CleanAir Solutions Blog
There is no doubt Ontario has had a run of memorably stormy winter weather lately.
At just the point in the season when most of us are starting to look forward to spring, with its warmer temperatures and outdoor adventures, instead we got whooped with a giant wave of rain, sleet, hail, snow, and generally dangerous weather conditioners.
Part of adjusting to unexpected and unseasonal wet weather is taking precautions against the growth of mould and mildew that can lead to allergies, asthma attacks, and respiratory illness.
Localized flooding as well as ongoing wet weather can create conditions ripe for mould and mildew colonies to form both indoors and outdoors. Basements, attics, garages, outdoor work and storage spaces, and other vulnerable areas can harbor these colonies and protect them while they grow and spread.
In this article, we take a look at how to keep your indoor humidity levels balanced so mould and mildew don’t have a chance to gain a foothold!
Urgent Storm Cleanup to Stop Mould In Its Tracks
Once the wet weather passes, there is no time to waste in making your home inhospitable to mould and mildew.
1. Do a visual inspection
The first step is to do a visual inspection of your home premises. This may seem obvious, but consider if moisture may have entered your home through smaller cracks and crevices or even via loose or damaged areas.
In particular, head to the basement, attic, and outdoor garage or sheds to take a look around. Feel for damp interior areas along the floorboards, walls, and around windows and doors.
Also use your nose: it may be too early to smell mould and mildew, but if you detect any whiffs of stale, dank, musty, or “grassy” odours, these can also be warning signs that colonies have begun to grow.
2. Remove any waterlogged or water-damaged items
Examine lawn furniture cushions, outdoor mats, entryway rugs, and pads and any other items that can harbour mould and mildew. Discard those that can’t be completely cleaned and sanitized.
Ultraviolet light from the sun is still the number one best purifier and decontaminant there is, so for those items you do want to salvage, place them in direct sunlight so they can dry completely before reusing them.
3. Carefully clean and sanitize any small areas of mould or mildew
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states it is usually safe to proceed with do-it-yourself cleanup for small areas of mould or mildew that measure less than 10 square feet (0.92 square meters).
You can use a solution of 1 half-cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water to clean and disinfect these small colonies. But be aware that you must keep that area completely dry to ensure the mould does not return and spread! Using fans, dehumidifiers, your air conditioner, or local desiccants can also help keep the area dry.
For larger areas of mould and mildew, the EPA recommends hiring a professional mould cleaning specialist.
Preventative Measures to Keep Mould Away
Severe weather over the winter and in spring can often cause damage to roofing, siding, or flooring that can allow moisture to seep in and bring mould and mildew along with it.
In particular, when moisture gets in through the roof, it can then cause damage to your air ducts and HVAC system. Sometimes, this mould and mildew stays invisible until the colonies become sufficiently established to start emitting their trademark musty, dank, damp smell.
By this time, you may have a major remediation project on your hands!
Luckily, there are steps to take to help you stop mould and mildew before the situation becomes too dangerous for you and your family to remain in your home.
1. Schedule a professional indoor air quality test
A professional indoor air quality test is not the major undertaking it may sound like it is! This test is really quiet and won’t interrupt your daily home life at all.
We install air quality monitors in an unobtrusive location. These monitors run continuously for 72 hours, taking small samples of your indoor air and testing them for airborne contaminants, toxins, and pollutants.
At the end of the 72-hour period, the air quality meter generates a full-color printout of all detected toxins along with remediation recommendations, if applicable. If you have mould and mildew growing inside your home space, this test will let you know it!
2. Schedule an indoor air duct cleaning
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly advises against running your HVAC system (air conditioner or heater) if you even suspect there is trapped mould or mildew inside it.
A professional indoor air duct cleaning is the only method that can remove all trapped mould and mildew spores safely and permanently.
3. Install appropriate preventative indoor air quality equipment
Once you have cleaned and remediated your indoor air and your home space, you will want reassurance that mould and mildew cannot gain a foothold in the future.
We also recommend retrofitting your HVAC system with a heat recovery ventilator to keep your indoor air humidity balanced seasonally.
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Contact us online, or give us a call at 905-544-2470 to learn more!
ave you ever walked into a space that clearly hasn’t gotten much TLC?
Probably, you noticed the floors were dirty and the counters were dusty. Maybe the spiders had gotten busy building intricate webs in convenient corners. Perhaps there were signs of other wild visitors scattered about inside cupboards and cabinetry.
Chances are good you keep your own home or workplace in much better condition. After all, no one likes to have to work or live in a dusty, dirty space!
But there is one place in your home or office that is nearly guaranteed to look like its been abandoned: your air ducts!
While indoor air duct cleaning is becoming more well known and popular today, the great majority of our indoor air quality clients are still having this service done for the first time since they purchased their home. For many experienced homeowners, it is the first time they’ve ever had this type of service done on any home they’ve ever owned!
This high rate of first-time clients isn’t due to home maintenance negligence, by the way. It is because, in past decades, information about how toxic dust and debris build up inside a central indoor air duct system simply wasn’t made available to homeowners and business owners.
Now that we know, it is time to get to work and clean up those air ducts! When you do this, you reap all kinds of other fun rewards, including the ones we are about to share with you here.
What Is Inside Your Air Ducts?
We could have a very lively discussion about some of the intriguing things we have found while cleaning out air duct systems!
It is actually still kind of amazing how some of the items even get in there in the first place. But suffice it to say, we never know for sure what we might find when we head in to do a job.
What we can tell you with certainty is that most people’s air duct systems contain dust, dirt, debris, cobwebs, insect shedding or body parts, rodent droppings, pollen, pet dander, pet and people hair, dust mites, bacteria, fungi (mould and mildew), airborne viral matter, and residual particulate matter (tobacco smoke, wood ash, etc.).
None of these things belong inside an air duct system, but over time, as exterior exhaust vents and intake valves get breached by insects and small animals, the elements, and nature, surprising things make their way inside.
Also, for older homes in particular, one common issue we still see is the “ductopus”—an outdated, poorly routed system of air ducts that has begun to sag and leak, admitting all kinds of undesirable detritus. Here, we typically recommend both a duct sealing and insulation service along with a professional air duct cleaning.
How Does This Foreign Matter Affect Your Indoor Air?
There are two primary ways that dirty air ducts can impact your indoor air: efficiency and air quality.
Did you know that just 1/16th of an inch of dust and debris can reduce airflow by as much as 20 percent?! What this means is that your air conditioner and heating system now has to work 20 percent harder (using 20 percent more energy) just to push the air through the ducts into each room of your home.
It also means that, along with each portion of temperature-controlled air that is sent through the ducts, a small portion of the debris inside will get picked up and swept along, too, and will enter the rooms of your home or office, impacting your health with poor air quality.
You won’t feel as good, think as clearly, or be as healthy when you are breathing in airborne particulates along with your oxygen!
The dirtier your indoor air ducts get, the more you will pay for your monthly energy costs and the more likely you will be to end up in the doctor’s office with severe allergies, asthma attacks, respiratory infections, seasonal colds and flu, and other unpleasant health issues.
What Happens During an Air Duct Cleaning?
Many of our first-time indoor air duct cleaning clients are worried about being displaced from their home or office because of a lengthy remediation project. We can assure you, this will not happen!
On average, an indoor air duct cleaning takes just three or four hours (perhaps five or six hours if you have a larger, multifloor workplace or a very complex duct system). During this time, we use a special heavy-duty commercial vacuum system that ensures all removed dust and debris is vacuum sealed and safely transported off your premises.
We offer three air duct cleaning packages to suit the needs of different home and office spaces. Regardless of the package, when we are done, your air ducts will be as shiny and squeaky clean as the day they were first installed!
Many of our customers say they can actually SMELL the difference—that is how clean their indoor air becomes!
Maintaining Your Indoor Air Quality
Before we agree to do an indoor air duct cleaning for any space, we always conduct an inspection to determine if your ducts actually need to be cleaned.
For some newer spaces or for spaces with recently installed HVAC systems, this can save you the costs of a premature indoor air duct cleaning service.
Whether or not your air ducts need to be serviced right now, you can safeguard your indoor air quality by installing a HEPA filtration system or a UV air purifier that works together with your existing HVAC and air ducts. These tools keep your air fresh and pure, guaranteed!
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Over the last six years, Statistics Canada has been quietly monitoring the sleep habits and sleep quality of Canadian adults.
What they have learned is nothing short of shocking. One in every three Canadian adults doesn’t get enough sleep or enough high-quality sleep.
A report by Science Daily tells us that up to 40 percent of Canadian adults suffer from some type of sleep disorder that regularly leads to insomnia.
Currently, Canada is ranked just behind England and Ireland as the third most sleep-deprived country on the planet!
When you don’t sleep enough and deeply enough, your risk of everything from diabetes to obesity to heart disease to depression spikes. Not getting enough sleep is expensive and life-limiting in every way.
But what can you do about it? Perhaps you’ve already tried lowering the lights, turning off the TV and your mobile phone, sipping tea, meditating…still, you lie there tossing and turning. There must be something else you can try!
There is! As it turns out, your indoor air quality has its own important role to play in the quality of sleep you get each night!
Air Pollution = Poor Sleep
Just south of the border, our continental neighbors have spent the last five years gathering data on the correlation between air pollution and poor sleep quality.
Findings showed that too-high levels of nitrogen dioxide and airborne pollutants called PM 2.5s can irritate sensitive nasal and respiratory passages, leading to inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Six U.S. cities were studied, and participants were ranked based on exposure to air pollution and sleep quality.
Participants exposed to the highest levels of pollution had the poorest quality of sleep.
Nitrogen dioxide is produced as a by-product of automobile exhaust. PM 2.5s are tiny toxic airborne particulates—each one is about 1/30th the width of a single human hair. They arise predominantly from burning fossil fuels, including tobacco, wood, diesel, oil, pellets, simulated wood logs, and other similar materials.
Suffice it to say that both nitrogen dioxide and PM 2.5s are present in the air nearly everywhere in the world today, and more so as air-cleaning green life is increasingly cut back to make more room for urban construction.
Scientists say this newest study confirms what is already known about how nitrogen dioxide and PM 2.5s can impact body systems and functioning in both mild and severe ways.
When It’s Bad Outside, It’s Worse Inside
When air quality research was still quite new, the thought process was that the outside air was toxic and the inside air was safe.
After all, the outside air is where all the smog and pollution are, right? But researchers now know that when outside air is toxic, inside air is nearly always much more so.
To this point, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a booklet stating that concentrations of common airborne pollutants are anywhere from two to five times higher indoors than outdoors!
Since Canadians, like Americans, spend an estimated 90 percent of each day inside, it stands to reason that by the time you are ready to go to sleep, your body is chock-full of sleep-interrupting contaminants!
What Is Polluting Your Indoor Air?
So we know that nitrogen dioxide and PM 2.5s are circulating in your indoor air supply. But what else is making indoor air at home and work more toxic than the air you breathe outside?
The Federal Advisory Committee on Environmental and Occupational Health of Canada has broken indoor air pollutants down into three categories:
Combustion by-products: cooking, heating, cooling, etc.
Construction and furnishings: fabrics, laminates, particle board, insulations, carpeting, etc.
General human activity: candles, commercial cleaning products, air fresheners, personal care products, smoking or vaping, pesticides, fertilizers, DIY crafts or renovations.
Each of these areas can release potent chemicals and compounds into the air, from formaldehyde to carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides to carcinogens.
Since many of the activities that create airborne pollutants inside the home or workplace are done daily and sometimes many times each day, it is surprising that indoor air is not even more toxic than it already is!
Clean Indoor Air = Better Sleep
So there they are—the sobering indoor air quality (or lack thereof) facts. After reading through this article, we wouldn’t blame you if you rushed to throw open doors and windows around your house!
But clearly, this isn’t the right answer, either. Outdoor air may be cleaner than indoor air, but it still isn’t “clean.” It is still relatively polluted and toxic to breathe in.
So what can you do to clean up your indoor air supply? The good news here is, you can do a lot!
Let’s start with the PM 2.5s. If you’ll recall from earlier, these tiny airborne pollutant particles measure just 1/30th the width of a single human hair. But guess what can filter out airborne toxins up to 1/100th the width of a single human hair? A high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration system!
HEPA filters do an amazing job of keeping toxic particles out of your home, office, and lungs. They come in room-size or whole-home size systems. Whole-home systems can be retrofitted to work with any type of HVAC system.
Another option that works equally well from a different angle is an ultraviolet air purification system. This type of system doesn’t filter out the airborne toxins. Rather, it zaps them into oblivion. UV air purifiers also come in room-sized and whole-home systems, which can be retrofitted to work with any type of HVAC system.
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Are you ready to put your sleepless nights behind you forever? Give us a call at 905-544-2470 and save 20 percent on whole-home indoor air quality equipment!