Wintertime and the holidays present particular challenges to the mold sensitive and their families. Our own Jeff Bookout addressed this subject and his articles ended up being the most popular articles of the year, and they are definitely worth a revisit.
- How do I winterize my home against mold?
- Busting out your holiday decor? Careful, it might make you sick.
Winter thoughts from another expert: Cesar’s take
This year, we wanted to give you additional insights from another contributor to our site, Cesar Collado. A veteran of the mold field, we spoke with him and he provided some additional valuable insights.
Winterizing a Home: Lack of Humidity
Cesar’s Take: Humidifiers are a recipe for disaster.
Because of the dryer air during the winter, a lot of people believe that humidification is necessary. Our sinuses can become dry and it is not uncommon to see nose bleeds in the winter. But actually, a humidifier can be the worst thing you can do if you are mold sensitive. Humidifiers do create humidity, but they also become loaded with mold soon after you turn them on, and they can pump mold into your air.
Large humidifiers that will treat an entire home essentially become mold machines. While these do put additional moisture into the air (helping your sinuses), the filter in the humidifiers can become moldy very quickly. “These filters are like a beauty pageant for mold. Just take a look at a filter and you will see it coated with green and black mold in all of its glory.”
If you must, use a smaller humidifier in the places you spend a lot of time, like in your bedroom while you sleep. Then keep your eyes on the filter and change it often. This type of acute humidification may be beneficial, however, adding humidity must be done without encouraging mold to grow and become airborne, spreading throughout your home.
Winterizing Your Home: Introducing Fresh Air
Cesar’s Take: Consider a ERV
HVAC systems are designed to recycle air and condition it, but typically do not bring in fresh air. During wintertime when windows are not open, air purifiers are a good idea. But recently there is an even better and increasingly affordable option, getting an ERV. Energy recovery ventilation, or ERVs, bring in fresh air, and yet retain the cool or heat you want in your home.
Simply put, ERVs bring in fresh air and replace the stale air in your home. And the newest ERVs use very little energy, are not expensive, and have filters to prevent allergens. Some ERVs are installed directly into an HVAC system, or there are newer models that can be installed directly into outer-room walls without interacting with an HVAC system.
The trick to getting the right ERV is finding someone who understands them and installs them well. Look for an HVAC company that focuses on indoor air quality and is concerned with making systems efficient as well as maintaining a healthy building. Some newer ERV systems do not need to be installed directly into an HVAC system, and therefore it can be a DIY project. Before taking the leap, do your homework, and feel free to contact us at BioBalance for help.
A Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) brings in fresh air to your home while keeping your home warm or cool.
Winterizing Your Home: Air Filters
Cesar’s Take: Try a MERV 8
“While Jeff Bookout’s articles, suggested using an air filter with a MERV 11 rating, let me suggest why you might want to consider a MERV 8 rating.”
If you have an older fixed speed HVAC fan for your heating and cooling — you’ll know this as your fan speed is simply on or off — then a MERV 11 can get clogged quickly with molecules unless you change it regularly. Take a look at your filter. If it is dark grey, or black change it. “A clogged filter will restrict airflow and make your system work harder than it should and decrease your HVAC life. In the end, it will cost you more money.”
If you have a newer variable speed HVAC fan, or are fine changing your filter frequently, a MERV 11 will work, if not try a MERV 8 filter.
Christmas Decoration: Dust and Mold
Cesar’s Take: Treat the outside of the box too
Along with Jeff’s recommendations of keeping decorations in plastic tubs. If you are storing your ornaments in an unfinished location in your home, such as an attic or basement, those areas can be humid, dusty, and very likely to be moldy. “It is almost criminal to bring that in your home if someone in your family is mold sensitive. You could be causing full house contamination. So, in addition to using plastic tubs, clean and treat those tubs and bags with HavenMist outside your house, and before you bring them in your house.”
A better option. Keep your decorations in a sealable container and clean it before bringing it inside.
Christmas Trees: Beautiful Mold Makers
Cesar’s Take: Cut trees are bad news.
If you bring your artifical tree into your home while it is covered with dust, it might as well be covered in mold as well. I would suggest taking your tree outside first and then using HavenMist on your tree. It won’t hurt your tree one bit.
Speaking of trees, a cut tree in your home will always bring a ton of mold into your home. Cut trees are, by definition, already beginning to die, and it is not just a breeding ground for mold, but also the purpose of mold, which is the natural decay of organic material. So as you are gazing at your beautifully decorated and great smelling tree, remember you are watching it die slowly, and mold is growing on the tree and in the water in your Christmas-tree stand. Things can get substantially worse a week or two later when you carry the tree through the house as it spreads mold throughout your home.
Now, if you already have a cut tree in your home. I would recommend using a specially designed mold treatment candle, such as the CitriSafe Remedy Mold Treatment Candle to treat the room where you have your cut tree. It is not an ideal solution (ideally you would have an artifical tree), but it can keep your family enjoying the holiday and help keep mold under control.
Winter and the holidays are of course a special time, and with a little preparation, it can be for everyone in your family, including the mold sensitive.