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Stay Healthy with Dehumidifiers for Home, Carbon Monoxide Detectors & More!
There are many things you need to watch out for that could be damaging to your home's structural integrity and putting you and your family's health at risk. They're not always easy to recognize and if left untreated they can wreak havoc!
The scary thing about carbon monoxide is that it's really hard for your senses to detect. This gas is odorless, colorless and extremely toxic. It can kill you before you even realize it's in your home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at lower levels the symptoms from this gas can be mistaken for the flu. They can include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. At higher concentrations it can be fatal!
Where does it come from?
Carbon monoxide can come from several different sources. If you're using some form of gas heating without proper ventilation then this could cause higher levels of CO in your homes air. Also, leaving a vehicle running in a closed-off space like a garage can cause the gas to build up and become harmful if breathed in. Additionally, gas ranges that have incomplete oxidation during combustion can cause higher levels of carbon monoxide.
How can you protect yourself?
To ensure that you don't experience high levels of CO there are a few steps you can take. The EPA provides a helpful article An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) that includes some great tips for protecting yourself and your family:
- Keep gas appliances properly adjusted
- Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one
- Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters
- Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves
- Open flues when fireplaces are in use
- Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.
- Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly
- Do not idle the car inside the garage
Always make sure that when using gas powered equipment that you have proper ventilation and make sure that the unit is maintained and necessary adjustments have been made. Also, if using a gas fuel source in your home purchase a carbon monoxide detector to go with it.
Another danger is using appliances that could be faulty. If not properly maintained these units could become a fire hazard. Cords can become damaged and dust could build-up that would create a recipe for disaster.
Also, you'll want to maintain your appliances so that they'll last longer and work more efficiently. Here is a checklist for some things you should regularly do to care for your appliances:
- If the ice in your freezer gets to be more than ?? inch thick then it's time to defrost
- The flame on a gas stove should always burn blue and not yellow. This means it's not working efficiently. Call a service professional.
- Clean the lint trap before using the dryer to prevent a fire hazard. Also, don't forget about regularly cleaning the vent where lint can also accumulate.
- Don't power larger appliance with an extension cord
- Grease and fat can not only build up around your stove but also in hidden areas like the vent. Be sure to clean these at least twice a year.
- Regularly clean the coils on your fridge. However, be careful when pulling the unit out that you don't run over the cord. Also, be on the lookout for leaking water.
- Unplug appliances when not in use
- Don't use the dryer, dishwasher or washing machine when you're away from home
- Watch out for exposed wires, broken seals or missing parts
Another health hazard in your home that might go unnoticed is extreme humidity levels. Not only can you experience dry irritated skin and allergies but your home's structural integrity could be compromised. Wood could begin to rot and crack and wallpaper could begin to peel. The suggested humidity range is between 30%-50%. The best way to figure out the humidity in your home is by using a hygrometer, which will tell you exactly what the level is. Here are some other things you can look out for.
Humidity levels that go above 50% can be especially dangerous when combined with high temperatures. This is because it disrupts the body's ability to cool itself, it can lead to heat stroke. Also, higher levels of moisture can also cause mold to develop and this is environment where dust mites can thrive. We'll discuss these problems in further detail later on in this article.
How can you reduce moisture?
The most effective way to control excessive moisture levels in your home is with a dehumidifier. These units come in various capacities depending on the size of your space. Look for models with a built-in humidistat so you can easily detect when your home is at the proper humidity range. Also, some dehumidifiers for home have the option for continuous drainage for even more convenience.
Other treatment options include:
- Fixing any pipe or roof leaks that might be allowing moisture to enter the home
- Homes that are insulated too much can actually cause moisture to build up. Open windows occasionally to allow for fresh air to enter your home.
During the winter months humidity can reach very low levels. Also, buildings that use excessive air conditioning can experience low levels. Alergybegone.com explains that when moisture levels are low it causes the body's mucous membranes to dry out. These include the nose and throat which are the body's first barrier of protection against infections. Without this protection our bodies become more susceptible to diseases like the cold and flu.
What are treatments for excessive moisture?
Like purchasing a dehumidifier is the best option for reducing moisture, purchasing a humidifier is the best way to increase moisture. They also come in several sizes so you can find one to suit your needs. Look for models with a filter to remove unhealthy particulates from the air you breathe. Also, an automatic shut-off safety feature will ensure the unit stops working if it runs out of water.
Other treatment options include:
- Don't excessively cool your home with an air conditioner. Turn the unit off when your space is cool because they only remove moisture from the air even more.
- Moisture can be added to the air by boiling water, running a hot shower, or placing a pot of water in a room.
Another thing that can creep up on you and go unnoticed is mold and mildew. This is a problem that can go hand in hand with high humidity and water damage. It can have some very negative effects on your health particularly for allergy and asthma sufferers causing symptoms to flare up.
Once mold forms it can start to multiply at a rapid rate and it can form anywhere. Watch out for it behind furniture, behind wallpaper and under cabinets.
How do you cure a mold problem?
First, you'll need to clean up the mold. In most cases you can remove the mold yourself by cleaning the affected area with bleach. However, if the area is more than 10 sq. ft. consult the EPA's Checklist for Mold Redemption or consider hiring a professional that has experience cleaning mold.
Next you need to tackle mold at its source which is excessive moisture. As mentioned earlier the best way to fight high humidity is with a dehumidifier. It is important that you don't run the dehumidifier or any other heating, ventilation or air conditioning system until the mold has been fully cleaned away. This is because these units can become contaminated and spread mold through the air.
Moisture also creates a breeding ground for certain pests. Termites and carpenter ants are a particular nuisance because they like to feed off wood. If left long enough they can damage your homes structure requiring you to make costly repairs.
Again, a dehumidifier is the best solution to take care of the moisture. Then you should call a trained professional to eliminate the existing pests and prevent any new ones from taking residence.
By keeping an eye out for these common household dangers you can prevent harm to you and your family's health and also avoid damage to your home. It would be wise to regularly inspect your home for signs of excessive water, mold, broken cords on appliances and also make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working properly. It may seem like a chore but it's definitely worth the few extra minutes to avoid problems that can be both dangerous and expensive if left untreated.