Is your House Making your Family Ill? Check Your Indoor Air Quality

It’s a fact: indoor air quality can affect our health. Many respiratory problems and headaches can be traced to a sick house. In temperate climates, where windows and doors are left open constantly, this isn’t a serious concern.

But in cold climates like Canada’s, where we have become experts at sealing our houses airtight to save on heating costs, maintaining air quality with good ventilation is important. To understand why that is, it’s instructive to understand how home construction practices have evolved over time. Forty years ago, heating oil cost 18 cents a gallon, houses had R7 (about 2.5 inches) insulation in the attic, and nobody worried too much about few drafts from around the windows or out of the electrical outlets. Over the years as oil prices went up, we took measures to make our houses virtually airtight to keep hot air from escaping, thus reducing our heating costs. So we diligently went about adding more insulation, installing better windows and doors, and improving the vapour barrier.

Downside to keeping warm air from escaping
While these measures proved effective at eliminating those cold drafts, they came with a cost to our indoor air quality, since they also eliminated our sources of fresh air. Meanwhile, humidity from normal living activities suddenly became trapped inside, leading to condensation on widow interiors and thus providing ideal conditions for mould and dust mites to propagate; a sick house. Modern furnishings only compounded the problem, since chemicals used in their manufacture can accumulate in the air by “out gassing” from such products as particle board, foam in furniture, glues in carpets and household cleaners. By the late 80’s the problem was recognized and the heat recovery air exchanger was developed to provide a supply of fresh air controlled by the humidity level in the house. Today, building codes require that an air exchanger (not necessarily with heat recovery) be installed in all new electrically heated houses.

What to do to maintain healthy indoor air quality
Of course, there are several ways to maintain good air quality in your house – and possibly improve your family’s health at the same time. I recently attended an Indoor Air Quality conference presented by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and learned some surprising facts. For instance:

  • Carpets can harbour dust and dust mites. In order to clean a carpet properly each square metre must be vacuumed for 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes! (Who does that?)
  • If you have a pillow more than a few years old, 50% of its weight can be dust mite feces. Dust mite proof pillow cases are available. Replace your pillows regularly.
  • If the humidity level in your house is typically above 55%, this can easily occur in some cooler areas of the basement, for example, then mould growth is likely.
  • Electronic air filters if not properly maintained can produce ozone, a respiratory irritant. Replace with a good quality HEPA filter.
  • When you vacuum you think you are sucking up the dust, right. Wrong. The very small particles such as pollens go straight though and out the other end. Installing a HEPA filter will help but the best option is a central vacuum that is vented outside.
  • Avoid storing boxes or hanging clothes against outside walls, particularly in unfinished basements. In older houses the closets are always on the inside walls, but in some newer designs I have noticed closets against the outside wall. This is not a good idea as any storage or clothes will act as insulation, producing a cooler and therefore high humidity zone between the storage and the wall. Perfect conditions for mould growth.
  • Many of the products we buy, from furnishings to cleaning materials, emit toxic gasses into the air. These amounts may be small, even barely noticeable, but nevertheless they are there.

Maybe opening a window once in a while, even in winter, is not such a bad idea.

Mose Home Inspection Services
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Lay Chan Wee
Lay Chan Wee
01:19 31 Aug 21
I was impressed with the service provided by Rui Su. He was organized, explained in detail area that I am not familiar... with. He provided a good report. I will recommend him if you need home inspection.read more
Mary Jane Caro
Mary Jane Caro
14:25 27 Aug 21
I am always pleased to recommend Carol Mose from Mose Home Inspection Services to my clients who have had offers... accepted on residential real estate properties. She is knowledgeable, thorough, provides clear explanations, and delivers comprehensive reports.read more
Massimo Pannunzio
Massimo Pannunzio
22:05 25 Aug 21
Michael has got to be on of the best home inspectors in all of Quebec. It was amazing working with him and he had my... best interest at heart when making a life changing decision. He made sure I had all the answers and made it easy to work with him. I will be using Mose inspection for any moment that I need an inspection done that's for sure!read more
Amanda Lee
Amanda Lee
19:14 16 Jun 21
Amazing experience with Carol Mose who helped me with a pre-purchase inspection! She was very approachable and... observant, and informed me of all her first impressions on-site. This gave me greater understanding of any conditions as I was able to ask any quick questions on the spot. Her reports are the most thorough that I've seen and include diagrams to help explain what any physical signs mean and potential consequences. Could not have asked for a better inspector!read more
Maeghan Banks
Maeghan Banks
15:38 14 Jun 21
Carol was wonderful to work with for our pre-purchase inspection. She was professional, thorough and communicative,... taking the time to explain her findings as we went through the house. After the inspection, we felt we had clear knowledge of the condition of the house (both pros and cons), allowing us to move forward with the purchase with confidence. Highly recommend!read more
Ryan Chalupovitsch
Ryan Chalupovitsch
13:43 01 Jun 21
Carol Mose is the best home inspector in the business. Approachable and extremely knowledgeable. She did an... inspection for me and really took the time to explain her findings and help me understand the home I was looking to purchase. Cannot recommend her enough. Don’t hesitate.read more
Elisabeth Faure
Elisabeth Faure
21:16 29 Apr 21
This is the second time I have used MOSE, and they are always really amazing. Very nice, very professional. they came... to have a look at my roof and let me know if we were due for a repair - I was very satisfied with everything and would recommend them to anybody!read more
Hannah S
Hannah S
22:05 16 Apr 21
I had a great experience with Mose home inspection. My husband and I are first time homebuyers and so had a ton of... questions about the process. Everyone we talked with was really informative and helpful. Michael was our inspector and was phenomenal. The inspection was very thorough and he explained everything in detail with realistic next steps for us to take. We came out of the inspection feeling really informed. Plus, he is just an absolute delight! He had very contagious enthusiasm and made the inspection a really positive experience. Would highly recommend!read more
Gabriel Lukuc
Gabriel Lukuc
03:05 16 Apr 21
Michael was amazing. He took the time to explain to us what’s really important and the reasoning behind it. We’re not... very handy nor savvy when it comes to home construction so we really appreciate him taking the time to explain to us all aspects of the inspection. Also, Michael was friendly, professional and timely; he provided the report over a holiday and a weekend.read more
Stephanie Ballard
Stephanie Ballard
14:24 19 Mar 21
MOSE is the best in the business. Once again we were happy with their inspection services - they are professional,... friendly and knowledgeable. Would not hesitate to recommend to friends and family (and have)!read more
Rodrigo Morales
Rodrigo Morales
18:27 10 Sep 20
Home inspection
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