Is testing for mold really necessary?

By Alan J. Heavens / The Philadelphia Inquirer

— Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, which offers consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

Joe Ponessa, who spent 25 years as a housing, indoor environment and health specialist at Rutgers Cooperative Extension, responded to a recent column about mold testing. He said much of what he knows about mold remediation comes from associating with some of the top mold people in the country.

Concerning testing, he said the sentiment is generally against it: “If you can see and/or smell mold, it’s there.”

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

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.” The world of cleanup firms ranges from highly qualified to not very, Ponessa said.

Here’s another sort of test that is definitely advisable: 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. Add more, if necessary.

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.

— Contact Alan J. Heavens at aheavensphillynews.com.