1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

September 18, 2008

:262 Clean and Dry

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:262 EcoTip: Before reconstruction after flooding can begin – it is critical that the indoor environment be clean and dry. If its not clean there can be organic material that results in odor problems or bacteria. If its not dry mold can develop and materials may degrade. You can’t tell if many types of construction materials are dry by touch – it is important to confirm they are dry using a moisture meter.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :256, :257, :258, :259, :260, :261,

This is the seventh in a series of EcoTips about protecting oneself when remodeling and working around buildings when participating in disaster recovery such as occurred with hurricane Katrina and is going on now with Ike. This information is timely since 2008 is the most active hurricane season since 2005 and many buildings are being damaged.

The following is from my book Extreme Weather Hits Home. I am discussing the reconstruction process in Key West Florida after hurricane Wilma in 2005:

Storm surge-damaged gypsum board and insulation can’t be saved, so in most of the buildings I looked at they had been removed shortly after the water damage occurred to allow air drying of the remaining wood framing or concrete block that is commonly used for construction on the island. In those buildings where it had not been removed, the gypsum board was falling apart, full of mold growth, and smelling horribly from the bacteria and dead sea life that hadn’t yet been removed and disinfected.

In the cases where the residents quickly removed and discarded the water-damaged gypsum wallboard, they simply left the wet wood framing in the homes exposed to allow natural air circulation for drying. What I found surprising was that even after three months of air drying the wood framing materials and furring strips had a wood moisture content greater than 30 percent. It became apparent that mechanical drying using dehumidifiers and air circulation would be necessary to get these buildings dry enough for reconstruction. Experience has shown that if the wood surface is exposed to air circulation it is rare for mold to grow even if the center of the wood still has elevated levels of moisture. Fortunately, leaving the walls open and not rushing reconstruction avoids the problem of mold growing.

One of the big problems I observed while in Key West were homes where the gypsum wallboard and insulation had been removed and replaced with new materials while the wood still had these elevated levels of moisture. These homes began to grow mold on the paper of the brand-new gypsum wallboard materials.

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August 22, 2008

:235 Fried Dust

Filed under: :235 Fried Dust — Tags: , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:05 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home’s indoor environment and the planet.

1:5:10:235 EcoTip: Fried dust is a term used to describe the burned chemical odor that occurs when dirty furnace systems are operated. The dust that lands on the heat exchanger inside the furnace will vaporize when it gets hot. This released volatile organic compounds that can be quite a noxious odor. An efficient furnace filter and a sealed duct system can help prevent dust from settling on the heat exchanger to eliminate this problem.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :042, :043, :110

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July 31, 2008

:213 Sacrificial Anode Type

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:213 EcoTip: The type of sacrificial anode you have in your hot water heater can help eliminate any rotten egg odor coming from your hot water. Unfortunately this generally means using an aluminum/zinc anode instead of the more typical magnesium anode. You should never drink water from your hot water heater. Instead heat your water on the stove or other method designed for drinking purposes.

 

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :212

For more information about rotten egg odors and your water heater take a look at the Water Heater Rescue website at:

 http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/WHRpages/English/Troubleshooting/stinky-water-in-hot-water-heaters.html

To learn almost everything there is to know about water heaters – I recommend Larry and Suzanne’s book “The Water Heater Workbook” published by Elemental Enterprises, PO Box 928, Monterey, CA, 93942, 408-394-7077

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July 29, 2008

:211 Muck-Vac

Filed under: :211 Muck-Vac — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:34 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:211 EcoTip: If there is too much sediment build-up and flushing doesn’t work, some plumbers have a system called the Muck-Vac which can be used to vacuum sludge from the tank. This helps remove the hiding places for the bacteria that can cause the rotten egg odor and helps eliminate the rumbling and popping noises.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203, :208, :209, :210

The Muck-Vac was developed by Larry and Suzanne Weingarten, of Elemental Enterprises in Seaside, California. The inside of the water heater is accessed by unscrewing the sacrificial anode from the top of the tank. (tomorrow’s EcoTip is about this anode)

The Muck-Vac`s sucks out the sludge through a filter which traps the sediment. The water is then pumped back into the tank.

To learn almost everything there is to know about water heater’s I recommend Larry and Suzanne’s book “The Water Heater Workbook” published by Elemental Enterprises, PO Box 928, Monterey, CA, 93942, 408-394-7077

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July 27, 2008

:209 Water Heater Sediment

Filed under: :209 Water Heater Sediment — Tags: , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 7:28 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:209 EcoTip: Sediment build-up in the bottom of hot water heaters can provide a place for bacteria to grow. Some types of bacteria that grow in hot water heaters make them smell like rotten eggs.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203, :208

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July 26, 2008

:208 Bacteria in Water Heater

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:208 EcoTip:If the rotten egg smell is coming from your hot water, it is likely your water heater is contaminated with bacteria that are producing the rotten egg – sulphur odor. This generally involves several considerations which with be covered in the 1:5:10:365 EcoTips for the next several days.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203

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July 23, 2008

:205 Drain Cleaning Bacteria

Filed under: :205 Drain Cleaning Bacteria — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 7:20 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:205 EcoTip: Odor problems in drains may be because of the build-up of grime with bacteria. In order to reduce bacteria levels it is necessary to eliminate the organic material that has built up. This is the same debris that eventually leads to clogs. A bacterial enzyme drain and trap cleaner is preferable to the use of caustic chemicals.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203, :204

Think of this a using “good” bacteria to fight “bad” bacteria. By treating your drains on a regular basis, the bacteria that cause odor problems and the grease and organic materials that cause clogs are broken down and flushed out of the pipes into the sewer system without the risks and harm from the chemical drain cleaners. Bacteria can also help keep septic tanks and lines clear so they don’t need to be pumped so often.

Roebic is one brand of bacteria based cleaners that is readily available. Their biological sewage treatment products are certified 100% biodegradable by Scientific Certification Systems, Inc. of Oakland, California. They have additional good information on drain and septic care at their website http://www.roebic.com/septicintro.htm.

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July 22, 2008

:204 Check the Trap

Filed under: :204 Check the Trap — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 5:47 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:204 EcoTip: All drain connections to the sanitary waste system must have a U trap (sometimes called a p-trap) that holds a few inches of water to prevent sewage gases from flowing back into the building. Sometimes the trap becomes dry allowing gases to back-flow creating a nasty odor. If you have odors coming from a drain, make sure it has a trap and try pouring a couple of cups of water down the drain. Tomorrow’s tip will deal with something else to try if this doesn’t work.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203 

Think about your daily water use. Sometimes an odor will develop in an infrequently used drain – like in an unused guest bath or a floor drain hidden under a washing machine. These will dry out and start to smell. In addition to being obnoxious – sewer gases aren’t healthy – So make sure the traps don’t dry out.

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July 21, 2008

:203 Rotten Egg Odor

Filed under: :203 Rotten Egg Odor — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 5:49 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:203 EcoTip: A rotten egg – sulpher like odor coming from the sink may be your sinks drain or your hot water heater. To test and figure out which it is – run some hot water into a glass. Step away from the sink and swirl the water then sniff it – kind of like checking the quality of wine. If the rotten egg smell is in the water then the problem is probably your hot water heater. If its not in the glass of water, it is probably your septic drain.

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 Additional Information:

Tomorrow I will begin discussing these problems cause and solution.

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May 29, 2008

:150 Formaldehyde

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:150 EcoTip: Formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical that has been shown to cause reactions at very low levels. It has a strong pungent odor and is frequently associated with “new smell”. One example of continuing problems is the recent FEMA fiasco where formaldehyde laced trailer homes were supplied to hurricane Katrina victims.

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Additional Information:

The following quote about formaldehyde was written by my co-author Dr. Erica Elliott for our book Prescriptions for a Healthy House: A Practical Guide for Architects, Builders and Homeowners The 3rd edition was released earlier this month.

Indoor formaldehyde is gaining recognition as a severe health hazard for occupants of homes and office buildings where chronic exposure occurs. Several organizations, such as the American Lung Association, have recommended that formaldehyde levels not exceed 0.1 part per million. People who have already become sensitized to formaldehyde will have reactions at levels as low as 0.02 part per million. Approximately 50 percent of the population is exposed on a daily basis in the workplace to levels that exceed the 0.1 part per million limit. Mobile homes are notorious for causing health problems because of the extremely high levels of formaldehyde emitted from the plywood and particleboard used in their construction.

Individuals who develop permanent health problems associated with formaldehyde exposure often relate the onset of their symptoms to a flu-like illness, which is diagnosed as a viral infection. However, the affected individual usually does not totally recover from this so-called flu and is left with general malaise, fatigue, and depression. Other symptoms can include rashes, eye irritation, frequent sore throats, hoarse voice, repeated sinus infections, nasal congestion, chronic cough, chest pains, palpitations, muscle spasms, joint pains, numbness and tingling of the extremities, colitis and other digestive disorders, severe headaches, dizziness, loss of memory, inability to recall words and names, and disorientation. Formaldehyde is an immune system sensitizer, which means that chronic exposure can lead to multiple allergies and sensitivities to substances that are entirely unrelated to formaldehyde.

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