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Completing an Indoor Air Quality Assessment in Amish Homes

Completing an Indoor Air Quality Assessment in Amish Homes

May 25, 2023

The Amish community is well known for its traditional way of life; agricultural, simple, horse and buggy, no electricity. This distinctive lifestyle, and using unique construction techniques, can present significant challenges to maintaining optimal indoor air quality (IAQ).This discussion will describe some of the methods of approaching the completion of an indoor air quality assessment (IAQ) in an Amish home.  By understanding the causes of non-related microbial issues, elevated humidity in basements, symptoms of humidity issues on different floors, and attic ventilation methods in Amish roof systems, we can gain valuable insights into the causes of IAQ issues faced by the Amish community.

Non Microbial Issues

In addition to elevated humidity and resulting mold growth, other IAQ issues can be carbon monoxide, propane or natural gas leaks, due to non vented gas heaters.  Often, there are 8 to 10 people living in a home so carbon dioxide could be an issue identified.  Some Amish store their gas-powered equipment in the basements which can emit gasoline fumes. It is important that the IAQ consultant have the proper equipment to measure these gases.

Minimal Electricity Usage

The Amish community is well known for utilizing electricity in a minimal way. Some homes have solar power and some occasionally use generators.  Some churches in the community do not allow the use of electricity at all in their homes. This choice significantly influences the way moisture evacuates the home and creates microclimates form old growth. Without the aid of electrical appliances like HVAC units, air movers, dehumidifiers, and air purifiers, controlling moisture becomes a challenge.

Elevated Humidity: A Common Consequence

In an Amish home, the normal source of moisture starts in the basement by intrusion or human activity.  This moisture must work its way to the attic in order to evacuate the home.  The Amish lifestyle, which often does not include heating the basement, uses the basement for completing the laundry tasks, food storage in a pantry. Without the electrical based fixtures that facilitate the movement of air and removing moisture, the Amish community faces a higher risk of dealing with elevated moisture conditions.

Symptoms of Humidity Issues

Understanding how humidity causes mold growth is essential for identifying and addressing the causes of IAQ problems in Amish homes. In the basement, and first and second floors, a common symptom is mold growth observed on varnished surfaces, leather and books.  There could be sweating on windows during the winter, a musty odor, damp spots on walls or ceilings, peeling paint.  The location, pattern, and extent of mold growth tells a story of how that area is influenced by elevated moisture.

Ventilation Attitudes in Amish Roof Systems

The Amish community tries to minimize the heat loss from their home during the winter months.  As a result, they sometimes feel ventilation in an attic is an unnecessary loss of heat, thus, they sometimes do not use the typical ventilation guidelines that non-Amish home uses.  Proper attic ventilation plays a crucial role in ensuring moisture evacuates the home properly to avoid elevated humidity in the home.  By understanding proper attic ventilation, we can help improve the IAQ conditions of their home.

Completing IAQ site assessments on Amish homes poses a distinctive set of challenges due to their lifestyle, limited electrical usage, elevated humidity, and unique construction techniques. The key to completing a successful assessment is by remembering that water is the problem, and mold growth is the symptom. By acknowledging these factors and their impact on the indoor environment, we can develop effective strategies for maintaining optimal IAQ and preventing potential health risks.

Presenter Bio:
Mr. Bennett has been working in the indoor air quality industry for 22years and is the President/owner of Farsight Management.  He is a Certified Microbial Consultant, Certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor, and the current Chapter Director of the North-East Ohio IAQA Chapter.  He has taught classes on completing microbial assessments to home inspectors for InterNACHI and other professional groups. He has completed approximately 6,000 microbial assessments on residential and commercial properties that include about 700 Amish homes.

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