Where Does Moisture Come From?

There are three main sources in your home; the first being air leaks.

Air can leak into the home through walls, roofs, and floors and have damaging effects on a house. Uncontrolled airflow through the envelope of the home not only carries moisture into framing cavities, causing mold and rot, but it can also account for a huge portion of a home’s energy use and can cause indoor air quality problems. In a leaky house, large volumes of air – driven by exhaust fans, stack effect, and the wind – can blow through the floor, walls, and ceiling.

moisture: Cut-away view of a two story house with a basement, using arrows to indicate the flow of air through the structure.

The second source of moisture is diffusion through materials.

This is a process by which vapor spreads or moves through permeable materials caused by a difference in water vapor pressure. An example of this is when the soil becomes saturated and moisture enters the crawl space through the walls by vapor diffusion. Installing a vapor barrier can help reduce the amount of moisture that makes its way into the crawl space and into the rest of the home.


The final source is internally generated moisture.

A family of four produces on average two pints of water an hour, or up to 25 pints of water a day, simply by washing dishes, taking showers, cooking, and breathing.

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How a Hygrometer Works

Does your home often feel dry? Or too muggy? If you are experiencing chapped/dry skin, or difficulty breathing while in your home, you may need to get your humidity level checked out. Humidity levels that are not between the averages of 30- 50 percent can be potentially dangerous for your health. You can personally check your humidity level in your home by using a hygrometer.

A hygrometer is an appliance that is designed to calculate the amount of humidity in a room or building. While a hygrometer can’t actually prevent mold from growing, it can warn you to take any steps necessary before the problem occurs. Hygrometers can provide the accurate levels of relative humidity and absolute humidity. Relative humidity is the percentage of humid moisture in the air. Absolute humidity is the actual amount of moisture in the atmosphere.

What Makes a Hygrometer Work?

There are two commonly used types of hygrometers: Mechanical hygrometer and wet and dry bulb psychrometer.

Wet and Dry Bulb Psychrometer

This is the easiest way to measure humidity. This type of hygrometer is equipped with two mercury thermometers, where one has a wet bulb and the other has a dry bulb. Because of the evaporation of water on the wet bulb the temperature will drop and read a lower temperature than what is displayed on the dry bulb. The difference between the two temperature readings equal the amount of relative humidity in the atmosphere.

Mechanical Hygrometer

A mechanical hygrometer requires a little more effort to determining humidity levels in a room.

  • This tool was first created in 1783 by a physicist named Horace Benedict de Saussure.
  • Mechanical hygrometers work by using an organic material, typically a piece of hair where its behaviors can predict the amount of humidity in the air.
  • If you’ve ever noticed how human hair tends to frizz when there is a lot of moisture in the air or it is very hot outside, then it will be easy for you to understand how this tool works.

For example, the piece of hair is attached to a spring and needle instrument that exposes the hair to humidity. Based on the reaction of the hair, the humidity level can be classified. Although a wet and dry bulb is more accurate and easy to understand, a mechanical hygrometer is still as effective.

How to Reset Your Hygrometer

Should you need to ever reset your hygrometer, you can do so by using at-home methods:

  • In a room with normal, consistent temperature, place your hygrometer in a cup or container filled with salt water on a counter space. Leave it to sit for 10-12 hours.
  • After the allotted time, the hygrometer should read a standard relative humidity level of 75 percent.
  • This process should be performed at least once a year to ensure your hygrometer is always providing accurate results.

What makes it effective?

Hygrometers are the go-to source for measuring humidity. This tool can be used in laboratories, manufacturing sites and storage vicinities. Even meteorologists use hygrometers to report the most accurate amount of relative humidity in the community. Hygrometers are widely used because they come with hard-to-beat features. Many hygrometers are built with alarms that will alert you when the humidity level in your home is under that 30 percent or over the 50 percent average humidity level.

Hygrometers can serve as a great way to keep you, your family, home and belongings healthy. They can also come with humidistats, which control the operation of your humidifier or dehumidifier.

8 Ways To Improve Indoor Air

Air pollution isn’t limited to the outdoors. Moisture, odors, gases, dust and a host of other irritants can affect air quality indoors, too. Try these tactics to help freshen your home’s air so you and your family can breathe easy.

  1. Open windows.  Most heating and cooling systems recirculate inside air. When weather permits, give your system a break and let fresh air in. Open windows and place fans strategically to help direct fresh air through.
  2. Use exhaust fans.  Turn on the kitchen fan to vent cooking pollutants, and the bathroom fan to curb mold-promoting wetness and cleaning-product fumes. Leave it running for about 45 minutes.
  3. Do doormats.  They help prevent dirt and other outdoor pollutants from making it inside. Get two natural-fiber mats, one for inside and the other for outside your main entrance. Keep a shoe-free home, too.
  4. Test for mold & radon.  The naturally occurring gas is colorless and odorless. It’s also the second-leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. DIY test kits, available online and at your local home improvement store, are inexpensive and easy to use. Mold can linger in a home without you even knowing it.  Having your home professionally tested could indicate whether or not you may have a mold problem.
  5. Don’t mask odors.  Scented candles and sprays can irritate lungs, too. Find the source of the smell, get rid of it, then ventilate well until it’s gone.
  6. Use a dehumidifier.  Stay under 50 percent humidity to keep mold growth at bay. Clean your dehumidifier regularly, too, so it doesn’t switch from humidity-reducing friend to mold-harboring foe.
  7. Vacuum regularly.  You’ll reduce the amount dust and other pollutants released when you walk around. Invest in a quality vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, especially good at trapping even tiny bits of dust and dirt.
  8. Take it outside.  Painting, sanding, gluing — anything that generates particles, gases or other pollutants. If outside isn’t an option, open a nearby window and add a fan blowing air out. Clean up after your project quickly and well.

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Basement Joist

Many companies will show you before and after photos of mold with the after usually just in white.  But is the mold really cleaned?  Here is a before and after of a basement joist covered in mold, and prior to any encapsulation.  This photo shows why we always apply clear encapsulates and only use white as per the customer request.

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Long & Short Term Effects of Mold

The type and severity of health effects that result from mold exposure is widely variable among different locations, from person to person and over time. Although difficult to predict, exposure to molds growing indoors is most often associated with the following allergy symptoms:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Cough/sore throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Dyspnea (breathing difficulty)
  • Asthma (or exacerbation of it)
  • Epistaxis (nosebleed)
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Headache
  • Skin and eye irritation

Long-term exposure to indoor molds is certainly unhealthy to anyone, but some groups will develop more severe symptoms sooner than others, including:

  • Infants and children
  • Elderly people
  • Individuals with respiratory conditions, allergies and/or asthma

Some indoor molds are capable of producing extremely potent toxins (mycotoxins) that are lipid-soluble and readily absorbed by the intestinal lining, airways, and skin. These agents, usually contained in the fungal spores, have toxic effects ranging from short-term irritation to immunosuppression and cancer.

More severe symptoms that could result from continuous human exposure to indoor mycotoxigenic molds include:

  • Cancer (aflatoxin best characterized as potential human carcinogen)
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis/pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pulmonary injury/hemosiderosis (bleeding)
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Hematologic and immunologic disorders
  • Hepatic, endocrine and/or renal toxicities
  • Pregnancy, gastrointestinal and/or cardiac conditions

It is important to notice that the clinical relevance of mycotoxins under realistic airborne exposure levels is not fully established. Further, some or much of the supporting evidence for these other health effects is based on case studies rather than controlled studies, studies that have not yet been reproduced or involve symptoms that are subjective.

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Average Mold Inspection Costs

There are many different types of inspections a mold inspector can perform on your home or business.  The two most common types of inspections are:  Air Sampling & Surface Sampling.  Air Sampling is designed to capture and quantify a broad spectrum of fungal spores (both culturable and non-culturable) present in the air, and to assess whether the levels present suggest a fungal problem in the indoor locations.  Surface Sampling is designed to determine whether the suspected surface (visible stain, discoloration, etc.) sampled is indicative of mold growth on the sample location, and to determine and identify molds actually growing on the surface sampled, as opposed to the mere presence of mold spores.  But what do these services generally cost?

Different mold inspection companies charge different prices for many reasons.  The sampling material may be one, and the associated lab charges they send them to is another.  Some companies perform moisture mapping and thermal imaging while they sample, and others do a full visual inspection while the equipment is collecting air.  But here as some of the most common charges for both air and surface sampling.

Air Samples:  $90 to $120 per sample collected/used.

Surface Sampling:  $100 to $160 per sample collected/used

In mold testing, you do get what you pay for, so remember, cheaper isn’t always better. And where the mold inspector was certified means a lot when vetting the professional you intend on hiring.

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