Air Conditioners Can Prevent Mold
In the summer, a closed house with the air-conditioning turned off will have higher humidity levels than an air-conditioned home. A vacant house also receives little or no sunlight through closed shades and no air movement with the fan off and the doors locked.
If you had simply left the air conditioning running, it would have cooled the home and removed moisture from the air and circulated and filtered the air.
Molds thrive when the humidity levels exceed 70 percent. Because humidity levels vary from day to day, the thermostat should have been left at or below 74 degrees, and the fan should have been set to "On."
Normally, mold cleaning and remediation processes disturb the spores, which become airborne and can settle on unclean or untreated surfaces, where they continue to thrive in the humid, warm, dark conditions.
Summer Storm Safety
Summer arrived with greenery and colorful flowers. However, the season can also bring severe weather. The American Red Cross wants everyone to know what steps they can take to stay safe if dangerous weather is predicted for their community.
TORNADOES Summer can be the peak season for tornado activity. Tornadoes occur mostly on warm days between 3:00 and 9:00 p.m. However, tornadoes can occur anywhere, at any time of the year, at any time of the day. The Red Cross has safety steps people should take now to be ready if a tornado warning is issued for someone’s neighborhood:
- Know your community’s warning system.
- Pick a safe room in your home where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. This should be a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
- Prepare for strong winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
- Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
- Know the tornado danger signs – dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud, cloud of debris, large hail, a funnel cloud or a roaring noise.
THUNDERSTORMS Thunderstorms are most likely to happen in the spring and summer, during the afternoon and evening. However, like tornadoes, they can happen anywhere, at any hour of the day. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people every year that tornadoes or hurricanes. The Red Cross has steps you can take if a thunderstorm is predicted for your area:
- If thunder roars, go indoors. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning.
- Watch for storm signs like darkening skies, flashes of lightning or increasing winds.
- Postpone any outdoor activities. Many people who are struck by lightning are not where it is raining.
- Take shelter in a substantial building or a vehicle with the windows closed. Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Stay away from windows.
- Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
FLOODING Summer can be a time of year for flooding. Communities in the Midwest and south have already seen floodwaters inundate neighborhoods. Snow melt and heavy spring rains fill rivers and streams and flooding can occur. Flash floods occur suddenly when water rises rapidly along a stream or low-lying area. People should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and head for higher ground when a flood or flash flood warning is issued. Other safety steps include
- Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
- If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
Preventing Mold in the Summer Months
We’d like to offer you some summer tips to prevent mold. During the warm months of summer, mold thrives because most strains of mold need warm temperatures in order to grow. Preventing mold takes a little forethought and preventative maintenance, but it’s a lot less work and a lot cheaper than cleaning up a household mold problem later on.
Tips to Prevent Mold in Summer
Some simple things you can do to prevent mold in summer include:
- Use your air conditioner on hot days. Mold grows best at temperatures above 77 degrees Fahrenheit, so keep the indoor temperature lower than that if you can.
- Watch for any condensation or moisture in your air ducts. Sometimes using the air conditioner can cause condensation and that moisture provides a place for mold to grow.
- Purchase a hygrometer, an instrument that measures the relative humidity, so you can monitor the humidity in your home. By monitoring the relative humidity in your home, you can take steps when necessary to reduce moisture in order to prevent the growth of mold.
- Mold thrives in moist environments, so it’s best to keep the relative humidity below 50 percent. If any areas of your home have relative humidity higher than that, purchase a dehumidifier to reduce the amount of moisture in the air. Mold doesn’t grow well in dry environments.
- Close windows when it rains. If windows are open when it rains, dry windowsills, floors or any other surfaces as soon as possible. If carpet gets wet, use a fan to dry it faster.
- If it’s a rainy summer, watch for signs of a leak in your roof. A discolored spot on the ceiling generally means a leak, even if you don’t see water coming through the ceiling. Have any leaks repaired as soon as possible to keep mold from developing.
In addition to the above summer tips to prevent mold, you should do some basic things all year around, including:
- Repair any leaky pipes or appliances as soon as possible.
- Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outdoors, not into your attic or crawlspace.
- Turn on the exhaust fan or open a bathroom window a couple inches when showering. The steam that fills the bathroom when you shower provides ample moisture for mold.
- Don’t use carpet in bathrooms. It’s hard to dry out carpet thoroughly. It’s much easier to dry linoleum or tile floors if they get wet. You can use throw rugs in bathrooms, which can be machine washed and hung to dry, which prevents them from getting moldy.
- Clean up any spills of water or other liquids immediately.
- Address any mold problems that do occur promptly to prevent the mold from growing and spreading to other areas of the home.
- If you notice a musty smell in the home, you probably have mold somewhere. Mold often grows in hard-to-see places, like under carpet and inside walls. If you smell something musty but can’t find any mold, we recommended calling in a certified mold tester to test your home for mold. Most certified mold testers are engineers and they are trained to track down hidden mold. They can also tell you what kind of mold is growing in your home.
Do You Know What Mold Is?
Molds, mushrooms, mildews, and yeasts are all classified as fungi, a kingdom of organisms distinct from plants and animals. Fungi differ from plants and animals in several respects. Unlike animals, fungi have cell walls. However, unlike plants, which also have cell walls, fungal cell walls are made mostly of chitin and glucan. Fungi cannot produce their own nutrients as plants do through photosynthesis. Fungi secrete enzymes that digest the material in which the fungi are embedded and absorb the released nutrients. Multicellular fungi do not differentiate into different organs or functional components the way plants and animals do.
Approximately 100,000 species of fungi exists; fewer than 500 fungal species have been described as human pathogens that can cause infections. Visible growth of multicellular fungi consisting of branching filamentous structures (mycelia) are known popularly as molds.
Molds are ubiquitous in nature and grow almost anywhere indoors or outdoors. The overall diversity of fungi is considerable. Molds spread and reproduce by making spores, which are small and lightweight, able to travel through air, capable of resisting dry, adverse environmental conditions, and capable of surviving a long time. The filamentous parts of mold (hyphae) form a network called mycelium, which is observed when a mold is growing on a nutrient source. Although these mycelia are usually firmly attached to whatever the mold is growing on, they can break off, and persons can be exposed to fungal fragments. Some micro-organisms, including molds, also produce characteristic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or microbial VOCs (mVOCs). Molds also contain substances known as beta glucans; mVOCs and beta glucans might be useful as markers of exposure to molds.
Some molds are capable of producing toxins (sometimes called mycotoxins) under specific environmental conditions, such as competition from other organisms or changes in the moisture or available nutrient supply. Molds capable of producing toxins are popularly known as toxigenic molds; however, use of this term is discouraged because even molds known to produce toxins can grow without producing them. Many fungi are capable of toxin production, and different fungi can produce the same toxin.
5 Water Conserving Tips for Summer Gardening
Across the country, the heat is on. To keep your grass or your garden alive during the summer heat wave without driving your water bill to new heights, follow these tips.
1. A standard garden hose and nozzle is the least efficient means of applying water to plants because so much water is lost as mist, runoff and evaporation. Use a soaker hose or a sprinkler wand.
2. For most Americans, a good rule of thumb is that a lawn needs 1 inch of water a week and perennial plants and shrubs will need from 1 inch to 2 inches a week. There's no neat rule for watering annuals, so your best guide is always the plant tag (the small spear-shaped plastic tag that came with the plant when you bought it). It will tell you the sun, soil, pH and water requirements.
3. When in doubt, keep the plant's soil lightly moist and see how it responds. If conditions are especially hot and windy where you are, keep a careful eye out for wilting. If you see the signs, add water to the soil, but don't overcompensate by drowning the plant. Over-watering is just as bad as under-watering; it leads to root rot and soil compaction that robs the roots of air.
4. Don't soak the plant's foliage; it does little good. And don't apply water outside a shrub's or a perennial's root zone. A shrub's root zone is roughly 1 Ω to 3 times the diameter of its canopy, and keeping the water inside this radius will allow it to soak down to where the plant's roots can reach it.
If you see water puddling or running off, stop; let the water soak in before resuming. Likewise, water that runs off your lawn or off the top of a flower bed onto paved surfaces does no good. The same applies to running lawn sprinklers: Water your lawn, not the side of your house or the driveway.
5. Mulch is great for holding in moisture and keeping the base of plants cool. However, a thick layer of mulch can also form a crust that prevents water from soaking in. Break up crusted mulch with a rake to allow water in.
You can buy a tool to gauge your soil's moisture level at a nursery or through a horticultural supply catalog. But if you don't have one, a large straight blade screwdriver is a good standby. Poke it into the soil; the drier the soil, the more resistance you'll meet.
Spring Storm Safety
Be Aware of the Weather Conditions
The most important thing you can do is to stay aware of weather conditions in the areas that you will be traveling. Tune into the local radio stations, watch the weather channel, or go to weather-related websites that will cover the area along your route. Awareness is essential part of spring storm safety, not only during tornado season, but during the winter as well, when snow and ice can make the roads a serious danger. Staying informed of any potential for severe weather will help you plan a safe route.
Stay Out (or Get Out) of the Danger Zone
If you can, stay away from any potential dangerous weather by planning your route accordingly. If your route goes through an area that shows a potential for storms, check the map and find a route that helps you avoid the situation entirely. If your destination is in the area of the storm, see if you can leave early to miss the storm or wait it out until the potential for hazardous weather has passed. It may not always be possible, but being proactive and avoiding the hazardous conditions altogether is the best way to stay safe during storms and tornadoes.
Stay Away from Overpasses!
If you do find yourself in a storm, never go for the myth of hiding under an overpass. For years, drivers believed this is one of the best places to wait out a storm, but in fact it’s one of the worst. Overpasses can become wind-tunnels, interacting with a tornado to create even more powerful winds. Stay away from overpasses, whether you’re in your cab or on the ground. Which brings us to another topic: whether or not to leave your truck...
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
This topic is highly-debated among truckers in the industry. Some swear by staying in your cab, while others advocate leaving the truck and seeking low ground like a ditch or valley. It seems the best answer depends on the situation itself. Sometimes, it may be best to stay put and let the cab be your shelter, while other situations call for leaving the truck. However, if there is real shelter nearby, like a building or home, this option is always better than staying in your truck or hiding in a ditch.
Benefits of Staying in the Truck
Inside your cab, the truck will act as your shelter, protecting you from hail, lightening, and debris. Keep your seatbelt on, as this will protect you if the winds become strong enough to overturn your vehicle. You should also crouch below the line of the windshield to protect yourself from flying debris.
Benefits of Getting Out
Getting out and hiding in a ditch puts you below the strongest winds and flying debris. If winds hit your truck hard enough, it could overturn, in which case you will be thankful you’re not inside. If you choose to get out, make sure you are far enough away from the truck in case it is pushed over.
In the end, it really comes down to being informed and aware. The #1, undisputed spring storm safety tip for truckers is to avoid the severe weather altogether. Yes, you need to do your job and be a dependable trucker, but taking risks with your life just to make your delivery is simply not worth it.
No reasonable person will be upset with you because you chose to avoid severe weather. In fact, most people will applaud your regard for safety.
When Lightning Strikes
Each year thousands of home and other properties are destroyed or damaged by lightning strikes.
The first step to protecting your home is contacting a professional who is qualified to design and install a certified lightning protection system. It will be designed to control or force the discharge onto a specified path, thereby eliminating the chance of fire or explosion within non-conductive parts of the house such as those made of wood, brick, tile, etc. A lightning protection system is not intended to prevent a strike. Its purpose is to provide a safe path on which the current can be safely directed to the ground.
A typical lightning protection system
A complete system is made up of the following components:
- Air terminals:Also referred to as lightning rods, these inconspicuous copper or aluminum rods are vertically mounted on the roof at regular intervals. The air terminals serve as strike receptors, designed to intercept the lightning strike.
- Main conductors:Constructed of aluminum or copper, these braided cables connect the air terminals to the other system components and the grounds.
- Grounds:A minimum of two ground rods, driven at least 10 feet deep in the earth are required for all structures. The ground terminations direct the dangerous current into the ground, to eliminate the chance of injury or damage to the structure.
- Bonds:Bonding joins metallic bodies (roof components) and grounded building systems to the main conductor to ensure conductivity and prevent side flashing (lightning jumping between two objects).
- Surge arresters and suppressors:A surge is an increase in electrical current due to a lightning strike on or near a power line or utility service. Surge suppression is installed at the electrical panel(s) to prevent the entrance of over-voltages which can cause a fire. Arresters installed at electrical panels help protect heavy appliances and prevent fires at service panel entrances. Additional devices may be needed to protect other in-house electronics. Surge protection devices are typically installed in conjunction with a lightning protection system.
- Tree protection:The Lightning Protection Institute recommends that any tree taller than a home or within 10 feet of the structure be equipped with a lightning protection system. Trees do not offer protection and many homeowners choose to have trees protected for their own value. An unprotected tree in close proximity to a structure can also create a side-flash hazard to the nearby home.
10 Commercial Building Water Conservation Tips
As conditions warm – thawing the ground and warming the air – here’s a list of conservation tips from water conservation firm Water Signal to help those who own and manage multifamily structures identify leaks and conserve water by staying proactive throughout the spring and summer.
1.) Inspect the building weekly (restrooms, kitchens, water lines, hose bibs, etc.) and make any necessary repairs.
2.) Tour the entire property monthly; thoroughly inspecting water lines and meter vaults for leaks. Also be on the lookout for wet spots and/ or cracking pavement, as these are common signs of an underground leak.
3.) Inspect cooling towers for valve malfunctions and leaks.
4.) Install meters on the make-up and bleed-off lines to aid closer monitoring, in turn, confirming that the system is operating at optimum parameters.
5.) Inspect your irrigation system for leaks and improperly set timers, as well as broken or misdirected sprinkler heads.
6.) Install rain/freeze sensors on your irrigation system and inspect weekly.
7.) Test the building’s water pressure. Excessive pressure increases the chance of leaking and may cause damage to fixtures.
8.) Replace high-flow fixtures with low-flow. Consider metered valve, self-closing, infrared and ultrasonic sensor fixtures.
9.) Look for products bearing the EPA’s Water Sense label for conservation and performance.
10.) Educate tenants, employees and visitors to conserve water and report leaks.
Spring Maintenance Tips for Commercial Properties
The official start of spring is coming soon and winter conditions may have caused stress to commercial structures. Spring is important time to make sure certain tasks are completed to prepare for summer and repair any damage caused by extreme cold and wet weather. Proactive maintenance can help prevent damage to a property, saving time and money throughout the year and can also help with insurance claims. Below are a few items to be examined and cleaned.
Roof and Exterior
Wind, snow and rain can impact a building’s roof and exterior. Walking the property and being on the lookout for standing water or leaks from roofs and gutters is important. Chipped paint, siding dents and damage, cracked or leaking windows, foundation cracks, roof leaks, and clogged gutters should all be photographed, reported and repaired. If left unresolved, long-term issues can lead to more serious issues including foundation erosion and more.
Landscaping and Irrigation
Harsh winds, rain and snow can damage plants and limbs, especially on boxwoods, small shrubs and ornamental trees. Mulching, trimming broken limbs, pruning back plants, and cleaning debris needs to be done to prepare for spring growth. Irrigation systems need to be checked for damage and proper drainage to be ready for the dry summer season.
Warmer temperatures arriving means the facility mechanical systems should be inspected and maintained. Replacement of air filters, flushing of water heaters, and checking carbon monoxide detectors and sprinkler and fire suppression systems should be done before summer arrives.
Get Your House Ready for Spring
Spring is almost here, hopefully! Here are some home maintenance tips to help welcome the new season.
The Department of Energy (DOE) says weather stripping the windows on your home is an easy and effective way to help save money on your energy bill. In the spring and summer, weather stripping works by keeping the cool air inside and the warm air out. In the summer, if the cool air is contained inside, then the AC will not have to work as hard, and that may help you save money on your energy bill.
Test and clean ceiling fans. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an efficient ceiling fan in each room can help allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort level. Ceiling fans can be a good way to air out the house and generate a cross-breeze.
Replace your AC filter. The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends that you replace the filters in the air conditioner in the spring. A new filter will likely optimize the efficiency of the unit.
Replace torn or damage window screens. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if you simply like to keep the windows open in the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens are in good shape — you don’t want to let flies in with all that fresh air!
The National Center for Healthy Housing suggests that in the springtime, you may want to consider these outdoor maintenance projects:
Check your roof shingles. This should be done by a professional, as working on the roof can be dangerous without the proper training. You should ask the professional to make sure the shingles are not curling or clawing.
Replace rotten siding or trim. Make sure your home’s siding and trim aren’t damaged from windy, icy conditions.
Clean gutters and downspouts. Get rid of any leaves or other debris that accumulated during the winter to make sure your gutters and downspouts are ready to take on those April showers.