How do I prevent mold from growing in my home? That is a question that we hear a lot. The simple answer is to prevent moisture. Some moisture intrusions are simple to notice but some are tough to find. Here are 8 tips to help prevent mold in your home.
#1 Control Your Indoor Climate
Mold problems often emerge during hot, humid summers when you’re tempted to play with the air conditioner. If you set the thermostat too high, the air conditioner won’t dehumidify your air effectively. If you set it too low, you can create cold areas where water vapor can condense.
Set your thermostat between 75-78 degrees to maximize energy efficiency and control your indoor moisture levels.
#2 Shut the Windows/Doors When Your A/C System is Running
When you open windows and doors, you let air conditioning escape, waste money, and invite humid air into your cooler home. This causes condensation, which mold loves. So keep doors and windows shut when the AC is humming.
Also, maintain your home at around 80 degrees when you’re on vacation or at work. Too often, we bump the thermostat up to 85 degrees, or turn off the AC when we’re away. This raises temperature and humidity, which creates the ideal home for mold.
#3 Properly Size Your AC Unit
Make sure your air-conditioning unit is properly sized for your home. If it is too small, the unit will run constantly, elevating costs but not the temperature; too big, and the unit will constantly start and stop, which wastes energy, too.
#4 Look for Standing Water
If the air conditioner isn’t the issue, search for standing water or chronic dampness that’s increasing indoor humidity and providing a lovely environment for mold.
Check for puddles or dampness around hot water tanks, sump pumps, freezers, refrigerators, basement doors, and windows. Inspect crawl spaces for ground water dampness or foundation leaks.
#5 Monitor Humidity
An indoor humidity monitor will help you keep track of moisture levels that, ideally, fall between 35% and 50% relative humidity; in very humid climates, at the height of summer, you may have to live with readings closer to 55%.
But if you reach 60% relative humidity, it’s time to look for the source of the added moisture; above 70% relative humidity, certain species of mold can begin growing.
#6 Cover Your Crawl Space Floor
Groundwater seeping into crawl spaces can add gallons of moisture vapor into your house every day. The simplest defense is to cover crawl space floors with a plastic vapor barrier — 6 mil polyethylene (landscapers’ plastic) — that traps moisture in the ground.
#7 Add a Dehumidifier
A dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air which can help to prevent mold.
You can buy a whole house dehumidifier ($1,100-$1,800) that attaches to your furnace, treats air throughout the house, and connects to a drain so you never have to empty a tank. If you live in a very humid area, a whole-house system is the way to go.
If you have occasional bouts of dampness and musty smells, a portable dehumidifier will suffice ($150-$200).
Most models have an auto shutoff that keeps the unit from overflowing when the storage tank is full. Some portables have a hose hookup that automatically sends water into a nearby floor drain.
#8 Call an Inspector
If you can’t find the moisture problem on your own, or you aren’t sure how to correct a problem you do find, call a home inspector or indoor air quality consultant. Look for credentials from a respected industry organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors or the Indoor Air Quality Association. A house call will likely run $250 or more.