Thursday, March 12, 2015

Biggest current problem - Mold


I'm learning that despite living in a very dry climate, due to our extreme cold, there tends to be a lot of condensation that occurs. Especially when you live in a very well insulated house with very little square footage therefore little air movement. And when water condenses onto wood consistently, keeping it always a little damp, you very quickly get mold.

 I've now developed mold around almost all my windows. Even in this little place, I have 15 separate windows so there is a lot of space for this to occur. And on the thinner panel in the door. And along the baseboards in places where any item of furniture blocks the totally open flow of air.

The moisture come mostly from cooking in my case. With the propane heat and human breath probably being the next two largest producers.

I've now bleached all the mold spots to kill it, but between the moisture and the mold, there are already permanent stains as you can see in the photo below. Right now it seems to be staying under control since I've been trying to go around and wipe up condensation twice a day. As well as moving my small fan around the house to keep air moving in all the damp spots. And with the weather being unseasonably warm, I've also been keeping a lot of the windows open at least a crack to keep more air moving.

 All this helps. But I think the issue won't really go away until it's warm enough to keep the whole house wide open most of the time and not have condensation occurring. And I suspect the issue will return with winter. So I believe this will be a long term ongoing issue.

 I would certainly use composite window frames not wood if I had the design to do over again. It seems that having less windows but a few larger ones, without the little pane dividers would also help reduce the amount of edges where condensation could form. I'd also skip the thinner decretive panel in the door. The thicker parts do not form condensation. The metal hinges in the door conduct the cold well, forming condensation continually and dripping a steady stream of rust as you can see in the last photo. I don't know enough about building to know what could be done about that, other than maybe using a stainless steel hinge if such a thing even exists. I guess we'll see if I figure out a better way to stop/deal with this all this as time goes on.





18 comments:

  1. Try brass hinges! It's a pretty simple fix, although the geometry of your door might make it a bit tight. Here's a post on it:

    http://www.askthebuilder.com/door-hinges/

    Love the blog! Would love to see a post on your propane use. How much do you go through? How many tanks do you have? How often do you have to refill? How do you refill?

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    1. Thanks for the info.

      I'll do a whole write up about propane at some point. Basically right now I have 1 - 25 pound tank that I keep full and just have as a backup in case I do something stupid like run out in the middle of a cold weekend. Then I have 2- 30 pound tanks and 1 - 100 pound one. And those run my heaters, water heater, and stove/oven. I fill them by putting them in my van and driving into town and having them filled at the propane station. The only one that is a little tough it the 100 pound tank. Full it weighs about 170, so it gets a little unwieldy.

      I fill them more or less often depending on the weather and how cold it is, but this winter I've averaged about $100 a month in propane use. At the peak that's about one 30 pound tank a week. As it's warmed up, that's dropping.

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  2. I had customers that swore by "No Damp" dehumidifiers. They are a desiccant that absorbs moisture, boaters seem to like it, tho I have never used it myself.

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    1. Interesting. I might look this up. Thank you.

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  3. Thanks for sharing and being so honest about this issue! (Not pretending life in a tiny house is perfect, just so no one will judge you...) I hope you figure something out and keep us updated :)

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  4. I saw a house that someone used a couple coats of Polyurethane to protect the wood in the areas so they wouldn't get mold.

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    1. How is the air ventilation arranged? Where are air intakes and air outlet(s)? Moisture and mold problems this early sounds like there is definitely problems with air flow.

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    2. (sorry, this was meant to be comment, not reply to comment)

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    3. I may end up using something to coat the wood and make it harder for mold to start growing. I've have a few suggestions along the lines of polyurethane or other barrier forming compounds.

      Air ventilation is a bit of an issue since my house is so well insulated and sealed. There are vents and fans in both the bathroom and above the stove in the kitchen. And I've been leaving a loft window open at least a little just to help vent more air. But I'm trying to lean how to balance the need for air movement with heat retention and power use. Just part of the complications with being off grid. ;)

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  5. Installing a heater that has an exterior air intake together with a vent pipe may do a good bit to take care of your problem. When propane burns a good amount of moisture is created and I suspect your non-vented heater is causing a significant condensation.

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    1. There is such a heater installed already, it just comes with the problems of requiring a good bit of electricity for the ignitor and fan to operate. And minimizing power use is always nice when you are off grid. But yes, you are correct, the non vented propane heater does seem to add moisture.

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  6. I saw a ventilator exhaust fan at Costco for $80 that is triggered by humidity. It was extremely quiet, my wife is is hard of hearing could not hear it with her hearing aids on. It is called Deta Breez Bath Ventilation Fan w/humidity sensor, energy star certified. I thought this might be something that would not run all the time but switch on if humidity climbs too high or you can control manually.

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    1. I didn't know fans like that existed. I may have to look into one. I wander how much power they use?

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  7. Here is a comment from my wife: Mold killer.....tea tree essential oil ...teaspoon of tea tree essential oil with 1 cup of water.in a spray bottle, spritz the affected area and let dry....don't wipe off.

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    1. Thanks, I like that one. I may try it if the mold come back. Right now after bleaching it, and then soaking in with borax, and keeping all the condensation wiped up regularly, it seems to be in check.

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  8. If you like to experiment, you could replace the fan in the bathroom with a DC fan like those used to cool a PC. These are cheap and readily available online from a number of sources. I'm assuming you're using a 12 volt battery system. By using a DC fan you run right off the batteries and don't have the problem of having to power the inverter. So, you could run the fan for hours, using very little electricity. If you do experiment with this system, remember to install a fuse in the wiring for safety's sake. I just discovered your blog, and appreciate what you're doing.
    Dave

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  9. Just thought of something else. With a 15 watt PV, you could easily run a small 12 volt DC fan directly off the solar panel. Obviously, it would only run during the day, but it would bypass the batteries entirely. I've used this type of system with a Sun Mar toilet. It worked fine (the fan; the toilet, not so much). Again, use an inline fuse for safety. The solar panel I used was one of three in a set purchased from Harbor Freight. Cheers! Dave

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  10. We have the same issue every single year and it is so difficult to deal with. Our house is a new build and we were told its quite airtight, so that's why the mold issue occurs. It can help to turn on bathroom or kitchen fans during the day in order to circulate air in from the outdoors. Also, we keep the windows dry.

    Rolando Glover @ Eco Pure Restoration

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