Vacation Homes and Vacant Real EstateBy Jason Earle Google+
Source: Habitat Quarterly
Nearly everyone can recall the distinctly musty odor of a vacation home left empty during the off season. Few people give it much thought, but that specific odor is a surefire indicator of indoor mold growth, an unpleasant and unhealthy thing to have happening in a place where you intend to kick back and relax for a few days, weeks, or perhaps months.
This is especially important if you or any of your fellow vacationers have asthma, allergies or sinus problems. While most people seem to think this simply comes with the territory, in reality it is completely avoidable.
The problem lies in the fact that the house gets closed up when not in use and in the interest of saving money on utility bills, the heat is turned down or the air conditioning is turned off. At first blush, this seems like a prudent thing to do. Why waste money heating or cooling an empty place?
Here’s why: One mold remediation project often costs way more than a year’s worth of utility bills, often more than several years. Plus, you’ll find the odor has infiltrated your upholstered furniture, rugs, carpets, drapes. It will all have to go.
This is the epitome of “penny wise and pound foolish.” When the heat is turned down too much over the winter, condensation forms on surfaces, allowing mold growth to occur, giving you that lovely musty odor we all know and love. And it doesn’t take long. When air conditioning is turned off during the summer, humidity builds up with the lack of ventilation, and before you know it you’ve got a pervasive mold problem. Sometimes it takes a few seasons. Sometimes it takes a few weeks. It depends on the region, climate and time of year. Regardless, it’s an expensive mistake and not worth finding out where your property falls in that matrix.
The same dynamic is also at work when a home is left vacant between tenants or if it’s been on the market a little bit too long. Carrying an empty property can be very costly and frustrating, but adding the expense of a mold remediation project isn’t going to help things. Also, if you’re trying to sell or rent a place, it’s much harder if it’s even slightly moldy or smells musty.
Mold control is about moisture control and moisture control has a lot to do with controlling the temperature indoors. The rule of thumb is to never turn the heat down below 65F and to never let it get above 80F. Set your thermostats accordingly. If you have a dehumidifier — and you should — that should be kept running too. See the accompanying article for tips on setting up that system.
And remember this too: Respond quickly to leaks and floods: as fast as you can. Mold growth can begin to develop within 24-48 hours of a water event, according to the EPA. Once the mold is there, it won’t go away on its own.
Enjoy your vacation.
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