Many people think that mold issues disappear in the winter, but mold is actually a year-round problem. It flourishes in environments between 60 and 80 degrees and grows wherever moisture or humidity is present. It’s a problem in the winter because it can grow in your walls and attic, places where it’s hard to detect.
What is Mold?
Mold is a fungus. It’s role in nature is to decompose organic material. It’s difficult to find an environment where mold or its spores are not present. It appears in hot, dry deserts and has even been found on structures in the Antarctic. Mold reproduces through spores that drift through the air and colonize and grow when conditions are favorable.
Why is it a Problem?
While mold plays an important role in nature, its presence in your home is not welcome. Mold will decompose wood, rot carpeting and furniture and some kinds of insulation. Some people have allergic reactions to mold and mold spores, and if black mold is present in your home, it can have serious effects on all your family members.
Black mold causes a variety of reactions in people, from irritating to serious. The only way to learn if you have black mold issues is by having it tested by a laboratory or use a reputable testing kit available at some retail centers. If the results are positive, they should be verified by another laboratory to be sure.
Where Does it Occur?
In the warmer months, mold can occur anywhere, including your home’s ductwork, but in the winter, when the air indoors is drier, it’s most likely to occur inside walls, in basements and in the attic. If your home has air leaks between the ceiling and the attic, the humidity can rise and stay in the attic. It will start condensing into water when it hits the cold surfaces of your roof and fall on your insulation and wooden rafters.
Insulation that’s wet isn’t nearly as effective as dry, and mold will further reduce its effectiveness. Most attics are difficult to move around inside, so it’s easy to miss any mold growing on the wood that forms its structure. Ice dams on the roof in the winter indicate that your attic could be vulnerable for mold issues. The heat from your home is seeping through the roof, causing the snow to melt and then freeze as temperatures fall.
If you have plumbing pipes running through poorly insulated walls, the humidity from your home can condense on the cold pipes, creating the perfect environment for undetectable mold growth. Eventually, the wood, insulation and drywall can rot.
Mold can also grow around window frames on exceptionally cold days if there’s enough humidity in your home. Water will condense on cold glass and feed mold growth, especially on wood windows.
How to Stop It
These tips can help you stop mold from infiltrating your home:
- Clean up mold when it’s visible with diluted bleach or vinegar, which both will kill the growth already in place.
- Check beneath kitchen, bathroom and laundry sinks periodically and fix any leaks promptly. Dry the surfaces thoroughly. If you have to wait for professional help, place a towel below the leak, and launder the towel after the leak is fixed.
- Install UV lights in your home’s ductwork or in the blower cabinet. Mold spores that pass over UV lights lose their ability to reproduce, which will stop mold from spreading. These lights also reduce other organic contaminant populations, including bacteria and viruses.
- Ventilate the attic better and seal any air leaks between it and your ceilings. If your attic is nearly the same temperature as the outdoor air, humidity can’t condense. Adequate insulation will keep the heat inside your home, as well.
- When cold weather is predicted, try to reduce the amount of humidity in your home to prevent some mold issues. As temperatures fall outdoors, the windows, attic and exterior walls will become colder, prompting condensation. Some whole-house humidification systems use outdoor thermostats to vary the indoor humidity based on outside temperatures, reducing the level as temperatures fall.
If you have concerns about mold issues in your home in the Baltimore area, contact the experts at Griffith Energy Services today.
Written by Kevin Spain