-compromised or those with asthma. Actually, there are mold spores almost everywhere, but they need moisture to grow and become a concern.
Remedying – or preventing – mold growth requires that you first find and repair any source of moisture. Fix leaks in flashing, roofs, basements, and crawl spaces. Use exhaust fans in kitchen, baths, and laundry. Once the source of moisture is eliminated, you can tackle any existing mold growth with enzyme treatments available at home improvement stores. After you have treated any area, paint with stain-blocking primer and then with final paint color, if needed. If you have a large area to address, it is best to call in professionals who use safety protocols to minimize the spread of mold and spores.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) – another colorless, odorless gas – is a byproduct of sub-optimal burning of fuels. CO binds with hemoglobin in the blood, dramatically reducing its ability to convey oxygen. Signs of CO poisoning are headache and confusion, and it can be fatal. The most common way for CO to get in the home is via a crack in the heat exchanger of a forced-air furnace. Part of the annual service you should have for your furnace (You do have an annual service check, don’t you?) is inspection of the heat exchanger and making sure the furnace is burning efficiently, thereby reducing the generation of CO.
CO monitors – there are models that look like smoke detectors or that plug into outlets –and are especially important if you have appliances that burn any hydrocarbon for extended periods.
VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) a broad class of gases (including formaldehyde) are emitted by literally thousands of assorted products, from paint to glue to carpeting. Newbuilding materials are one of the biggest sources. It is best to use products labeled ‘low VOC’ or ‘No VOC’ and keep an eye out for the ingredient ‘urea’. If you come home with new purchases that have a sickly chemical smell, you can store them in the garage for a few days while they outgas. Otherwise, ventilation will help dilute these pollutants. It is always good to have some fresh air coming in the house. Fresh air dilutes indoor pollutants. Newer homes are built tighter, and this can mean a quicker buildup of pollutants. Energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems reclaim heat from outgoing air to warm incoming air, and usually feed fresh air directly into the supply ducts of a home. Of course, normal in/out goings of the inhabitants of your home will introduce fresh air; that normal activity is just not happening as much now. You can also make a point to crack open a few windows that will allow a continuous trickle of outside air.
Call me at 740-587-2000
if you want information about radon testing or mitigation, carbon monoxide detectors, mold testing and mitigation, or energy recovery ventilation systems.