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Mold in HVAC System? Warning Signs

 

We here at Branch Services know that it can be easy to forget about your home’s HVAC system. Many people don’t even consider looking at their air ducts until there is a problem. As is the case with most things in life, if you wait for it to break it will end up costing you much more in the long run. Preventative air duct maintenance can not only keep your system running efficiently, without interruption, but it can also make the air you breathe cleaner too! Air duct cleaning and maintenance can help remove bacteria, pet dander, and even pathogens like black mold that can cause life-threatening infections to people with weaker immune systems—according to the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. It is recommended that they are checked at least once a year. If a professional service hasn’t checked your air duct system recently, now is the time. Hopefully, your air isn’t already contaminated and there is no mold in your HVAC system but if it is we recommend calling as soon as possible!

Warning Signs Your HVAC System and Ducts Need a Cleaning

Inexplicable spikes in your energy bill

If you begin to find that your bills are rising without a clear explanation, then you may need maintenance. Clogs or leaks in the duct system can reduce the system’s efficiency dramatically, costing you money.

Respiratory problems

Allergies, sinus infections, asthma, or other respiratory problems may be the result of dirt and debris caught in your ductwork.

Signs of an infestation: rodent, insect, or bird

Detecting an infestation in your ductwork can be difficult. Without the use of cameras or technology that can span the entirety of your ductwork, you can’t be sure.  While not scientific, without the use of a professional service you need to rely on your senses. Unusual smells or hearing something within the ducts are your clues. If you are unsure if you have an infestation in your ductwork we recommend you call us immediately.

Visible mold in HVAC system

This is, clearly, the most obvious sign of mold growth within your home. While again, you would be unable to check the entirety of your system, you can check near the vents for a black growth. If you do see unwelcome mold growth please call us immediately. The CDC reports that recent studies suggest a potential link between early mold exposure and asthma in children.

If you haven’t had your ducts or HVAC system checked in over a year, or if you believe your home may be contaminated, call Branch Services at 631.467.6600. We are open 24 hours a day and will do our best to resolve your HVAC issue before the cold weather gets here!

Mold Remediation at Home

Mold remediation is the best way to remove mold that already exists.

Keeping the water and humidity out of your home is the best way to avoid mold growth.

As many of you already know, mold thrives in environments with water in the air. Mold is able to grow on any surface or substance as long as there is moisture. With the humidity continuing to exceed 60% outside on Long Island, there is a chance your home is providing fertile ground for mold growth! If you smell a musty odor in your home or if you already see mold it might be time to call in a professional at Branch Services, but if you are confident your home is mold-free we have some mold remediation recommendations to help you keep it that way.

Home Mold Remediation Techniques

Open Your Windows

Keeping your windows open when possible will greatly increase the air circulation within the room or house. As we mentioned, the humidity has been pretty crazy lately but when there isn’t a storm looming be sure to open your windows. We also recommend ensuring your clothes dryer’s exhaust is taking the moisture out of the house.

Ventilation Fans

The steam that comes from your stove, grill, oven, and even your shower, can all greatly increase the moisture within a room. Be sure to turn on your ventilation fans to ensure the water particles in the air aren’t sticking to your walls or ceiling!

Dehumidifier

We know this one is pretty self-explanatory but we wanted to mention it. Many dehumidifiers excel at trapping mold spores within their filters; there are some that can even kill the mold after it has been filtered. All humidifiers were not created equal, so we recommend doing your research when picking a dehumidifier.

Cleaning

We know that few people want to spend their precious free time cleaning, but it is a great countermeasure against the spread of mold. The walls in your bathroom and kitchen are especially vulnerable to mold formation; as such we do recommend cleaning them often. Vacuuming can also help to reduce the small airborne particles that you would otherwise be breathing.

Making your home inhospitable to mold growth is your best course of action. If you believe you smell, see, or even sense the presence of mold in your home, give us a call! We are home mold remediation specialists ready to make your home mold-free. Call our office at 631.467.6600 or visit our website branchservicesinc.com for the assistance and answers you need!

Don’t Panic about Flood Damage Cleanup! What To Do When Water Damage Hits.

Flood Damage Cleanup is not fun!

Flood damage cleanup can be difficult. We recommend calling a professional!

With hurricanes like Katrina and Florence, much of the damage you hear about isn’t from the wind; it’s the water damage. While hurricanes aren’t always the cause, water damage emergencies happen all the time—be it from more common rain events, burst pipes, or even snowstorms.

Ensuring that you have current flood insurance if you are in a flood-prone region is a crucial pre-emptive step you can take to help pay for damages should they occur. Another step you can take in advance is to make sure that you have a properly working sump pump. These pumps will help remove water from your basement before it has the chance to rise and enter your home, keeping the flood damage cleanup requirements to a minimum.

Even if you’ve done everything possible in advance, floods still happen. When a flood hits, there are some important things to keep in mind, which will help you through anything from a flooded basement to a whole house full of water.

The most important thing to remember in a flooding event is that a fast response is vital.

The more quickly you can respond to a flood in your home or business, the more likely you are to mitigate some of the damage and lower the overall costs. Certain items—such as carpets, flooring, and upholstered furniture—must be replaced for a proper water damage cleanup. A professional water damage restoration and mold remediation company, such as Branch Services, will have experience dealing with insurance claims and will be able to deal with your insurance company for you to get reimbursement for items that cannot be cleaned.

While dealing with small amounts of water damage, such as the kind that comes from a leaky pipe or a temporary water incident (think broken fish tanks!), may seem like a DIY job. A property owner’s best course of action would be to contact a professional to be sure. What people may not realize when dealing with water damage is that just cleaning up the puddle you can see is likely not enough. Flood waters have a nasty habit of finding their way into nooks and crannies, behind molding, under wall coverings, behind fixed cabinetry, and more. All of these places are perfect environments for mold growth. Professionals will not only bring in industrial dehumidifiers but also air movers and ozone generators to prevent mold from taking hold of an area.

Remember, mold is nothing to mess around with, and you’re better safe than sorry. If a water damage event occurs, call a pro quickly; 9 out of 10 times you’ll be glad you did! Flood damage cleanup can be a difficult process for an individual. Call Branch Services at (631)467-6600 for a professional flood damage cleanup!

If Lightning Strikes, Fight Back with Branch Services

 

Watch out!

Lightning, while beautiful, can do significant damage to your home.

Lightning can be beautiful to watch, from a distance. There is a long list of problems that can come with lightning, however. First, the loud boom after lightning can scare your pets, making them difficult to find. Be sure to keep an eye on your pets to make sure they aren’t frightened or running. There is also the danger of your home being struck by a lightning bolt. Atmospheric electricity can seriously damage your home; it could also cause a fire as a result of the surge of electricity. To help you prevent a lightning fire on Long Island, Branch Services wants to give you some quick advice on the dangers of lightning strikes and how to prevent lightning strikes in the future.

What Happens When a Lightning Bolt Strikes a House?

Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground, or within the clouds themselves. During a storm colliding particles increase the imbalance between storm clouds and the ground, causing lightning to strike the ground in an attempt to negate the imbalance.  Searching for the shortest distance to the ground, large trees and houses are especially vulnerable to lightning strikes. When lightning strikes a house it can go through electrical lines, water pipes, phone lines, or anything that can conduct massive amounts of electricity. There are three main dangers you should be prepared for if lightning strikes your home.

Three Main Dangers:

  • -A house fire
  • -Shockwave damage
  • -Power surge damage

How Can You Prevent a House Fire?

One of the most complete ways to prevent a lightning fire is to invest in a protection system to be installed by a professional. Electrical rods can direct the surge of power to the ground and away from your property. You should also be sure to unplug all electrical devices to avoid having surges damage your gadgets and gizmos.

Lightning striking your home can be dangerous. There are precautions that can be taken to minimize, or even remove, the chance of significant storm damage. Remember to turn off your water if the storm is to be significant and unplug your TVs and computers! Branch Services is here to help if you have suffered lightning damage or would like an assessment to see how prepared you are for a storm. Give us a call today at 631.467.6600

Keep Your Backyard Safe!

Now that summer is finally here Branch Services knows that you are eager to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and spend some time in your own backyard. Sadly, accidents can occur outside and spoil your fun. Here is a list of some common backyard dangers to keep an eye out for:

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools are a big part of enjoying the hot weather. Pool safety is vitally important to ensure your enjoyment does not get hampered. Over-treating your pool can lead to chemical poisoning and anywhere water is present you have to mind any nearby electrical appliances. You should also ensure that if you have kids they know the dangers that can be present in a pool and wait for adult supervision before taking a plunge.

Fires

Grills and fire pits can frequently be found in backyards. Each device, if unattended, could cause serious fire damage to your home.

Fire Pit Safety Tips

Flammable material and fluids must be kept away from fire pits.

Don’t overload your fire pit.

Place your fire pit on a level surface.

Be sure to not place your fire pit under tree branches, or telephone or electrical wires.

Keep a garden hose, bucket of water, or fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.

Grill Safety Tips

Be sure to only use your propane or charcoal barbeque grill outside.

Keep your pets and children a few feet away from the grilling area.

Clean the grease and fat buildup from your grill. Both grease and fat burn very quickly and could cause burns or fires.

Ticks

Long Island is seeing an increase in the number of ticks populating the island. The increase in tick population also means an increase in Lyme disease diagnoses. If you’re entering tall grass or deep forests be sure to check your skin regularly for ticks.

Pesticides

Strong pesticides can help protect you from ticks, but they also present their own dangers. Powerful chemicals can contaminate the area for days and could even rub off on children or pets. Children tend to have weaker immune systems, meaning they could be more susceptible to illness.

Large Patio Umbrellas

Patio umbrellas can be blown off balance by wind and could wreak havoc; breaking windows, breaking structures, or even flying into a neighbor’s yard. To avoid danger going forward be sure to reinforce the umbrella with a weight, brace, or even a sandbag.

Branch Services wants to ensure you have a safe and happy summer. Watch out for the dangers that can be present in your own backyard! If fire, storm, water, or mold damage your home we want you to know that Branch Services is only a phone call away. Give us a call at (631)467-6600 to see what we can do for you!

Removing Mold From Houseplants

If you have been reading our blog than you most definitely are aware of the dangers of mold and the process involved in riding your home of the unwanted growth. For more details about how mold is formed, or how Branch Services can help you can read our March post here: Mold Remediation. Even after Branch Services has thoroughly and expertly removed the mold in your home, there is a chance of mold returning attached to an inconspicuous source.

While houseplants are renowned for their decorative appeal, they can also help fight indoor pollutants like formaldehyde or benzene. Sadly, if improperly maintained a houseplant can actually become a source of unwanted pollutants and mold. There are steps you can take to ensure your plants do more than just help your home’s aesthetic. These steps will help to keep both you and your houseplants healthy!

Don’t Over Water

The internet is a great resource for learning how frequently a houseplant should be watered. If you are unsure of your houseplant’s ideal schedule you can find articles like this, from Better Homes & Garden.  Mold needs 3 things to grow; food, moisture, and oxygen. A houseplant can house all three of these elements in abundance. Moisture is the easiest of the three to manage.  Better Homes & Garden suggests adding water until it begins to escape through the containers drainage hole. After the plant has drained the excess water in the tray needs to be dumped. It can take only a day or two before the excess water starts to rot your roots! We also suggest adding gravel to the bottom of the soil to help the plant drain more efficiently.

Keep the Air Moving

Plants need to be kept in a well ventilated area. Plants emit water vapor which increases relative humidity levels. If the humidity levels around your plant are constantly high, mold can begin to form. Opening a window or turning on a fan can help to circulate the air around your plant. If you are not near a window or fan, you could use a dehumidifier daily to remove the excess moisture.

A Pinch of Cinnamon

Cinnamon can be used as a natural fungicide.  Including a little bit of cinnamon to the soil when first planting seedlings can help fight Damping off. Studies also suggest that it works with older plants to stave off slime mold!

Removing the Mold

There is a chance the plants you have in your house are already exhibiting mold growth. If you see mold developing on plant leaves you should dampen a towel with warm water, ring out the towel of excess water, and gently wipe the mold from the leaves. You should replace the towels frequently for best results. If you see mold growth in the soil you can use a spoon or trowel to remove the contaminated soil. The soil should be placed in a sealable bag and disposed of. After removing all the visible mold you can fill the pot with fresh soil.

The only way to ensure your home is free from mold is to bring in an expert here at Branch Services, so that we make check your walls and vents. It should bring you some relief though, to know there are some things you can do to prevent or remove mold in your home!

April Showers May Bring Flooding

Image result for rain drops on the road

April showers may be a sign that spring has sprung, but before thinking about barbeques and baseball it is important to make sure your home or office is safe from torrential rains and flooding. Water damage can result in real harm to your property’s value and structural integrity. With floods becoming more and more frequent across Long Island one must prepare for the dangers associated with a flood. We can give you advice on how to best restore both your property and lifestyle.

Safety First:

Wires, power lines, and electronic devices may still be live during a flood. The water will act as a conductor increasing the chances of electrocution or fire. Contact your local power company if you suspect you might be in danger.

Floodwaters can wreak havoc on your gas lines as well. If you smell gas it is important you leave immediately and call your gas company.

Be sure to remove yourself from a dangerous environment as soon as possible.

What to Do Next:

After flooding occurs call us here at Branch Services as soon as possible because mold can grow within only 12 hours. With 24-hour emergency service we know the importance of moving quickly to mitigate the damage. Our flood removal process will ensure the water is disposed of swiftly, enabling us to start water damage restoration.

Your second call should be to your insurance company to ensure you are covered. The experts here at Branch Services have years of experience working with insurers; our knowledge of insurance policies will ensure you get everything you’re entitled to.

Insurance Claims:

There are things you can do to better prepare yourself for submitting a claim for restoration services. Creating a home inventory of your valuables is a great way to expedite the claim.

Keep receipts of your newly purchased valuables to remove the guess work in estimating the cost of replacement.

Create a list of every product that would need to be replaced. Organize them by room and type of item: clothing, electronics, jewelry etc.

Take photos of the rooms that contain items of great value. They can be used as reference after experiencing a devastating flood. Be sure to update your photos and inventory yearly.

Guard Yourself from Infections:

Contaminated water can bring Salmonella, E. coli, and a litany of other bacteria that will cause real health problems. You should dispose of any food that came in contact with the water because eating or drinking a contaminated product significantly increases your chance of infection. The threat of infection isn’t just an issue with food and drink, any materials exposed to the water—medication, children’s toys, or even cosmetics— could become contaminated and have significant effects on your health.

If you have lost electricity, or the flood reaches your kitchen, you should dispose of any perishable items you may have in your fridge; chicken can start to spoil after only 2 hours of being removed from refrigeration.

Keep your family away from the floodwater. If anyone has come in contact with the floodwater it is important they clean themselves thoroughly. Kids maybe tempted to splash and play in the water, be sure they are aware of the severity of the situation.

Avoiding Breathing Hazards:

Even after the water is gone mold growth can begin within just 24 hours. It is unsafe to be around water damage. Porous materials like drywall and carpet need to be handled by experts with advanced knowledge of the drying process. You may be tempted to bring out the hair dryer or dehumidifier in the hopes of solving the problem yourself, but it is important to contact a professional. Even minor water damage can have significant effects on your health. Water removal is a specialty of ours and we know how to best control moisture ensuring the best results.

Our industrial-grade dehumidifiers and air scrubbers will stop every type of mold and mold spores from infecting your property. Branch Services wants to get you back in the swing of things as quickly as possible.

After thoroughly drying your home Branch Services applies an E.P.A. approved antimicrobial agent to help prevent mold growth, making the air you breathe safe once again.

 

Being a victim of a flood can make it tough to compose yourself. There is a lot to do. Branch Services is going to help return your life to normal as quickly as possible.

 

Breathe Easy: Mold Remediation

Mold is a woolly growth produced by fungus, especially on moist or decaying surfaces. It can usually be found in dark or steamy areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, and spaces with poor ventilation. Damp basements, leaks in pipes or roofs, and any standing water can create a mold situation. When mold spores are present in large quantities, they can lead to property damage and a variety of health issues, including allergic reactions and respiratory problems, for people and pets.  Mold forms quickly and is almost impossible for homeowners to fully remove on their own.  If you have mold, then you need Branch Services.

Eliminating Mold At The Source

Branch Services knows that eliminating the moisture source is the first step at fungal remediation.  Then comes the removal of affected contents and the decontamination of replaceable materials. We’ll remove any moldy carpets, then seal off the damaged area. We’ll then open up directly affected walls and bag any additional moldy materials. Debris is vacuumed and affected surfaces are scrubbed with mold cleaner.

Drying of concealed wall cavities and enclosed spaces may also be required. Branch Services begins the rigorous process of eliminating present and potential mold by using H.E.P.A. vacs.  High-Efficiency Particulate Air vacuums differ from conventional vacuums in that they are capable of trapping extremely small, micron-sized airborne particles.  We also perform biocide cleaning of interior surfaces.  Biocide kills disease-causing mold, fungus, bacteria, and viruses.

Next, we apply a mold/mildew resistant encapsulant. Regular paint will just cover up unseen mold, making it even more difficult to see and treat. An encapsulant paint product contains antimicrobial ingredients that help fight mold. It also seals in any mold remaining on a material, like wood, so that it cannot continue to grow and spread.

Occasionally, it is extremely difficult or impossible to remove a material that is contaminated by mold. For instance, drywall and insulation can usually be easily removed and replaced, but the wooden studs inside a wall cannot. In such cases, as much mold as possible is removed from the surface of the wood. Then the wood is cleaned and treated with the encapsulant. Lastly, we perform air purification through ozone treatments, which kills and denatures mold on surfaces.

Mold can ruin your home and your health. Removing only some of the mold in your home is pointless. It will simply grow and spread, and you’ll eventually have a full-blown mold issue once again. Our pros will test your home for mold and tell you what kind of mold is growing there, the severity of your mold problem, and the location of mold you may not have spotted.

Devising an immediate and thorough remediation plan is essential for getting rid of the mold.  Here at Branch Services, we break the mold! Our knowledgeable technicians will promptly find and stop mold, even when it hides in the most hard-to-reach places.  Our competitors can’t match our level of expertise or customer service.  When it comes to mold remediation, the highly skilled professionals at Branch Services are a breath of fresh air.

Moving Past the Flames: Fire Damage Restoration | Soot and Smoke Removal

You’ve heard the expression “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”  The team at Branch Services wants to remind you that where there’s fire, there’s smoke.  And soot.  And odor.  And, in most cases, water damage and flooding from firefighting efforts.

Fire not only destroys what it touches, but its dangerous smoke and soot adhere to walls, carpets, cabinets, furniture, ceilings, floors, and counter-tops.  Smoke leaves behind hard-to-fight stains and odors.  Fire and smoke can destroy glass, tarnish metals, and damage your electrical wiring, plumbing, and appliances. Long-term exposure to air containing soot can increase the risk of heart disease. The water or chemicals used to extinguish a fire can also cause major problems.

Fire Remediation Process

When a fire devastates your home, recovering and restoring your possessions may seem impossible.  This is where the fire remediation pros at Branch Services come in.  Time is of the essence, so it’s crucial that you contact our team right away.  Our process begins the moment our experts arrive at your home. First, we examine the framing of your house and sub-floors for structure safety. Then we closely inspect your entire home to assess the nature and extent of the damage.  We will create a plan of action, and estimate how much repairs will cost and how long they will take.

Next, we start the removal of all charred or unsalvageable items and debris.  Because water damage can cause health issues, we will promptly remove any standing water by using submersible pumps and wet/dry vacuums (aka shop vacs). Affected areas will then be dried and sanitized.

Branch Services provides detailed soot sponge cleaning of all affected areas.  We also handle the dry cleaning of upholstered items, linens, apparel, etc.  Deodorization of all affected areas ensures the removal of any odors that can linger after the smoke has been in the room. This might involve carpet cleaning, and will often need to address adjacent rooms as well as those directly affected by fire damage. This will make your belongings useable again, and it will also prevent health issues.  This process will involve the use of many different cleaning appliances and industrial equipment.  Finally, we will begin the restoration of salvageable carpets, rugs, furniture, documents, fine artwork and electronics.

Losing precious possessions to a fire can cause significant emotional distress. Rebuilding after a fire is not without its challenges.  However, with the help of the highly skilled fire remediation professionals at Branch Services, your house, and its contents can be restored to their original state of safety, comfort and allure.

Immediate action is the key to recovery and restoration.  After your call, Branch Services arrives promptly to help minimize damage and begin the restoration process.  Our talented and caring technicians are determined to get you and your house back to normalcy as soon as possible.  We provide 24/7 emergency services, and our ultimate goal is to return beauty to your home and peace of mind to you and your family.

Avoid a Space Heater Fire This Winter

It has been a seriously cold winter so far. With the cost of home heating many people are relying on space heaters to keep warm without breaking the bank. While they can save money in the short term, space heaters still pose a threat of fire.

 

Here are safety tips to keep your home or business warm during the winter months and prevent fire damage.

Check for Safety Certification– When purchasing a space heater, look for a safety certification from a well-known source, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Make Sure It Has Auto Shut Off– Auto shut off features are beneficial to prevent overheating and hazards if the space heater tips over. Many fires occur when a space heater is knocked over.

Make Space– Make sure there is at least 3 feet of space around the space heater and anything that could set fire. Take care to remove flammable materials such as curtains, bedding, and clothing. Aside from cooking fires, space heater fires that start because they are placed too near a flammable surface are the 2nd most common type of house fire.

Keep Them Out of the Bathroom & Kitchen– Space heaters do not typically come with GFCI plugs. To prevent electrocution keep the heating unit away from water. Bathrooms and kitchens are a bad idea for electric space heaters.

No Extension Cords- Plug only the space heater into the wall outlet so as not to overload the circuit. Never use an extension cord with space heaters because the amount of power drawn from these units is too much for a low amp extension cord to handle. It can cause the cord to overheat and spark a fire.

Keep it On the Floor-Keep the space heater on the floor, preferably wood or tile. Low-pile carpet is acceptable but stay away from high-pile and shag carpeting because it can easily catch fire. Heaters kept on shelves or tables can knock over and spark a fire.

Keep Away From Children and Pets- Kids and pets can be burned, electrocuted, or can start a fire by knocking it over or putting things like blankets and toys too close to the heater.

Turn Off When Not in the Room- Make sure to turn off the heating unit when leaving the room or going to bed.

Check the Wires- Check for worn or frayed wires before using the space heater. Don’t use if wires are worn or broken.

Even when we take precautions accidents can happen. If you experience a fire in your home you can always rely on Branch Services to be there to clean it up.