Everyone’s heard about the effect mold and mildew can have on a home, or more importantly, a homeowner’s pocketbook. But, you say, how bad can it really be?

In 2002, insurers paid $2.5 billion in mold-related claims under homeowner policies, up $1.3 billion from the year before.

Moisture can damage carpets, wood flooring, furnishings, drywall and interior woodwork, causing mold, mildew and rot. Negative effects of excess moisture can cause a property to significantly decrease in value, not to mention that the presence of mold can make selling a home extremely difficult.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks poor indoor air quality among the top five environmental risks to public health. Excess home humidity promotes harmful household particles, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and mites – all of which are associated with asthma, allergies and other sinus problems.

“Today’s energy-efficient building practices call for tighter construction,” said Robin Pharo, channel manager for Aprilaire, manufacturer of indoor air quality products. “Unfortunately, tight building locks air and excess moisture into the home with nowhere to escape, having damaging effects on the homes and the people living in them.”

While some believe air conditioning units can help dehumidify a home, experts agree they cannot get the job done effectively or efficiently.

Most homes have been built to be so energy efficient that a typical air conditioning unit will cycle on and off too quickly to eliminate excess moisture in the air. As a result, homeowners resort to overcooling the living space while attempting to remove moisture, which leads to uncomfortable air temperatures, high energy bills and excess wear on the cooling system.

At the same time, during the spring and fall months when temperatures are much lower, most homeowners turn their air conditioners off despite high humidity levels.

To control the conditions that lead to moisture damage and mold growth, keep indoor humidity below 50 percent by installing a whole-house dehumidifier. The Aprilaire Model 1700 whole-home dehumidifier works in tandem with the HVAC system to remove up to 90 pints of moisture from the home’s environment each day without having to overcool the home.

To keep mold at bay, act quickly when spills or leaks occur. If wet or damp areas are dried within 48 hours after a leak, in most cases, mold will not grow.

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