A closed-up vacation house can be a breeding ground for mold in the summer months. Moisture from a nearby lake or river, or the humidity in the air, can lead to that musty odor vacationers have come to expect upon arriving at their weekend getaway.
Mold is a particularly stealthy foe. It exists nearly everywhere in an inactive state, and all it needs to grow is a food source (drywall will do nicely), and a source of moisture, such as high humidity.
To get rid of the damp odor, most homeowners will turn on the air conditioner and maybe a dehumidifier and wait for the smell to go away. While much of the odor may dissipate in a few hours, the mold is still there. And, when they leave for a week, it’s back again when they return.
That smell is more than just unpleasant; it’s an indication that mold is actively growing, triggering allergies and affecting health. Left untreated, mold will continue to grow and spread and can damage walls, ceilings, carpeting, and more. Every time the house is closed up and the a/c is turned off, the moisture creeps back in and the mold begins growing again.
What can HVAC contractors do to help? First, it’s important to stress to customers that the key to preventing mold is to eliminate moisture. The first step is to address any leaks in roofing, chimneys, and foundations. Perhaps you can recommend someone who can do a thorough check and perform the repairs necessary to stop the leaks. If mold remediation is necessary, your customer should get bids from several companies that specialize in this, as it can be costly.
Reducing humidity through air conditioning is a key to controlling mold, but, of course, leaving the a/c on all summer long will run up utility bills. Fresh outside air is also critical, but vacation homeowners won’t want to leave windows open while they’re not using the property.
Some relatively new offerings in air conditioning systems can help manage mold problems. One example is a small-duct, high-velocity air handler, which has a unique cooling coil that removes 30 percent more humidity from the air than a traditional system. Eliminating moisture is critical in avoiding mold growth, so this feature is particularly important.
Another helpful technology is a continuously operating outdoor inverter unit that works so efficiently that homeowners can leave it on while they’re away without breaking the bank. It runs on various speeds — typically a very low speed — always striving for the most efficient operation by making small, incremental changes to keep a constant temperature. In a traditional system, every time the system cycles on it must ramp up to full operating power, requiring a tremendous amount of energy. You won’t have this issue with the inverter unit.
When cooling a summer home, the inverter technology is a great way for customers to keep air conditioning going when they’re gone, but at a lower cost.
Another great option is a ventilation system operated by a programmable control board. Based on the size of the home, the control board calculates how much fresh outside air to bring in at all times, opening and closing dampers as needed to maintain a healthy level of fresh air. Look for options that meet ASHRAE 62.2 standards for IAQ.
These newer technologies can go a long way toward reducing energy consumption while letting fresh air in and keeping mold problems at bay. More savings and less mold mean a healthier and happier vacation for everyone.
Publication date: 8/10/2015