By Jodi Donovan
With people spending more time indoors these days, its essential that the indoor environment of our homes is of a good quality. We all know that as individuals, we need to adjust our habits depending on the season, however what is often overlooked is that our homes also need different maintenance depending on the weather and climate.
With the cooler weather just around the corner, now is a good time to spend a little time on our homes to ensure it remains a healthy place to spend time in.
Ensure your roof and building envelope is weatherproof
The onset of cooler weather often signals more rainy days, and a common mould related problem often seen by Building Biologists is either water ingress into the roof void through cracked or broken roof tiles, or where water has been pushed up into the eaves and ceiling due to gutters that are blocked with leaves and debris.
The importance of a weather tight roof is often overlooked however engaging a licensed roofing professional on an annual basis to assess the roof, flashings, gutters, and downpipes to ensure they are structurally sound and properly drained into storm water drainage may just save you big bucks on water related remediation down the track.
Ventilation is key!
The Central Coast can have high humidity all year round, which combined with a lack of ventilation, creates the perfect conditions for mould. In order to keep mould at bay in your home during the cooler months, you will need to ensure indoor moisture levels are kept as low as possible and that there is plenty of indoor air flow and ventilation.
If it’s a nice sunny day, open all the windows to get some cross ventilation through the house, but its if raining, close the house up and try to remove as much indoor moisture as possible with dehumidifiers or using the ‘dry’ function on your reverse cycle air conditioning system. Be mindful of not creating additional moisture inside the property by ensuring that extractor fans are operational whilst showering and cooking, and if you must dry clothes indoors, ensure that you are also operating a dehumidifier in the room to capture the moisture being released.
Ceiling fans are also a great way of maintaining air flow indoors – have them running 24/7 where possible and make sure they are set to either ‘Summer’ or ‘Winter’ depending on the season.
De–cluttering can make all the difference
A cluttered home will increase your risk of mould due to a build–up of dust and lack of airflow. This will be exacerbated during the cooler months as temperatures fall and condensation becomes more of an issue.
Now is a good time to ensure that your home is clear of clutter and that air can circulate underneath your beds and around and behind furniture.
To reduce the risk of mould in your wardrobe, consider de–cluttering and possibly creating a ‘seasonal wardrobe’ where summer clothes are stored in vacuum sealed bags to create extra room for the clothes in your wardrobe to breathe. Leaving wardrobe doors open as much as possible will assist with keeping mould at bay and hot washing any items that have been stored over Summer such as doona’s, blankets and pillows will remove any mould spores or dust mites that may have settled into your items during storage.
“Dust should be kept to a minimum as dust becomes a food source for mould. Vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter and regularly wiping down surfaces with a damp microfibre cloth will help reduce dust levels”.
Heating units can significantly affect indoor air quality if not maintained
If you use either a split system or a ducted system for heating during winter, it is important that these are serviced annually by an air conditioning technician familiar with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, Restoration Certification (IICRC) Standards. It is common for these types of systems to be contaminated with mould and also often a lot of dust, if not used frequently which will significantly impact indoor air quality if not serviced regularly. It is worth noting that whilst an air conditioning technician will service the unit and clean any filters, ductwork can not be cleaned and must be replaced if contaminated with mould (a Building Biologist will be able to assess whether contamination is present in your ductwork).
Likewise, any wall mounted gas units should also be serviced prior to use to ensure they are free of dust and debris and not leaking noxious gases indoors. Un–flued gas heaters emit noxious gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde so any gas heater in the home should be flued and serviced regularly.
Jodi Donovan is a qualified Building Biologist and Committee member of the Australasian Society of Building Biologists and Indoor Air Quality Association of Australia. Building biology is a science that investigates the health hazards in the built environment which includes chemicals in building materials and household products, lead dust, noxious gases, house dust mites, allergens, mould, electromagnetic fields, drinking water contaminants and geopathic stress. For further information or to make an appointment please contact Jodi Donovan on 0400 916 057.