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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Rental Property Checklist

Many cities have friendly neighborhoods with great properties. However, it’s important to know what to look for in a rental listing, so you can make a smart assessment about each rental listing you’re interested in.

Use this rental property viewing checklist to stay organized and prepared when viewing properties.

  1. What is the cost of rent?
    Clarify the asking price to guarantee you don’t overpay. If the landlord states a higher rent price than listed, highlight the inconsistency to be sure you get the lower advertised price.
  2. Is there an application process or screening criteria?
    Ask the landlord to explain their application and screening processes, and ask about application fees. A thorough screening process shows the landlord is careful about finding good renters.
  3. What payment methods are accepted for rent?
    Landlords can choose which forms of payment they will accept. However, some landlords make it easy for tenants and allow tenants to pay rent online . The option of online payment allows for automation, security, and convenience for both tenant and landlord.
  4. What is the procedure for submitting a maintenance request? Who makes the repairs?
    You want to be sure the landlord appropriately manages the property and responds quickly to repair requests. Clarify the maintenance procedure and confirm there is a plan in place for repairs. When viewing a property, inspect the current condition because it will offer clues to the upkeep routines of the landlord.
  5. Are furnishings and appliances included?
    It is common for renters to provide their own appliances and furnishings. However, this is not always the case. If the unit is furnished, be sure to ask exactly what is included in the contract so there are no surprises when you move in.
  6. Is there any water damage or mold related issues to disclose?
    Asking this question and having proper documentation of the answer can save you down the line if problems should occur.  Landlords are bound by law to provide a home with a healthy environment for their tenants.  No home should have ongoing water damage issues and/or mold growth at any time during your lease.
  7. Does it fit the budget?
    Be realistic about expenses. Confirm the property fits your budget so you are able to pay bills on time, build savings and still have money for entertainment and travel.

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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.

Carbon Monoxide Protection At Home & Work

Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people in the U.S. die from carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning—and the invisible, odorless gas sickens thousands more.

The numbers seem even more tragic when you consider that most of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. Here are tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help protect yourself and your loved ones at home and work.

At home

  1. Make sure you have CO alarms—and that they work. You should have a CO alarm on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test them and replace batteries regularly, too. The alarms themselves should be replaced every five years or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Get your chimney and furnace checked. A chimney or furnace that isn’t functioning properly can lead to CO buildup inside your home. Have a professional examination and/or service before you begin using them.
  3. Be careful with generators and grills. Neither should ever be used inside your home or in an enclosed space, such as a garage—even semi-enclosed spaces like porches can be risky, too. Keep generators at least 20 feet away from the house when in operation.

At work
In general, the same precautions for homes apply here, but there are a few additional considerations for the workplace, particularly one where gas-powered machinery is used:

  1. Be mindful of ventilation. Every year, workers are poisoned by CO while using fuel-burning equipment in areas that don’t have adequate ventilation.
  2. Try using different tools indoors. Consider electric tools or ones powered by compressed air, and if possible, avoid using forklifts, pressure washers and other gas-powered equipment. Ensure machinery and tools are maintained properly, too.
  3. Report unsafe conditions or issues. If you see something that might cause CO buildup, or you suspect CO poisoning in you or a co-worker, get people out of the area and report the problem to your employer immediately.

Whether you’re at home or work, always be on the lookout for symptoms of CO exposure: They include dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and nausea. If you suspect an issue, leave the area as soon as possible and call 911—because when it comes to CO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Hail Storm Dangers

Hail doesn’t discriminate and rarely comes with an advanced warning – it can happen anywhere, at any time. Between 2000 and 2013, U.S. insurance companies paid out more than $54 billion in hail damage claims, with 70% paid between 2008 and 2013. In 2015 alone, the United States had more than 5,000 hailstorms. While most hail damage affects property and crops, unpredictable storm conditions can also put you in harm’s way. The following are three reasons why you should be wary of hail storms.

1. Hail can be as small as a pea (1/4 inch in diameter), as big a softball (4.5 inches in diameter), or even bigger in rare cases. The largest hailstone ever recorded in the U.S. fell in Vivian, Nebraska in July of 2010, measuring eight inches in diameter and weighing 1.9 pounds. Can weather forecasters predict the size of hail in advance? Sometimes. Hail forms when a strong storm’s updraft (upward-moving current of air) carries rain into freezing layers of the atmosphere, creating tiny hailstones. They get bigger when they run into super-cooled water droplets. If these updrafts are especially strong, they can hold the small hailstones aloft, allowing them to grow larger until eventually they become too heavy and fall to the ground. In other words, the stronger the storm, the larger the hail. Fortunately, baseball-sized and larger hail isn’t very common, on average just 24 people per year are reported injured by hail. But such injuries can be very dangerous and painful,  so it’s important to pay attention to your local forecast if you suspect storms are nearby.

2. No matter its size, hail still poses major risks. Small hail (half an inch in diameter) can reach speeds of 20 mph and usually comes down in larger quantities than large hail, creating a greater risk for damage. What is the typical scale of a hail storm? It varies considerably. Hail falls in paths known as “swaths,” or “streaks,” which can cover anywhere from a few acres to 100 miles wide and 10 miles long. Dense swaths of hail of any size can do serious damage to both people and property.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent major hail damage to your home and cars. But if you live in a hail-prone part of the United States, you can take a few steps to lessen the aftermath of the next major storm:

  • Keep your car parked in a garage if possible. If you don’t have access to a garage, cover it with heavy blankets for a little protection.
  • Consider impact-resistant shingles for your roof.
  • Install storm shutters on your windows and doors to protect them from shattering.

3. Any type of thunderstorm can produce hail, but “supercell” storms (severe, rotating thunderstorms) are responsible for most big hailstones. If you see large hail (the size of a quarter or larger) that could mean the storm has tornado activity as well. What signs point to a possible tornado? Large hail usually falls north of a tornado, but just because you see hail doesn’t mean there’s a funnel on the ground. If a storm suddenly drops hail, immediately take cover and listen to your weather radio for storm reports in your area.

If you’re inside, you should stay there until the storm completely passes:

  • Make sure everyone is safe and indoors.
  • Stay away from windows and doors.
  • Don’t go outside for any reason.

If you’re driving, try to get somewhere safe like a garage, gas station, or bridge that’s nearby:

  • Do not leave your car until it stops hailing.
  • Cover your eyes, and if you can, get on the floor or lie down on the seat with your back to the windows.
  • Protect small children with your body or heavy clothing.

If you get caught outside during a hailstorm and can’t get inside a structure, protect as much of your head and body as possible:

  • Avoid ditches and low areas that could suddenly flood.
  • Don’t seek shelter under a tree, as it can lose limbs and may attract lightning.

Most types of hail can pose significant risk to you and your property. But with a little upfront preparation and some common-sense safety measures, you can keep your home and family safe the next time this weather threat emerges.

Tips For Keeping Valuables Safe

According to the FBI’s latest statistics, property crimes in 2015 resulted in more than $14 billion in losses, and the total value of stolen property, including precious items like jewelry, was more than $12.4 billion. If you own your home, you might be surprised to know that your standard homeowner’s insurance policy won’t necessarily cover the loss of your most expensive possessions.

If you want to completely protect your prized possessions from events like natural disaster, fire, vandalism, or theft, you have two options for increasing your standard insurance coverage and three options to ensure their physical safety:

1. Raise the limit of your home insurance plan’s liability
Increasing your homeowner’s liability limit is the cheapest option available for protecting your valuables. To keep coverage plans affordable, standard homeowner’s insurance typically only covers about $1,500 worth of valuables when it comes to liability for theft.  If you raise that limit, you can protect more value. But the policy may still restrict how much money you can claim per piece. For example, you still may only be able to claim $1,500 on a piece of jewelry even though your overall policy limit is $5,000.

2. “Schedule” your individual items by purchasing additional coverage or “rider” policies
Adding a rider to your homeowner’s policy will provide you with broader coverage, though you may end up paying more in premiums. Riders are add-ons that provide supplementary benefits at an additional cost, and they cover all types of losses, including accidents. While a standard homeowner’s policy wouldn’t cover your diamond ring if you accidentally dropped it down the drain, a rider could.

Riders are also used to cover items whose individual values exceed the standard $1,500 limit that’s typical of homeowner’s insurance. Fine jewelry, art, antiques, sterling silver, firearms and high-end sports equipment (like golf clubs or scuba gear) are typical items covered by insurance riders. Before you take out a rider on any item, you must have it professionally appraised.

3. Store your valuables in places burglars aren’t likely to look.
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), hiding valuables in hollowed-out books, false wall outlets, and even inside house plants can keep thieves from finding them. Avoid the natural inclination to keep pricey or sentimental items in your jewelry box or bedside drawer, because storing these things in obvious places can compromise their safety.

4. Guard against natural disasters.
Your precious items can get damaged in the event of a flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster. Identifying your most valuable pieces and taking simple low-cost and no-cost measures can provide added protection. Start by creating a photographic record of your valuable pieces and store the files in the cloud or on a flash drive outside of your home so you have evidence to give your insurance company in the event of a loss. And if your valuables are stored in the basement, consider moving them to a higher location in your home to prevent possible water damage.

5. Protect your identifying information, too.
If your items are stored in a safe-deposit box, don’t keep identifying information on or near your key (that includes the name of the bank where the box is located, or the box number). If a burglar gets a hold of your keys, he’ll know exactly where your safe-deposit box is.

Pro Tip: Home safes can be great for storing important documents, but they’re not ideal for precious items like jewelry or collector’s items. To keep those as secure as possible, invest in a safe-deposit box at a bank, which offers better protection. However, if you need regular access to certain jewelry, coins, or other valuables, then a home safe may be best. Taking the right preventive measures to safeguard your valuables can spare you from future heartache in the event of a natural disaster, theft, or unforeseen damage. By arming yourself with all the information available, you’ll be empowered to make a decision that eases your mind and keeps your most valued possessions as safe as possible.

Power Outage Tips

Whether or not you know it’s coming, a power outage can be a major disturbance. It never hurts to be prepared and to know what to do once the lights go out.

Before

  • Power outages can happen at any time and are unavoidable, but the costs associated with them can be lessened by installing a home backup generator at a home or business.
  • Have a place in your home where flashlights, a battery-powered radio, and extra batteries can be easily found.
  • If you know the outage is coming, set aside extra water and buy or make extra ice. You can use the ice to keep perishable items cool.
  • Make sure the battery in your smoke detector is fresh. Test the smoke detector on a monthly basis to make sure it’s working.
  • Keep an appliance thermometer in the freezer. If the freezer is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder when the power returns, all the food is safe.

During

  • If possible, use flashlights instead of candles for emergency lighting. Candles used in unfamiliar settings can be dangerous fire hazards.
  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment, or electronics that were on when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer, or furnace.
  • Leave one light on so you know when the power returns.
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer. This will help keep your food as fresh as possible. Be sure to check food for signs of spoilage.
  • Use generators safely. If you have a portable generator, only run it outdoors with adequate ventilation. Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages. The exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide, which can be deadly if inhaled.
  • Listen to the radio for updates.