Do You Even Know if You Need an Energy Assessment? Part 5

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 by Joy Padgett

This is Part 5 in our series discussing reasons why you should have an energy analysis conducted on your home. Your home has probably been telling you for years that it has issues. And what have you said….”Got an issue? Need a tissue?” Ha-Ha! Just kidding.

When our houses speak to us, we usually don’t’ listen unless it involves a smoke alarm going off or a water heater busting in the middle of the night. (Or maybe we don’t listen because we’re not sure it’s normal to hear from our house.) Getting back to it and speaking of water heaters….years ago when my step-daughter was about 5 or 6, she woke us up in the middle of the night, from a wonderfully deep sleep, to tell us the water in the bathtub was running. Her dad, my husband, got up to check it out and found the water heater had busted and tens of gallons of water was pouring out into the bathroom! That is so NOT the way I want to wake up!

Grumpy lady with curlers and coffee 

It was a frenzied rush to shut the water main off and grab as many bath towels out of the linen closet as I could to sop up all the water. What a mess!

Water can cause a lot of damage in a short period of time, like when our water heater busted. More commonly, though, moisture quietly causes issues largely unseen. And, if you haven’t guessed already, our next topic in our 7 week discussion is Moisture.

In many cases, mold and mildew problems are also due to inefficiency issues within the home. Are you aware of the presence of mold or mildew in your home? Have you thoroughly checked your attic, crawl space or basement recently? Have you checked underneath your insulation? Are you aware of the potential health problems associated with the presence of certain molds in your home?

Leaky duct-work located in moldy crawlspaces or attics can actually suck the mold spores into the system and distribute the particles throughout your house. Because an energy analysis consists of evaluating and examining the attic and crawlspace (or basement), the presence of mold can be detected and a plan of action developed to remove the mold and treat the affected area. Hear me now….there is no way to completely create a mold-free home. Nobody can guarantee that your home is or will be 100% mold-free. However, mold that is currently present can be removed and the area treated which greatly reduces the impact mold spores can have on the air quality inside your home.

Disconnected flex duct in crawlspace

Exhaust fans, like the ones found in bathrooms, are sometimes installed incorrectly, with the termination point being located inside the crawlspace or the attic. These fixtures should be vented to the outside where moisture can be deposited into the outdoor air. When an exhaust fan terminates inside a crawlspace or an attic, the moisture being transported through the exhaust pipe is deposited on the surrounding building materials. This could be your insulation, roof decking material, or subflooring depending on whether the pipe terminates in the crawlspace or attic. Regardless, the end result can be the formation of mold and mildew.

Range hoods can be vented to the outside or they can be classified as re-circulating. A vented range hood should, like a bath exhaust fan, terminate outside the house. Often, however, they terminate in the attic or crawlspace. This results in the same issues described above. If you have a re-circulating range hood, it is simply filtering the air and releasing it back into your kitchen. This can still cause problems with moisture, but may be more likely to result in mold and mildew visible from the kitchen instead of hidden in the dark recesses of your home.

The results of breathing in mold spores can have serious ramifications. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) children who have experienced early exposure to mold may be more likely to develop asthma than those without early exposure. Moreover, immune-compromised people are at a much higher risk for serious lung infections with exposure to mold and airborne mold particles (https://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm). Even seemingly healthy  individuals can suffer from nose and throat irritation or respiratory issues if mold spores have been inhaled.

I have heard many stories from our technicians about finding water leaks that the homeowner wasn’t aware of. Leaks under your kitchen sink, for example, are usually noticed because you may get into the cabinet under the sink to get the dishwashing tablets or cleaning supplies. However, a leak underneath a first floor bathtub in a house built on a crawlspace may go unnoticed for months on end. Why? Because the water is dripping into the crawlspace which may not be entered by a homeowner….or anyone for that matter, for months or even years!

Furthermore, the technicians at the company I work for have also found sewer leaks in crawlspaces. Do you understand what that means? Human waste (urine and fecal matter) had been leaking into the crawlspace instead of continuing down the sewer pipe to the water treatment facilities. That truly is disgusting. Moisture of any kind can promote the growth of mold.

Mold on crawlspace subfloor

Mold can grow on any surface provided moisture is present. This means it can grow on or underneath insulation, subflooring, block foundations and vinyl. These are components of your home that you may not see on a regular basis which means mold could be present and spreading without your knowledge. The longer it remains unchecked, the more devastating the results could be. Not only can mold damage building materials and lead to structural issues, it can facilitate health problems.

An energy assessment can find faulty exhaust systems (think bathroom fans and dryer vents), water leaks (think under tubs and water heaters), sewer leaks, and minor roof leaks. All of these can contribute to moisture inside your home. And, what did we just learn about mold? If moisture is present, mold can grow.

Is your house telling you it has issues with moisture? If so, or if you’re not sure, you really should have an energy assessment performed on your house. Promoting energy efficiency is not the only goal of the energy analysis. Health and safety issues are goals as well. It’s high time you called in the professionals and had an energy assessment completed on your house!

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