This particular topic sounds dry, dull and boring and I'm sure it seems like you'd have a better time examining the back of your eyelids, HOWEVER, IF GETTING A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP, MINIMIZING ALLERGENS, ELIMINATING MOLD GROWTH IN YOUR PLACE OF ZEN AND NOT HAVING TO WEAR A PARKA INSIDE IS IMPORTANT TO YOU, THEN PLEASE READ ON, MY TIRED CHILLY ASTHMATIC.
It's getting colder and most homeowners are becoming more and more proactive when it comes to cutting energy costs, improving air quality and hunting down frigid drafts that sweep across your toes while you're waking up and drinking your coffee at 6 am on an early Monday morning. Unfortunately, some of these DIY remedies are either temporary fixes or they're misguided efforts and only treat the symptom and not the real root of the problem. I'll go over a few of these pitfalls, give you a brief idea of what's causing each particular headache so you have a better understanding of what's really going on inside your house and then I'll tell you how to correct it so you don't end up with even bigger issues down the road.
You'll notice a reoccurring theme here in regards to what's needed for your home to operate best as a system and in all honesty how you and I operate best in everyday life: BALANCE AND EQUILIBRIUM. Everything in this world seeks a state of balance. Your body knows when its had too much sleep or not enough and will seek a point right in the middle based on your specific needs at that time to find its balance. Your house operates the exact same way. Depending on the outside variables at any given time (i.e. temperature, air pressure (or barometric pressure), the time of day/month/year, etc) and the needs of the home inside, it will seek out a perfect equilibrium in any way that it can so you might as well make it easy and comfortable for the both of you.
Air quality is HUGE! You need fresh air circulating in a home to get rid of the gross warm moist stale air that's typically loaded with pollen and dust. Areas in the house that get rid of air have exhaust fans such as your bathroom ceiling exhaust fan and your range hood above your stove in the kitchen. These fans are essential in moving warm moist air out of the house before it condenses on the cooler surfaces and you end up with dripping wet walls and mirrors like in a steamy bathroom after a hot shower. If it's not expelled it will slowly evaporate inside your home which increases the overall humidity level (while damaging your walls and cabinets) and will most likely show up on your windows throughout the house as it trickles on down to your sill where it'll pool up and soak into every dark nook and cranny to eventually break down any organic material it comes in contact with (wood window casing, paper backing on drywall, etc) and contribute to feeding your little mold colony. The next area to address is the actual ducting Itself that starts at the exhaust fan housing and leads to the open air outside. Most mid-90's and older homes used a plastic flex ducting which no longer meets code requirements. This uninsulated flexible ducting collects condensation and water vapor from your steamy bathroom every time the fan is turned on and since it's not stiff and rigid like galvanized metal ducting that's used today, the flexible ducting eventually sags from the weight of the large pools of water and over time the plastic sleeve breaks down and releases its contents resulting in a large random mystery leak that eventually makes its presence known with small signs like bubbled paint and peeling joint compound on your ceiling. The other problem in having stagnate water in your ducting is that you might be unknowingly cultivating Legionnaires' Disease which can be spread everytime the stagnate pool is atomized during a hot shower allowing it to migrate throughout your humble abode getting everyone sick.
LESSON 1: Make sure you have a properly ducted, properly insulated, and properly WORKING (operative word) bathroom fans that exhausts warm moist air outside and remember to USE IT DURING AND AFTER YOUR SHOWER! I personally recommend the Panasonic WhisperGreen Ceiling fans. They're quiet, come with multiple options (night light, dehumidistat, delay timer, etc), are energy efficient and move alot of air in a short amount of time (Note: your bathroom air should be exchanged with fresh air 8 times every hour, and this fan will accomplish that for you). Or...you could just stick with the one you have from 1982 that sounds like a sqeaky hamster wheel with an inch of protective surface dust that's most likely improperly ducted and just pumping warm moist air into your attic adding to your mold empire.
Remember all that talk about balance and equilibrium? Now your house needs balance because we're sucking ALL of the air out of it with your new exhaust fans and you're in serious need of clean fresh air. This is called "make-up air" or "clean air intake". In a nutshell, by using your exhaust fans to force air outside you've created a negative air pressure inside compared to the positive air pressure outside and both the inside and outside want, more than anything, to be the exact SAME. This is why when you spray foam, caulk and seal up every crack and crevice in every door frame, window casing and behind every outlet cover you minimize an efficient way for your house to "breath in" after you've forced it to "breath out" completely. Now every tiny pinhole that you can't see and didn't seal up will have cold air rushing in in an attempt to create that pressure balance and since there's such a gross imbalance between the two, your house will just continue "breathing in". This is where an HRV system (heat recovery ventilation) or HVAC system (heat ventilation and air conditioning) allow you to intruduce temperature regulated (warm) fresh outside air into your house to achieve that air pressure balance and to continually exchange old air with new air which will drastically improve your homes air quality. The other option is to bundle up, leave a window or door open year round and become one with nature.
LESSON 2: To acheive your homes Zen-like air pressure balance, the amount of air leaving and entering any given space must be the same. You can't have one without the other otherwise unregulated cold "fresh air" will force it's way into your house by any means necessary and wherever you have cold air meeting warm air you'll have CONDENSATION and MOISTURE that'll (once again) break down organic materials in your walls and feed your ever growing mold colony. Make a point to call a ventilation specialist to assess the needs of your home to insure that you and your family continue to breath clean healthy air.
(Note: I want to mention that a slightly positive pressure inside the house is not necessarily a good solution to our negative pressure scenario. A slightly positive pressure will actually drive warm moist air into your walls in an effort to equalize the pressure and, once again, you can end up with warm inside air meeting colder outside air creating...you guessed it CONDENSATION=mold, damage, sickness, remediation, $$$$).
I think for right now the plethora of information that I've touched on so far is more than enough to put most of us into a glossy eyed coma but it's all very important and should, nonetheless, be considered by every homeowner for your own health and the health of your loved ones. Time after time I tear into walls and ceilings to find major issues contributing to poor health that have been waiting to be discovered and corrected by a professional contractor. These issues play a big part in allergies, asthma, sleepless nights, and reoccurring sicknesses ESPECIALLY in infants and the elderly. Make sure that you address all of your home's needs and not just certain limited aspects with "band-aid" fixes that could realistically cost you a lot more in the long run.
Your home should be one of your most important assets but it can become an uneccesary liability if it's contributing to poor health and preventing you from finding your own healthy balance. Take care of your home and it'll take care of you.
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Lionheart Construction LLC