Energy efficient homes are a relatively new concept. As early as 1995, Energy Star ratings have been in place for residential construction. Over time, standards for Energy Star certified homes have become stricter.
Even if your home does not have an Energy Star approval, it may still have some energy-saving features. Every little bit helps when it comes to saving money on energy costs.
Some things that may make your home energy efficient include:
- New, energy-saving appliances
- Insulation with a high R value
- Alternative energy sources like gas and solar
- Smart power strips that only convey energy to appliances that are in use
- Thermostats with timers
If you have any or all of these features in your home, you’re saving money and minimizing your carbon footprint at the same time.
But one thing they don’t always tell you about energy efficient homes is that they make mold harder to prevent.
Harder, not impossible. Energy efficiency is beneficial for so many reasons. The elevated risk of mold growth is just something you have to be aware of so you can watch more carefully for it and plan annual mold inspections to be cautious.
Pros & Cons of Energy Efficient Homes
There are great reasons to make your home more energy efficient.
- Money savings over time
- Reduces CO2 emissions
- Can be done over time
Nothing good comes without a price, though. Here are a few drawbacks of an energy efficient home.
- Higher upfront cost
- New information to learn (renewable energy sources, energy efficient appliances, old energy-wasting habits)
- Increased risk of mold growth
Energy Efficient Homes & Mold
Don’t let the negatives scare you away, though. We thoroughly believe the good outweighs the bad. As long as you know the early signs and causes of mold, you can still keep it at bay.
Let’s look at why mold is such a problem in homes with energy-saving features.
Better insulation in homes is great for controlling the temperature and saving energy, but it’s terrible for releasing excess humidity.
Moisture enters our homes naturally from the air outside when we open and close the door. It also comes from cooking, showering and washing dishes. When this air is trapped inside, it becomes one of the key ingredients needed for mold growth.
Similarly, better door and window seals make our homes airtight. That’s great if you want to keep all your heated or cooled air inside and insects outside.
The seals themselves aren’t a problem. They are actually doing their job perfectly. Homes built decades ago weren’t as airtight as homes built in the last 20 years or so, which made them naturally breathable, letting moisture, pollutants and allergens (like mold) in, but also allowing them to escape through poorly sealed windows and doors.
Designed to stay closed
Before the invention and popularity of residential air conditioning, opening the window was the best way to stay cool.
As we just covered with window and door seals, this helped homes maintain a moisture balance since air moved easily between outside and inside.
With our modern HVAC systems, we rarely open the windows anymore, choosing instead to rely on our heating system or air conditioner to maintain the precise temperature we find comfortable.
Preventing Mold in Your Energy Efficient Home
Preventing mold in an energy efficient home isn’t any different than in an older home. You just have to stay aware of the conditions inside your home and modify these conditions whenever they become too favorable for mold growth.
Here are a few ways to prevent mold in your energy efficient home:
- Monitor moisture – Check air levels with a hygrometer. You can purchase a reliable device for less than $10, and it will tell you what the indoor humidity is in your home in real time.
You should have air ducts checked for excess moisture, dirt and debris. Change your air filters regularly also. The ventilation system of your energy efficient home is the only way your home has to stabilize humidity levels on its own, so it needs to be in the best possible condition.
- Reduce moisture when it gets too high – Normal humidity for a home is between 30 and 60%. If your hygrometer shows readings higher than 60% consistently, run your kitchen and bathroom ventilation fans to help remove some of it.
Get in the habit of drying excess moisture instead of leaving it to evaporate. This keeps humidity low and prevents your ventilation system from being overworked. Squeegee the shower or tub and wipe down bathroom mirrors every time you bathe to reduce moisture.
- Run a dehumidifier – Some areas are more prone to humidity than others. This can include the kitchen, bathroom, and basement. For these rooms, the best thing to do is install a dehumidifier.
There are brands and sizes in every price range. Smaller dehumidifiers can be moved from room to room as needed. Larger homes may need multiple dehumidifiers to keep humidity levels low enough.
- Open the windows – On sunny, low humidity days, opening your windows is a great way to restore normal humidity levels.
Because our homes don’t allow moisture back out again without a little help, opening the windows can really help. The best thing about this strategy is that it is free and requires no extra energy.
Making your home more energy efficient is a realistic dream that benefits you and the environment. Don’t let the increased mold risk prevent you from transitioning your existing home to energy-saving appliances or investing a little extra into a new construction to start out with an energy efficient home.
Just be aware that with all the modern technology in this field, there is also a somewhat higher risk of mold, then keep your eyes wide open for signs or consider an annual mold inspection from Pure Maintenance of St. Louis.
Mold removal is tricky, because it is very easy for mold to spread to other areas of the home while it is being removed from its original spot. If you see or suspect mold, have a us inspect your home and remove any mold we find.