By Jason Wall, an HVAC technician of over twenty years with Griffith Energy Services
Historic housing lacks the structural capacity and integrity to support the ductwork necessary without baring exposed equipment and damaging walls, and installing ductwork will expose you to practically every square inch of every kind of hazardous material the area. While it’s a dirty job, it doesn’t need to be a deadly one.
1. A is for Asbestos
- Although harmless while in-tact, insulation or under-sheeting containing asbestos is always a serious health risk. It can cause breathing issues and cause lung cancer up to decades after initial exposure. Handling asbestos should be left in the hands of licensed professionals.
- Carefully use protective respiratory equipment, a disposable pair of overalls, a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter, and a clearly labeled polythene bag for disposal.
- If you can avoid making contact with asbestos-containing insulation which remains intact, leaving it untouched can be a cost-effective option – though any sign of fraying in the future should be a red flag to the household.
2. Get the Lead Out
- Any source of wear on the paint can circulate breathable lead-contaminated dust and debris throughout the home via its HVAC system.
- Drilling vents can create plumes of lead-toxic dust. Even surfaces with fresh coats of unleaded paint present a risk.
- A vacuum cleaner with a particulate air filter can be your primary tool in removing the danger. An even safer bet is wet methods, like wet-sanding and wet-scraping.
- Repainting is inadvisable since it doesn’t remove the threat; for the most thorough decontamination, remove the paint entirely and repaint.
3. Handling Mold and Other Concerns
- Historic homes can also come with massive mold issues due to their lack of ventilation. Any mold spores should be entirely killed and removed prior to any HVAC installation takes place.
- Installing a system before removing mold will only spread problems. You’ll more likely than not disturb mold colonies while working, which can worsen the home’s mold issue.
- Most molds can be exterminated with a tenth bleach/water solution.
- Other concerns to keep in mind are radon contamination, structural instability, old faulty circuitry, and more.
But remember: if you’re unlicensed or feel inadequately trained to handle hazardous materials, do not attempt to do so. Always consult a professional home inspector if you suspect these or other underlying issues in your home before attempting any project.
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/snapsi42/2748131638/