The dog days of summer, especially in the eastern US, usually mean hot, humid weather and a lot of air conditioning. Throw in a few heavy afternoon thundershowers, and you have the basic ingredients for summer mold growth.
What Causes Mold Growth in Summer Months?
Schools aren’t the only type of facility that see summer mold growth. Any unused area of a building can be at risk. Empty hotel rooms, banquet halls, meeting rooms, and vacant property are all typically left with no or little environmental controls, and it can take as few as three or four weeks of humid conditions to begin mold growth.
Air conditioning doesn’t only provide human comfort in the heat of summer. Air temperature is an important factor in controlling mold growth, primarily with respect to humidity control. Often facility managers and homeowners turn off A/C if all or part of the building is unused. In some cases, different combinations of exhaust fans left on, or fans off and chiller on, can make the problems worse, by drawing in humid air or causing condensation.
Unused spaces often have little ventilation. The simple lack of activity in and out of the space makes stagnant environment, and the lack of air movement hinders moisture evaporation.
Other conditions can also affect interior humidity. Northern exposures tend to have higher humidity, as do closed storage areas. Facilities that house a lot of paper materials – like libraries – will have higher humidity because the paper retains moisture. That’s why business records storage facilities place such a high premium on environmental controls: They have warehouses full of paper boxes of paper.
High summer humidity also bring fast and furious summer storms. Driving rain and heavy winds can not only cause damage that creates leaks, but they can force water into the smallest of crevices. Either can leave standing water where mold can form.
How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Summer
- Control the interior temperature and humidity
Although shutting off the A/C has clear energy conservation and budgetary benefits, damage from excessive heat and humidity can be costly. Ideally, thermostats should be set at 75-80 degrees, per ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers). Setting the temperature much lower can create areas of condensation allowing moisture to gather in the absence of ventilation. Setting it higher, on the other hand, makes it too warm to dehumidify the air properly. Running dehumidifiers periodically will help, and many can be set on a scheduler.
- Check for potential exterior water sources
Make sure gutters and downspouts are intact and properly directed away from the building, and look for any cracks in foundations or loose flashing or roofing materials.
- Arrange to Have the Property Checked Periodically
Several times over the summer, and after strong storms, arrange to have someone in to look for obvious signs of trouble: property damage, musty odor, standing water or visible mold. The earlier mold can be remediated the easier the job is.
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