Indoor air quality, or IAQ, matters regardless of how old your home is. When your IAQ is good, you’re breathing clean indoor air. When it’s bad, you breathe in particulates that make you sick. Also, dirty air is harder for your HVAC system to deal with. Older houses, despite their charm and character, often have more IAQ issues than newer ones do, but that shouldn’t prevent you from buying one.
Don’t fret if you own an older house in Savannah, Georgia, though! These IAQ problems all have solutions, and when you’re knowledgeable about what to look for and who to call, you can find the right professionals to tackle your issues. If your old house has IAQ issues, professional help will have your air cleaned up in no time.
During the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, asbestos was a popular insulation material. Older homes or homes that had insulation put in during this era often have asbestos as part of the construction. Your pipes might be insulated with asbestos, and if your siding is old, it might have asbestos in it, too. Old vinyl floors also contain this hazardous material and must be handled with caution. When asbestos is in bad condition, small particles enter your home’s air. Breathing them in is serious. Asbestos causes terrible illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestosis.
You don’t have to worry if your home is in good condition. If the parts of your home containing asbestos aren’t deteriorating or damaged, the asbestos won’t pose much of a problem. You should call in a professional so you know exactly what parts of your home have asbestos and can be sure it’s in good condition. That way, you know which areas you need to watch so you can take action before anything starts breaking down.
Old plumbing is more prone to leaks than new plumbing, and that’s doubly true if you haven’t had a plumber out to the house in a while. Plumbing is one of those things you should get checked periodically, even if you’re not experiencing any issues. Leaks might happen where you can’t see them, and they may not leave any marks or stains on the walls.
How does a plumbing leak affect your IAQ? Mold. Georgia has high humidity, which means Georgia homeowners need to be extra vigilant about moisture in their homes. Plumbing leaks cause moisture and humidity in parts of the house you can’t see. These leaks rot wood they’re exposed to, damage your drywall, and cause moisture in your insulation. Mold loves high humidity areas, and you could end up with an infestation of spores before you know it.
No Vent Fans
Plumbing leaks aren’t the only way moisture gets inside your Savannah home. Even with flawless plumbing, you might end up with moisture problems. Old homes rarely have vents or fans installed in the kitchen or the bathroom, the two rooms that experience the most humidity. Unless you bought your house from someone who invested in these upgrades, you’re probably dealing with lots of shower- and cooking-humidity periodically during your week.
Though this humidity seems to dissipate quickly, you don’t want it in your house, either. It raises the overall humidity level in your home; if you’re already hovering at 50 percent humidity (the upper level of the ideal for an interior) your kitchen and bathroom will experience humidity levels high enough to encourage mold growth. Shower with the door cracked or with a window partway open. Similarly, open your kitchen windows when using the stove. Invest in fans to push the air through the open windows. When you have the budget, have a contractor install vents with fans.
Most people know that lead paint is hazardous to your health since lead is a toxic substance. When lead paint is in good condition and isn’t chipping or flaking, you can leave it alone. If you own an old house, you might not realize layers of lead paint are beneath wallpaper or newer coats of paint, which causes problems when you want to do home improvement projects.
If you’re considering doing any major renovating, definitely have someone come test your home for lead. Even if you’re not, it’s worth your peace of mind to know one way or the other. That way you can take precautions if you notice any paint starting to chip. Once the lead dust gets in the air, it can cause a long list of health problems for you and your family. Thankfully, professionals can remove lead paint from certain parts of your house, like windows or doors. You can block lead paint on the walls with special encapsulation products that go on over it.
Radon naturally occurs in the soil. It’s an odorless, colorless gas. When the soil releases radon into the air, it doesn’t pose a threat to humans because it isn’t concentrated in high enough volumes to be dangerous. When you build a house, you block radon’s escape, but you also block enough radon to create pockets that can seep into a home.
Radon causes lung cancer, and you need a special kit to detect it. If your house was built before 1970, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have radon building up under your foundation, but it could be a danger. Radon isn’t as common in Georgia as it is in northerly locations like the Appalachian Mountains, but it’s worth testing for. Luckily, you can take care of radon buildup in old houses with ventilation techniques and some professional help.
No Insulation in Attics and Crawl Spaces
An uninsulated attic or crawl space isn’t as serious an IAQ issue as lead paint or radon. Poorly insulated spaces in your home cause air leaks in your house’s envelope. When this happens, your HVAC system has to work a lot harder to mitigate the temperature in your home. Your HVAC system also has a harder time controlling humidity.
Any disruption in your building envelope is an opportunity for allergens and particulates to get inside. Thankfully, spray foam insulation is an easy solution for parts of your home that don’t have any. To address pollen and other particulates that make it inside, consider an air purifier. Carrier’s air purifiers are capable of removing almost all particulates from the air, including bacteria and even some viruses.
Technically, an old furnace isn’t an old-house problem. If your home is more than 15 years old (which is still considered new by a house’s standards) you can have an old furnace problem since they only last for about 15 years before they need to be replaced. If you have a furnace that runs on oil or natural gas, your furnace might start emitting carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a serious IAQ issue; in small doses, it causes headaches, dizziness, and other problems. In large doses, it can be fatal.
To fix an old furnace, call one of our technicians. We’ll come take a look and let you know if we can repair it, or if it’s in your best interest to replace it. We will test for carbon monoxide, so you don’t have to worry about your indoor air quality. Finally, if it is time to replace your furnace, we can walk you through the process of picking the model best for your home. You may not run it often, but when you do, you want it to give you clean, warm air.
Old houses are often beautiful constructions with lots of charm and idiosyncrasies you can’t find in newer models. Especially in Savannah, you’ll find gorgeous homes from more than 50 years ago with lots of curb appeal and darling interiors. The IAQ issues that are likely in old homes shouldn’t prevent you from investing in one.
If you’re worried about any of the HVAC air quality issues mentioned, like humidity levels or your furnace, Byrd Heating and Air Conditioning has HVAC contractors and technicians ready to check your IAQ. We’ll recommend further steps for you to take, including repairs and system upgrades. Call us today at 912-373-8447.
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