mold-free

Healthy Home | Healthy Air |

10 Tips for a Mold-Free House

4 minute read

October is the time of the year when most of us start thinking about sealing the hatches in our homes for the season. But before you do that, it’s healthy to check if your home is mold-free. You might be trapping it inside to keep you company all winter long.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold growth can exist practically anywhere. Whether you are inside or outside, mold spores are there. They can enter your home through openings as large as doors or windows, or as small as the tiniest gap you ever chased with a caulk gun. Once in your home, the spores can grow on clothes, shoes, toys or even pets. Worse yet, mold is almost certain to release clouds of potentially harmful spores that, once airborne, can take the shortest path to your lungs.

Some molds are harmful, others are benign. And, how mold affects you can depend on your own personal sensitivity. Mold expert Jeff May learned this first hand. The Johns Hopkins University Press author of three books (‘My House is Killing Me,’ ‘My Office is Killing Me’ and the ‘Mold Survival Guide’), wasn’t always such an accomplished expert on how mold can make you really sick.

“For years, I had an office air conditioner that was probably too big for the space. As a result, my office was always damp and I’d cough whenever the AC came on. Then one day I opened it up and found that everything inside had turned black — with Cladosporium mold. That was the defining moment when I put two and two together,” he said.

According to May, the first step to making your home mold-free is to understand what makes it tick. Mold needs three things to grow: moisture, air and food, and this combination can be found just about anywhere in your home. “Mold grows where it can find food: the dust on a bathroom ceiling, the starch paste on the back of wallpaper, or the plant fibers that make up the jute pad under a carpet. Add moisture, and mold growth begins,” said May.

Keep your home mold-free:

Mind the Moisture

Keep humidity between 30-60 percent in basements. Improve outside grading and drainage by keeping gutters clean and soil always sloping away from your home. Cover dirt crawlspace floors with plastic to reduce moisture.

Store Safely

Keep all storage at least several inches up off concrete floors and away from foundations where dampness can easily seep in. This is especially important with organic material like cardboard boxes. Avoid using wooden shelves; metal or plastic shelves are preferable.

Heat Finished Basements

Below grade spaces like finished basements are more likely to become infested and should always be heated to at least 60 degrees, even when not being used. The warmer the space, the less the chance that condensation will form and feed a mold problem.

Build Mold Resistant

When choosing building materials, use materials that don’t feed the mold. Tom Combs took this option when remodeling the bathroom in his family’s 1990 lake house outside of Atlanta, Georgia. “The ceiling was covered with mold and I wanted to take immediate action before the situation worsened.” Combs’ solution was Dens Armor Plus, a wallboard made by Georgia Pacific that is specifically designed to create a mold-free space. Unlike regular drywall that has a paper face, Dens Armor Plus has a fiberglass face that cannot feed a mold problem. For roofing specifically, make sure to consider algae, mold and bacteria resistant shingles when installing a new roof. Metal infused in these shingles will kill off the bacteria that causes algae and mold growth naturally without the need for chemicals.

Ventilate Vigorously

Poor or missing ventilation fans in damp spaces like baths and kitchens can leave enough moisture behind to sustain a mold problem. Make sure all baths and kitchens are vented by properly sized fans that take moisture outside and NOT into attics. Keep the bathroom door open after bathing to speed the drying of surfaces.

Avoid Basement Carpets

More than almost any other material in a house, carpets can be incredibly effective havens for mold. Even non-organic carpets can collect dirt, dust, and moisture that combine to provide mold a fertile ground in which to grow, especially in below-grade spaces where relative humidity tends to be higher. Hard surface products like laminate flooring or engineered hardwoods are always a better choice for basement and other mold-free spaces.

Filter the Air

If your home has a forced-air heating and cooling system, using a top quality air filter is a must. May recommends pleated filters with a MERV rating of at least six to eight, or 11 if the family is prone to allergies. Another option is a whole house electronic air cleaner. Mounted permanently to the home’s HVAC system, a whole house air cleaner uses ionization technology to charge particles making them stick to filters like a magnet. According to Consumer Reports, the most effective unit is the Aprilaire Model 5000, which can trap virus-sized particles as small as one micron (one millionth of a meter) and needs just yearly filter replacement.

Insulate Ducts

Duct systems that carry heated or cooled air throughout your house must be insulated whenever they pass through unheated or uncooled spaces like attics or basements. If not, condensation can form inside the ducts and, when combined with dust in the air, can allow mold to grow in the ducts, and then spores can easily circulate throughout your entire house.

Clean Carefully

Use mold-inhibiting cleaners in bathrooms and kitchens. Portable air conditioning units should be taken apart and cleaned at the start of every season. When painting damp spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, use paint with a mold inhibitor EPA-approved for indoor use.

Fix Floods Fast

If you do have a major leak or flood, quick action can stop mold before it starts. Thoroughly dry soaked carpets and padding, and remove any wet upholstery. Then wash and disinfect all surfaces before the carpet and pad are replaced.

Mold may be a part of Mother Nature’s plans, but following these tips will make sure recovering from the sickness it can cause doesn’t ever have to become part of your plans. For more information, visit the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or review the Mold Resource Guide on the Web site for the national radio show, ‘The Money Pit.’

getting cozy

AA Homepage Articles | Healthy Home |

Fall Tips—Getting Cozy in a Healthy Home

3 minute read

Click play to listen to the Fall Tips—Getting Cozy in a Healthy Home article. 

As the sunshine and heat of summer give way to the brisk air and shorter days of fall, it’s the perfect time to update your indoor decor.

As you add warm and welcoming touches to your home, you can take the chance to do some seasonal cleaning and ensure your family will enjoy a Healthy Home throughout the rest of the year.

Throws and Blankets

Chilly nights call for extra layers, and while you’re cuddled up on the couch there’s nothing better than cocooning yourself in blankets.

Find throws and quilts with warm, neutral colors or with seasonal patterns, and drape them over the back of furniture in your living room and bedrooms.

If you’re buying new items, make sure to wash them before use. Textiles are exposed to a variety of chemicals throughout the manufacturing process, and they can irritate your skin or lungs.

Fireplace

The fireplace can get a little dusty over the summer months, so make sure it’s in good working order before your first cozy, crackling fire of the season.

A certified chimney sweep can inspect your fireplace area for blockages and pests, ensuring that smoke can properly ventilate. For gas and wood stoves, you’ll want a certified inspector to check them out for any leakages as well.

Keep in mind that even fireplaces in perfect condition can release harmful emissions into your home. Consider using an Aprilaire air purifier to filter and remove damaging particles so your family can enjoy the comforts of the fireplace without compromising Indoor Air Quality.

Decorations

Carving pumpkins is a great fall activity for the whole family. But after a couple of weeks or so, those decorative gourds can turn into a breeding ground for mold.

After displaying everyone’s creations inside for a few days, move the pumpkins outside. If it’s cold enough during the day or at night, the pumpkins will last longer. And they’re outside, so they aren’t adding allergens to your home.

The same is true for fresh fall flowers. Dispose of them once they start to wither so you don’t have to deal with the mold and mildew that can form inside the vase.

You should also be aware of the outdoor allergens like mold and ragweed that can become an issue during the fall months. Using an Aprilaire air purifier and fresh air ventilator can help keep your home free of those outside irritants.

Lighting

Fall brings shorter days, which means you’ll be using indoor lighting more often. This offers a great opportunity to create a cozy ambience using bulbs and fixtures that emit a warm, soft glow.

In areas of the home without many windows, you can add floor lamps or table fixtures to brighten up the space. And to achieve a subtle, fall feel, use warm lighting in the 2,700-3,000 Kelvin range and try semi-opaque lamp shades to diffuse the light in a comforting way.

When changing out lights, take a minute to dust light fixtures and room corners where you’re adding lamps. Managing dust levels is a good way to avoid allergy issues throughout the fall and winter.

Scented Candles

The fall season lends itself well to comforting smells. From baking spices to outdoor aromas like sage and pine, burning a candle is a simple way to add ambience and comfort to your home.

Keep in mind that burning anything in your home will add volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Whether a candle is made with natural or artificial ingredients, it can affect the air quality in your home with substances that can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Encourage ventilation wherever you’re burning a candle by opening a window, turning on a ceiling fan, or using an Aprilaire air purifier.

Alternatives to burning candles include fall flowers, clove-studded oranges, and cinnamon sticks.

air pollution in the kitchen

AA Homepage Articles | Healthy Home |

How Cooking Impacts Your Indoor Air Quality

3 minute read

Click play to listen to the How Cooking Impacts Your Indoor Air Quality article. 

The holidays are right around the corner. And when they arrive, they’ll come with your favorite traditions, gatherings with friends and family, and lovely smells wafting from the kitchen.

You’ll likely be cooking meals, hosting guests, and spending a lot of time indoors this holiday season. To ensure a happy and healthy time for all, it’s important to understand how cooking and baking can add volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other particulate matter to the air.

Largest Sources of Air Pollution in the Kitchen

Different cooking methods impact the air in unique ways.

Generally, the higher temperatures you’re using, the more airborne pollutants you’re creating. Deep frying requires you to heat oil to high temperatures, which can create high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cause eye and lung irritation.

Heat sources also play a large role. Gas-powered stoves and ovens can create carbon monoxide, while electric-powered appliances can release fine particles into the air.

Kitchen Appliances and Air Pollution

Stovetop

The ventilation hood above your stove makes it easy to remove cooking exhaust while you’re frying vegetables or boiling pasta. But it’s not just food particles entering the air while you cook.

According to the California Air Resources Board, stovetops powered by natural gas and propane can produce carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Nitrogen dioxide, a respiratory irritant, can also be produced by a gas burner.

Because there’s pollution both from the high heat of cooking and from the materials used to create the heat, you should turn on some form of ventilation from the moment you start cooking until a few minutes after you’re done.

Oven

Baking or roasting at a low heat for long periods of time may not seem like they require ventilation because you don’t actively see smoke or steam. But these cooking processes are creating large amounts of airborne pollutants over a long period of time and require persistent ventilation to minimize health risks.

Note: When you run the cleaning cycle on your oven, you especially need the ventilation turned on. The prolonged high temperatures burn away food waste, creating high amounts of VOCs.

Rarely Used Appliances

The oven and stove are likely the largest sources of airborne pollutants in your home, but you should also be aware of the impact of appliances you may use only occasionally like toasters, deep fryers, and electric skillets.

In storage these devices can collect dust, which will burn away when they’re first turned on, adding particulate matter to the air. (You may recognize a particular smell when turning on these appliances for the first time in a while.)

Additionally, the heating process on all small appliances will create VOCs, so make sure to use ventilation when using cooking devices away from the stove and oven as well.

Ventilation is Key

So how do you achieve the level of ventilation required for safe cooking? Homebuilding expert Corbett Lunsford knows it’s important to consider Indoor Air Quality from day one of the building process. He recommends installing proper ventilation in several places in your home.

“Ventilation is crucial for reducing the concentration of VOCs in your home. You definitely want to ventilate anywhere there is moisture introduced to the home, like the bathrooms and kitchen.”

Ventilating throughout the cooking process is key to maintaining quality air in your home. From a sizzling stovetop to a low-and-slow oven, keeping the ventilation fan on or a window open will help remove the buildup of harmful substances in the air.

You can also consider Aprilaire whole-home ventilation, which works behind the scenes to add fresh air throughout your home. These fresh air ventilation systems dilute and replenish the stale, dangerous air in your home, helping to create a Healthy Air environment for you and your guests.

 

American Lung Association

Aprilaire Partners Logged In Homepages | News |

Breathing Healthy Air: Interview with the American Lung Association

4 minute read

At Aprilaire, we encourage breathing Healthy Air because we know it benefits your overall health. The American Lung Association knows it too. That’s why Aprilaire air filters are the National Proud Partner of the American Lung Association*, playing a key role in the fight to improve lung health and prevent lung disease.

We got to interview National Senior Vice President of Development Sally Draper about the importance of Healthy Air and how both Aprilaire and the American Lung Association are working together to help you Breathe the Fullness of Life.

Could you introduce yourself for the readers and tell us about why you chose a career with the American Lung Association?

“I joined the Lung Association in 2014 because I was attracted to its comprehensive mission—to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Every day we help Americans breathe easier through our efforts to fund innovative research, advocate for policies that protect our lungs, and educate patients, caregivers, providers, and the public with science-backed information. We were founded more than 115 years ago, and the needs are greater today than ever before, including the youth vaping epidemic, climate change, and COVID-19!”

Can you tell us about the American Lung Association’s mission?

“The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Our work is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; champion clean air for all; improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and create a tobacco-free future. Whether it’s searching for cures to lung diseases, keeping kids off tobacco, or advocating for laws that protect the air we breathe, the work of the American Lung Association helps to save lives every day.”

How did Aprilaire and the American Lung Association come to work together in the first place? What does that relationship look like presently?

“Aprilaire and the American Lung Association forged a new relationship in 2018. We quickly realized how much we had in common. Our partnership was developed as we saw an opportunity to educate and help more consumers improve the air in their homes to create a healthier environment.

Since 2020, Aprilaire has been a Proud Partner of the Lung Association with its 4” residential air filters. Additionally, Aprilaire joined the Lung Association as our FY20 National Fight For Air Climb Partner For Healthy Air. The company has also supported the Lung Association’s “Stand Up For Clean Air” campaign. As part of this initiative, we are driving conversations around air quality, climate, and health. The Lung Association invited people to share their #MyCleanAirStory—knowing that when people realize climate and air quality are impacting the health of their neighbors, friends, and loved ones—they are more willing to act. Aprilaire provided prizes for the #MyCleanAirStory contest, including one grand prize of a whole-home Indoor Air Quality upgrade (the Aprilaire Healthy Air System™) and nine Aprilaire Room Air Purifiers. This year, the company stepped up once again to sponsor the Wisconsin Fight For Air Climb in Milwaukee. Also in 2021, the Lung Association welcomed Dale Philippi, President and CEO of Research Products Corporation, Aprilaire’s parent company, to the Lung Association’s Wisconsin Leadership Board of Directors.”

Tell us about the Fight For Air Climb.

“The American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb is the nation’s premier stair climbing challenge. At 38 events nationwide, children and adults of all ages participate in this celebratory stair-climbing adventure. Pre-pandemic, the Fight For Air Climb was held in several of our country’s most iconic skyscrapers. This year, the Lung Association invited participants outdoors for a one-of-a-kind adventure to support healthy lungs and clean air. In fact, Dale was among the company’s team of more than 50 employees that climbed the stairs at Milwaukee’s American Family Field on May 22nd, proving he puts his feet, time, and talent behind causes he supports.

Aprilaire has been a stalwart partner in the Fight For Air Climb, promoting the event to employees, customers, trade partners, family, and friends. Through this unique vehicle, the company is engaging individuals of all ages to understand and celebrate the importance of Healthy Air.”

Aprilaire’s air filters are a National Proud Partner of the American Lung Association. How do you feel our mission aligns with yours?

“Our CEO, Harold Wimmer, has said, ‘Breathing should not be an uphill battle, but for many it is… no one should have to fight for air on a daily basis.’ Similarly, Dale has declared, ‘We believe everyone deserves to breathe Healthy Air.’ As a National Proud Partner, Aprilaire’s mission to enhance everyone’s health by improving the air in their homes aligns very closely with that of the American Lung Association, champion of clean air for all.”

What are the benefits of breathing Healthy Air and what are everyday things that people can do to Breathe the Fullness of Life?

“Clean air is essential for healthy lungs. The American Lung Association works to ensure that the air we breathe is clean and safe from harmful pollution. In fact, every year we publish our State of the Air Report, which looks at two of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants, ozone and fine particulate matter. Our 2021 State of the Air Report found that more than 4 in 10 Americans—over 135 million people—are living in places with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

One of the most important things you can do to Breathe the Fullness of Life is to keep sources of pollution out of your home. Check out these commonsense tips on Lung.org. Additionally, ventilation helps reduce indoor air pollution, but it works best if paired with keeping known sources of air pollution out of the building. For tips on how to use ventilation to protect your lung health, check out our section on Ventilation: How Buildings Breathe.”

Fight for Healthy Air

At Aprilaire, we believe everyone deserves to Breathe the Fullness of Life, and we’re not the only ones that feel this way. Through our Proud Partnership with the American Lung Association, we aim to fill every home with Healthy Air. Both Aprilaire and the Lung Association believe that breathing Healthy Air should be available to everyone, and maintaining healthy Indoor Air Quality is an important step for your lung health. Read more about our partnership and the efforts of the American Lung Association on their website.

*Disclaimer: The American Lung Association does not endorse any product, device, or service.

St. Vincent de Paul

AA Homepage Articles | News |

2021: Aprilaire’s Good Neighbor Values

2 minute read

Click the play button to listen to the post

We take the importance of caring for others to heart at Aprilaire. We believe we have a purpose beyond the individual work we do and that being a successful company also means “Being a Good Neighbor.” It’s one of our core values, and something we put into action each year.

We remain committed to helping our local communities in a number of ways, including financial contributions and volunteering. In the past, we’ve raised funds to provide pack-n-plays to mothers in need, volunteered at local blood drives, and held various donation drives throughout the year.

While our partnership opportunities may look different in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re excited to continue our work with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, whose mission statement reads:

“A membership organization, the Society began working in Madison in 1925 with two parish-based groups of members serving their neighbors in need. Today, programs the Society operates in Dane County include a large customer-choice food pantry, a charitable pharmacy, storage for the goods of persons who are homeless, seven thrift stores offering direct charity, housing at Port St. Vincent de Paul and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton House, and several other forms of assistance for people struggling with poverty.”

We’ve been working with St. Vincent de Paul – Madison since 2014, giving us a number of incredible opportunities to give back and live out our mission of being Good Neighbors.

We believe the work they’re doing to provide assistance for our community is more important than ever right now, which is why it’s our honor to be a 2021 Platinum Sponsor for St. Vincent de Paul’s 6th Annual Care Café fundraising breakfast on May, 5th 2021. The theme is “Love Made Visible.”

They’re going virtual this year, which means they have unlimited capacity to reach their goal of $140,000. If you live in Dane County, we encourage you to attend the virtual event and support our neighbors in need through your contributions to the food pantry, free pharmacy, and housing programs.

 Click here for more information on St. Vincent de Paul – Madison to see how you can get involved.

Or find a charity in your area that you may be able to connect with to make an impact.

flights

AA Homepage Articles | News |

Experts Say Flights Can Resume, But Bring Increased Risks

2 minute read

Air quality experts say that it is safe to resume flying, but travelers must take advanced precautions before traveling like taking shorter flights when possible, wearing masks, and social distancing. 

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, makes the case that airplanes do not make you sick. In fact, airplanes have comparable levels of air filtration and fresh air ventilation to a health care facility

Flights May Be Less Comfortable With Recommendations

He argues that airlines should continue disinfecting high-touch areas such as armrests and tray tables, stop in-flight food service, mandate mask-wearing, and ask patrons to keep their above ventilation fan on throughout the flight. While these adjustments make flying less enjoyable, they can help reduce in-flight virus transmission. Masks are currently required on public transportation. 

Allen is not the only one saying it is safe to resume flying. 

‘Safer Than Eating At A Restaurant’

Linsey Marr, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech, in a CNN article writes, “When HEPA ventilation systems are running on a plane and everyone is masked, the risk of Covid-19 is greatly reduced and makes air travel on a big jet safer than eating at a restaurant.”

Activities Create Biggest Risks

She and Allen argue that the biggest risks in airline travel stem from activities like the pre-flight boarding process or when a flight is delayed and people are stuck on the plane. Marr, who has been wearing an air quality monitor when she travels, said CO2 levels are elevated during these aforementioned activities and are indicative of a lack of fresh air ventilation. 

Marr told CNN that “A CO2 (carbon dioxide) level of 3,000 ppm means that for every breath I take in, about 7% of the air is other people’s exhaled breath…like drinking someone else’s backwash!”

The airport also presents other problems for travelers.

Allen suggests airports create more touchless experiences, upgrade their HVAC system, and require masks. Some updates have already been implemented in some airports or will be implemented in the future. 

Other experts suggest carrying your own personal hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and sticking to shorter flights

Even though there are risks to flying, Marr and Allen say you are clear for takeoff this summer