Using Carbon Dioxide (CO2) As An Indicator Of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Issues

Evaluating The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Levels Inside a Home as a Clue For Mold

July 24, 2023

Introduction: CO2 Levels Inside A Home

Regal Home Inspections, LLC has always been as diligent as possible with regard to meeting and often exceeding the letter and spirit of the NJ Home Inspection Standards of Practice (The Law). We’ve received many compliments on the comprehensive nature of our inspections and quality of our reports. The Law states what must be done, what is excluded and leaves open to individual inspection companies to expand into ancillary services. As an example, both of the home inspection team at Regal Home Inspections is, of course, licensed in NJ to conduct the home inspection. They are also both certified by the NJ DEP as Radon Measurement Technicians. Frank is also licensed by the NJ DEP as a Pesticide Applicator which allows him to conduct termite inspections and prepare the industry recognized Termite Report (NPMA-33).  Brian is also licensed by various State entities to perform lead paint evaluations (Lead Safe inspections) and collect dust samples to check for lead paint dust.

As of this writing, New Jersey does not have any license requirements for mold testing, sewer scopes, oil tank sweeps, etc. and we opt to allow others address those. We will, however, evaluate the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels inside a home as a clue for mold. More on this below.

A conversation about, “Looking for mold” often takes place with prospective clients and we’re very consistent to say, “We don’t look for mold”.  Mold can be in dozens of places inside a home; Under carpets, inside walls, behind bathroom vanities, etc.  We feel that if you tell someone that, “Yes, we look for mold” then if you look in 100 places and don’t see any it’s possible that after the client moves in and changes the carpets and there’s mold under the padding for a carpet they may complain because you said, “Yes, we look for mold” (Which of course we do not).

Taking air samples for mold is one way of determining if high levels of mold exist inside a home but it’s costly. A special vacuum pump is used to collect air samples. Multiple air samples are taken then sent to a lab for evaluation. The lab’s evaluation includes identifying the types of mold spores collected and the amount. Some mold is expected. Elevated levels are not. Again, each air sample costs the consumer about $125.00 and usually, at least 3 are needed (One of which is a control sample taken outside the home being tested). There may be as many as 6 or more in many instances and the cost can easily approach $1000 just to, see if there’s mold.

Solution CO2 Levels Inside A Home

CO2 meter in calibration mode.
CO2 detector mounted on a tripod. Indoor measurement is 796ppm. Like many homes, the windows and doors have been kept closed for weeks while the AC has been running. Same room after the windows were opened measured CO2 @ 554ppm.“See” if there’s mold.

We have recently learned about another, less expensive way to predict if a home has mold. In researching the new methodology we learned that it has been in use with the US Department of Agriculture for years (Since about 2009).

For the home buyer, it’s predictive. If this new methodology provides normal results then the research indicates that there aren’t elevated levels of mold growth inside a home.  However, if the methodology has different results, that indicates that high levels of mold exist THEN, further evaluation is required by a mold specialist.

The predictive methodology is measuring the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the air inside a house, room, basement, etc.  Research that we’ve reviewed state that normal outside CO2 levels are about 400 parts per million (ppm). If the levels of CO2 spike, 3000 or more ppm, this is a red flag that there may be high levels of mold in the house. You see, according to a USDA researcher, ”monitoring CO2 levels might provide more accurate results to detect if mold is growing.  Monitoring mold by measuring CO2 : USDA ARS

The researcher says that,As mold grows it gives off carbon dioxide. Therefore, if there is a CO2 spike, there is likely an increase of mold activity.”

From Facts About Indoor Mold – RadGreen

“Seeing a spike in CO2 levels could show severe mold growth. Standard carbon dioxide runs about 400 parts per million (ppm), and if the sensor reads more than 10,000 ppm, that could mean severe mold activity, and then 2,000 to 3,000 ppm could mean some mold activity.”

“Indoor mold is the mold that causes problems. Mold growth can cause damage to buildings and furnishings. To reduce mold growth in an indoor space, controlling the humidity levels is very important. Keeping humidity levels between 30-60% can reduce the amount of moisture in the air to keep mold growth low.(2) Ventilating the space is another way to reduce mold growth in indoor spaces. Inspecting your indoor space is vital to ensure that the indoor environment stays healthy. Responding quickly to leaks and spills and cleaning them is essential to prevent growth in those areas.”

Regal Home Inspections, LLC, is undergoing the implementation of the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors during the course of our home inspections. Training for Indoor Air Quality was just completed. Just like the termite inspection, radon test or lead paint, it will be another ancillary service allowed by the home inspection Law.  During the course of a home inspection a CO2 detector will be used in different areas of the house. For example, we’ll check the CO2 levels in the basement, kitchen area and bedroom area. If the CO2 is in the 600ppm range then, as the reference material indicates, that’s a level that is expected inside. If it’s elevated from that and spikes to 2000ppm – 10,000ppm then the client will be advised to get a mold specialist for further testing. This service will be offered in conjunction with our standard home inspections at a reasonable price. It will also be offered as a standalone service.

“Seeing a spike in CO2 levels could show severe mold growth. Standard carbon dioxide runs about 400 parts per million (ppm) [outside], and if the sensor reads more than 10,000 ppm, that could mean severe mold activity, and then 2,000 to 3,000 ppm could mean some mold activity.”

“Indoor mold is the mold that causes problems. Mold growth can cause damage to buildings and furnishings. To reduce mold growth in an indoor space, controlling the humidity levels is very important. Keeping humidity levels between 30-60% (20% – 50% is a tighter range which is beneficial) can reduce the amount of moisture in the air to keep mold growth low.  Ventilating the space is another way to reduce mold growth in indoor spaces. Inspecting your indoor space is vital to ensure that the indoor environment stays healthy. Responding quickly to leaks and spills and cleaning them is essential to prevent growth in those areas.”

Regal Home Inspections, LLC, is undergoing the implementation of the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors during the course of our home inspections. Just like the termite inspection, radon test or lead paint, it will be another ancillary service allowed by the home inspection Law.  During the course of a home inspection the CO2 detector will be used in different areas of the house. For example, we’ll check the CO2 levels in the basement, kitchen area and bedroom area. If the CO2 is in the 500ppm to 600ppm range then, as the reference material indicates, that’s a level that is expected. If it’s elevated from that and spikes then the client will be advised to get a mold specialist for further testing. This service will be offered in conjunction with our standard home inspections at a reasonable price. It will also be offered as a standalone service.

 

Pricing:                                                       With a Home Inspection         Stand-alone

Radon                                                          $50 – $100                             Minimum $175

Termite                                                         $50 – $100                            Minimum $195

Lead Paint                                                     Varies*                                 Varies*

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)  Measurement         $150                                       $350+

 

*- Different municipalities have different requirements. Some allow a visual, “Lead Safe” inspection and others require swabs be taken in every area where children are likely to spend time; Bedrooms, playrooms, Living rooms, etc.

 

 

radon inspector colts neck nj

Radon Testing Monmouth County NJ

Radon Testing: It’s Someone Else’s Problem, Not Mine. Right?

Originally published in 2014.

Updated March 16, 2023

My name is Frank J. Delle Donne, and I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector.  I am the co-owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. My son and co-owner, Brian, works with me and he’s also a licensed home inspector, radon measurement technician and he’s licensed to test for lead paint. I was a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for over 26 years and was a member (Now retired) of the Colts Neck, NJ Board of Health and was Chairman of that Board for 2008 and 2009. During my studies to become a Home Inspector and earning my NJ Certification to be a Radon Measurement Technician I learned a great deal about Radon and felt compelled to share that information in a manner that is easy to understand and increases awareness.  Every home in New Jersey should be tested for Radon on a regular basis. The, “Action Level” where mitigation is required is 4.0pCi/L. That’s “Pico Curries per liter” of air which is the measurement of radioactivity. I’ve had many above 4.0. Some in the low double digits such as 10+, 20+, 30+ (None in the 40s) but 50+ and even a 317!

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been leading the effort to make citizens aware of radon and closer to home, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ-DEP) has been following suit.  Please read our earlier post for general information about radon.   This piece is intended to point out that a radon problem may be closer to home than you think.

Radon: The Basics

A few points that I’d like to repeat from the earlier article is that radon is everywhere and it is naturally occurring.  It is a radioactive gas which means that it transforms spontaneously and in that transformation it releases tiny bursts of energy.  When radon is inhaled in your home (living levels, bedrooms or basement) it is these tiny bursts of energy, occurring inside your lungs, that cause harm.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas.  Radon IS NOT flammable, toxic or noxious.  It is, however, radioactive and it occurs naturally.  This article will look at the radon potential, as identified by the NJ-DEP, in various parts of the Garden State.   As you can see from the map, NJ is divided into 3 classifications of radon potential; Low (Blue), Moderate (Green) and High (Red).  Let’s look closer.certified home inspector monmouth county nj

What Areas of NJ are of Concern and What Types of structures?

New Jersey Administrative Code N.J.A.C. 5:23-10 (2013), among other things, specifies the construction codes, as they relate to radon mitigation in “E” and “R” Use Groups.  “E” stands for educational and “R” is for some Residential.  The International Building Code (New Jersey Edition) identifies educational as a building that houses 6 or more people for educational purposes through grade 12.  Section 305.1 identifies K-12 and Section 305.2 refers to younger facilities (Pre-K and day care) that may have five or more children 2&1/2 years of age or older.  The same source identifies five different residential types, R-1 through R-5.  These include basically any and all residence structures from single family homes to apartments, dormitories, convents and more. Frank and Brian are both certified to conduct radon measurements in Single Family Homes. Currently, Frank is also certified to conduct radon measurements in schools and large, non-residential homes such as commercial buildings of all sizes.

N.J.A.C. also identifies two other very important aspects (among many other good things).  First, Sub Section 5:23-10.4 states the specific construction techniques that must be followed for E and R construction in Tier 1 areas.  Tier 1 are the High Radon Potential areas shown in red in the previous map.  Before I go to that discussion, let’s finish the discussion on the construction.  Among other important elements, for example, the N.J.A.C. states that, “Basement slabs with interior foundation pipe drains installed shall have a solid, three-inch minimum diameter vent pipe installed in conjunction with this drainage system and be connected to an independent vent stack pipe terminating at an approved location on the exterior of the building.”

This accommodation is to allow for the future installation of a vent fan in order to actively draw air from below the basement slab and out of the house before the sub slab gasses have a chance to seep into the house. These are referred to sub-soil depressurization systems.

Therefore, new construction in these Tier 1 areas should have the basics for a radon mitigation system installed right from the start. So then, where are these Tier 1 areas?

NJ Counties and Towns that are Deemed to be Tier 1

As you can see from the map above the Tier 1 areas are nearly in every part of the state. From northern Sussex County to southern Cumberland County, high radon readings are possible in many areas. One thing you might notice is the sandy soils of the areas along the shore and the Pine Barrens are the lowest areas. As written about in other articles, these sandy soil areas don’t have a lot of the bedrock with uranium as some of the other areas. Northern Jersey has granite and shale that are ripe for the presence of Uranium 238 which is at the beginning of the radioactive decay process that results in Radon-222. The N.J.A.C. specifically mentions counties and towns that are Tier 1 areas so if you can’t quite figure out if you live in a red area or a green one, this list should help.

If you live in one of these areas, you live in an area of High Radon Potential. You should get your home checked regularly. Even if you have a radon mitigation system it wouldn’t hurt to check annually. If you do not have a radon mitigation system, you should check quarterly for a period of time. Radon levels can change season to season and month to month. It would be a good idea to have a baseline of seasonal levels. If you have young children and you haven’t checked your home for radon it is something that you should do immediately. When you are dealing with the health of you and your family, the cost to install a mitigation system is reasonable. It’s a lot less costly compared to dealing with the illnesses that can occur from extended and continued exposure to radon.

Testing is easy and relatively inexpensive considering the health hazard that radon is.  

Conclusion | Radon Inspector Colts Neck NJ

Radon is a serious health issue, but it can be minimized. You need to test now and then every 6 months.  Likely, it cannot be 100% eliminated but mitigation can usually get the radon levels very low.  It’s naturally occurring and exists in nature. It’s not man-made nor can we stop it from existing.  We can, however, minimize its pathways into our homes and help ensure a healthy and safe environment.  It is better to know than to hope.

Please call today to schedule your radon test for your family.  Regal Home Inspections, LLC does not mitigate so we are not motivated to find elevated readings so we can clean them up.  We inspect homes and we are both, Frank & Brian, licensed as a Radon Measurement Technicians – MET13186 & MET14070 respectively.

Other Monmouth County NJ Certified Home Inspector Services

Regal Home Inspections, LLC offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call Frank @ 908-902-2590 or Brian @ 732-740-8365 for your free quote or if you have any questions!