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How to decide whether you need mold testing

By Alan J. Heavens
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Much of what Joe Ponessa knows about dealing with mold in the home comes from associating with the country’s best-known remediation pros.

Ponessa also spent 25 years as a housing, indoor environment and health specialist at Rutgers Cooperative Extension. What he says about combating mold might help you: Concerning testing, the sentiment is generally against it. “If you can see and/or smell mold, it’s there,” he said.

Testing provides little practical information, although there are some occasions when it is justified: for lawsuit evidence, doctor’s request or validation of effectiveness of a large, expensive cleanup.

The most meaningful testing, air sampling, is expensive. “Generally, it’s better to spend the money on finding and fixing the source of the moisture problem,” Ponessa said.

On the other hand, if there is a big problem, “a testing company that is not involved in cleanup may be able to write up detailed specifications for cleanup, to be used as a bidding document when interviewing remediation contractors.”

Here’s another sort of test that is definitely advisable: an energy audit. Bobby DiFulgentiz, energy expert for Lennox Industries, offers four quick ways to make your house more efficient:

• Examine outside-facing walls, windows and doors to identify cracks or holes where air escapes. Seal leaks with caulk or weather-stripping.

• When a heating and cooling system’s air filter becomes clogged by dirt and other particles, the unit can’t produce enough airflow to function properly. Check and clean filters monthly to reduce operating costs and save energy.

• Check to see whether your home has at least five inches of insulation where needed.

• Evaluate your home’s lighting needs and determine any areas in which natural light is sufficient. Also, replace short-lived, incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs use less energy, last up to 10 times longer, and can save you $65 each year.

DiFulgentiz says this energy audit can take an hour of your time. The potential savings are worth it.

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