Is Your Home Making You Sick?

How to Be Sure Sheltering at Home is Safe

Tip: Use the Check-List to See if Your Home Could be Making you Sick!

It is one of the many ironies of coping with COVID: many local residents found that being quarantined at home – while it may have kept them from being exposed to the virus – may be contributing to conditions that can make them even MORE susceptible to the disease!

We’ll explain why that is in a minute, but first, let’s examine the bigger picture. Loudouners work hard, meaning they spend many long hours at the office or on the road, and correspondingly fewer hours at home. Pre-COVID, you might have left for work and turned the thermostat up or down depending on the weather to “save on energy.” If a room was drafty, you’d put on a sweater. If the upstairs was too warm in the summer, your answer to the kids’ complaints might have been, “Play outside!”

Now that you’re quarantined, you may be converting the attic, that upstairs bedroom or even the basement into office space or school-based distance learning areas, whether those spaces feel too hot, too cold or a bit damp or smell musty. Any of these signals could be symptoms of much bigger problems that could have dramatic consequences for your family’s health – particularly when you’re trying to shield them from a disease that attacks their respiratory system!

Like many of the area’s home service contractors, Comfenergy and 3 Pros Basement Systems, have been slammed with requests for home inspections and estimates for projects that have languished too long on the “to do” list. While painting the den or adding a deck might make staying at home more appealing, nothing can have a greater impact on your family’s health than your home's air quality.

Manager Ashley Walther says, “The conditions that make your home sick are typically excess humidity and uncontrolled air flow.” Excess humidity causes mold and the growth of mold spores. More activity in the home, or just air moving from the moldy area to the living area of your home can spread the spores and cause severe allergic reactions and respiratory irritation. “Depending on the type of mold that is present,” Ashley adds, “this can be really severe.” Black, toxic mold can even be deadly.

Humidity also can cause dust mite populations to explode because they thrive in hot, humid conditions. And – if this doesn’t cause you to pick up the phone, nothing will – it is mite excrement floating around and recirculating in the air that causes the most intense respiratory inflammation. “Mite poop isn't a glamorous diagnosis, but even the most expensive homes can suffer from this condition,” Ashley asserts.

Finally, humidity contributes to a musty odor in your home. Even if your home feels comfortable, a musty odor from a closet or basement likely is caused by the decay of organic material that is being dislodged by air currents that circulate the odor to other parts of your home. “That’s a strong sign that your home might be making you sick,” Ashley says.

A musty smell is "a strong sign that your home might be making you sick."

Other symptoms of underlying problems are complaints that your upper floors are too hot, meaning there could be an issue with mildew in the attic insulation, or that your floors are cold, which could be caused by dampness or your air conditioning trying to overcompensate for other areas. The company has coined the term “home science” or “building science” to help explain the tests it runs to diagnose a home’s problems, but a lot of it just involves getting into the problem areas and seeing what is going on.

"Our consultants are trained to know what to look for, and don’t hesitate to crawl into the “messy” parts of a house in search of mold growth, air venting to the outside, pest infestation or moisture where it shouldn’t be", Ashley explains. 

An initial home inspection and estimate for fixing the underlying problem is free. They take into account everything that is going on, all the moving pieces, and put together a personalized solution for that homeowner.

As for the company’s credentials, founder Justin Dobson – who started the company in a 2-car garage with partner John LeVan in 2013 – can claim among many local laurels to be the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce’s only recipient of two top small business awards from two different companies. (The prior winner was the family owned business, R.A. Dobson.) It has experienced 150 percent year-over-year growth since 2017, was 2019’s chamber small business of the year and this year made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies in the United States.

Indications Your Home Could be Making You Sick:

  • Drafty or Dusty Rooms
  • Heating / Cooling Systems Run Continuously
  • Rooms too Hot or Too Cold
  • Asthma or Allergies
  • Odd or Musty Smells
  • Cold Basement
  • Peeling or Blistered Paint
  • Dirty Registers
  • High Energy Bills
  • Insects 

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