Black Mold Problems in Western Washington Homes

black mold growing in the corner of a house

Black Mold Has Significant Negative Health Implications

While the term “toxic mold” isn’t exactly accurate, many molds, including so-called “black mold,” (Stachybotrys spp.) produce toxins that negatively impact human health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control:

In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

Molds grow from spores, which are ubiquitous in our indoor and outdoor environments and become active when conditions are right. Persistent moisture is the biggest factor that causes mold to grow and produce more spores and harmful toxins. Since the proliferation of Stachybotrys depends so strongly on moisture, the best place to begin is to figure out where excess moisture in our homes comes from and how we can mitigate its accumulation.

Where Does Problem Moisture Come From?

Any water-using appliance or fixture, especially ones using or producing hot water, are strong sources of indoor moisture.

  • Showers (run the fan!)
  • Washing machines
  • Dishwashers
  • Sinks and tubs
  • Unvented combustion sources (gas stoves and space heaters, typically)
  • Steam irons

Cooking, too, releases moisture into the air, as does human respiration (moisture is expelled from the lungs and through the skin). When you go outside on a cold day and “see your breath,” you are actually seeing the moisture you exhale every time your lungs fill and empty. If you and your whole family are snug in your warm house with the windows and doors shut all winter, you can see how that might become a problem!

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies eleven common sources of moisture-related issues in buildings (see the entire list here on page 54). A complete discussion of them all is beyond the scope of this article, but we will touch on those related to heating and cooling and how they can be mitigated.

The following are excerpted from that list:

  • Plumbing leaks and spills, perhaps resulting from improper design, installation,
    operation or maintenance (e.g. failure to inspect and repair plumbing
  • Infiltration of warm, moist outside air through cracks and holes in the enclosure
    during warm, humid weather – which can cause condensation on materials
    that are cooler, because they are part of the air-conditioning system – have
    been cooled by air-conditioned indoor air or are in cool basements or crawl
  • Exfiltration of warm, moist indoor air through cracks and holes in the enclosure
    during cold weather, which can cause condensation in wall and ceiling
    cavities and attic spaces
  • Intentional or accidental vapor barriers in the wrong place, which can lead to
    condensation in the building enclosure
  • Unvented or poorly vented sources, such as swimming pools, spas, aquariums,
    dishwashers, combustion devices, kitchens and baths, from which water
    may condense in the building enclosure or, if indoor humidity levels are high
    enough, on materials in the space itself (e.g. ceilings, walls, furniture, cold water
    pipes or air-conditioning air supply diffusers)
  • Insufficient dehumidification by HVAC systems,
    which may result in levels of interior humidity that are high enough to
    cause mould to grow on furniture, walls, ceilings or air-conditioning supply
  • Poor condensate drainage due to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning
    system deficiencies; condensation from cooling coils may overflow drain pans
    or leak from condensate drain lines

Sources of Excess Moisture Vary by Season

In Skagit county, we have four wonderful seasons. Each is defined by a typical air humidity level and temperature range. Our climate determines how we condition our spaces for both our comfort and health in each season. The winter is typically cold and moist, with temperate summers that can vary from dry to humid depending on the prevailing weather pattern.

Many of the conditions experienced in Skagit county can quickly cause an excess of moisture and mold buildup in the home. Here are some tips to avoid mold buildup.

During (or before!) the heating season:

During the cooling season:

  • Use a standalone dehumidifier when indoor humidity exceeds 50%
  • Ensure careful insulation and encapsulation of cooling lines where they pass through building materials
  • Properly installed and intact (functioning) vapor barrier
  • Maintain the temperature in a small range rather than large warming and cooling cycles
  • Keep condensate drains clear – make sure condensate goes to a sewer drain or outside and away from the building and foundation
  • Use a toilet tank insulator kit or plumb warm water (with a mixing valve) to your toilet tank

All seasons:

  • Avoid large swings in indoor temperature that alter the ability of indoor air to hold moisture
  • Keep indoor humidity under 50% (use an indoor humidity meter (like this one, under $10) to monitor it
  • Make sure that you home has good overall insulation
  • Be sure you have a properly designed, installed, and intact vapor barrier
  • Insulate all exposed or uninsulated cold water pipes – condensation or freeze (and subsequent leak) risk

I’m Feeling Overwhelmed! Help!

This (partial) list of ways that moisture can build up and contribute to harmful black mold growth can be a bit daunting. Sometimes, I feel the same way when I’m struggling with my computer and it just won’t do what I need it to do! I have found the solution, and I think it will help you, too: call a professional.

Alpine Heating and Cooling is not a mold remediation business, but we can come out and take a look at your heating and air conditioning equipment, which is a common source of moisture problems. We’ll make sure it’s properly installed, functioning at top efficiency, and that drains are clear, and lines are insulated. You’ll be ready for whatever mother nature throws at us here in Skagit county.

Give us call or send us an email – we’d love to hear from you.

For even more reading, check out this fantastic publication from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension called, “Winter Home Moisture Problems.”

Efficient Energy Use – Avoiding the Pain of Comfort

Is Your Money Flying out the Window?

Most folks don’t enjoy paying more than they need to, or paying for something they aren’t getting. When it comes to heating (and cooling) your home, you may be doing exactly that. How can you find out? A home energy assessment can tell you where the energy you’re paying for is going. Efficient energy use is smart money management

Your Personal Comfort – the True Test

A more personal test is to compare your comfort level in your home with the comfort level of your wallet or pocketbook. Are you paying more than you’d like to, but you still aren’t warm in winter and cool in summer? While this sacrifice may have been necessary in the past, today’s new technologies and heating/cooling systems can pay for themselves with savings in a few years, then keep on saving you money for years to come. There are even rebates and incentives to help you out.

A Woman stays warm and enjoys a cup of cocoa in her cozy house with efficient energy use

Efficient Energy Use Begins With a Tight Building Envelope

As in the video above, it’s important to stop your expensive heated or cooled air from leaving for as long as possible. A tight building envelope is a must. Once you’ve checked your insulation and sealed up the windows it’s time to address another area of loss – the equipment used to heat and cool your home.

Here is a quick overview of some of the systems and technologies Alpine Heating and Cooling installs and how they can save you money.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump is a device that transfers heat from a colder area to a hotter area(“against the gradient”) by using mechanical energy, as in a refrigerator. While that may not sound like it could heat your home, the fact is there is heat energy all around us waiting to be harvested. A heat pump can move this heat from the air (air source heat pump) or the ground (ground source heat pump) into your home. Think of it like a refrigerator in reverse.

Here is a terrific, short video of an air-source heat pump showing operation in both summer (air conditioning) and winter (heating) modes.

Natural Gas Furnace

A natural gas furnace is a popular and smart choice for home heating in the Skagit Valley. Natural gas is available to most homes, is clean burning, and modern gas furnaces can achieve as high as 98.5 efficiency ratings while lasting for 15-30 years with regular maintenance.¹

Also according to, between 2007 and 2012 the average U.S. household spent $700 annually to heat with natural gas versus $1700 per year to heat with oil. A new, high-efficiency gas furnace can save you money, especially if you are moving from an older, lower-efficiency oil furnace.

Ductless Mini Split

A Ductless Mini Split heat pump system can decrease your energy bill in several ways.

  • Ducting can lose 10-40% of the heat or cool they carry before it reaches you, even more if there are serious breaks or leaks, which often go unnoticed in attics and crawlspaces. Ditch the ducts, ditch the loss.
  • Mini splits can be used “zonally” to heat and cool individual rooms or floors. You don’t need to heat or cool your entire house to the same degree if you aren’t using most of it.
  • The modern heating and cooling technologies used in ductless mini splits are more efficient than their older counterparts.

Programmable Thermostats

Any on-demand heating system including furnaces, heat pumps, and mini-splits can benefit from the proper use of a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can help save you money when you’re away or asleep so that there’s more left over to keep you warm or cool when you’re home and awake.

By using “setbacks” (cooler settings in the winter and warmer settings in the summer) for times when you don’t need the full effect of heat or air conditioning, you can see a reduction in your utility bill with no change in your comfort level. Your programmable thermostat can turn your heat down when you leave for work or go to sleep and turn it back up just before you wake or return home in the evening, all automatically.

You won’t have to remember to turn the thermostat down when you leave the house or wait for the house to warm up when you arrive home in the evening.

Energy Star Rebates and Incentives

Be sure to check out our rebates and incentives page to find out how much money you can receive toward installing new, highly-efficient, quiet, and dependable heating and cooling equipment. We’ve put together a list that includes state, federal, local, and utility-based incentives.

Ask Us How You Can Save

Give us a call with your questions. We’d be happy to answer them over the phone if we can, or come out and have a look. Alpine has installed new, more efficient heating and cooling systems for thousands of satisfied customers in the Skagit Valley, from Sedro-Wooley to Burlington to Anacortes and beyond.

Alpine Heating And Cooling Inc.
1957 Park Lane
Burlington Wa 98233

Phone (360) 755-5146 and (360) 293-6210


¹ energy saver 101 infographic


Cascade Natural Gas Trade Ally

Cascade Natural Gas Trade AllyCascade Natural Gas Conservation Trade Allies are pre-screened installation contractors who partner with the utility to deliver energy-efficient natural gas products to Cascade residential and business customers.  Alpine Heat is proud to be part of the Cascade Natural Gas Trade Ally!

Alpine Heat can assist you with energy efficiency upgrades, obtaining Cascade incentives and taking advantage of other benefits offered to you through the conservation program.  Currently for 2016 you can take advantage of a $250 incentive for a high-efficiency natural gas furnace in a new or existing home!

Cascade Natural Gas works with us to help steer you through the application process for natural gas upgrades and weatherization services. Alpine Heat is familiar with the requirements of the Cascade Natural Gas Conservation Incentive Program. We meet the program criteria necessary to retain our status including passing quality control inspections, providing required levels of insurance coverage, and maintaining licensing requirements for work in the State of Washington.

An energy-efficient home can save you money season after season. Cascade Natural Gas can help with four easy steps to cash rebates for energy-efficient gas improvements and an easy online application.


2016 Air Conditioning Special

An American Standard Heat Pump

Is it Getting Hot Around Here?

Skagit County is an awesome place to live. Unfortunately, our summers are getting hotter. Alpine Heating And Cooling can help - we install energy efficient, reliable air conditioning systems for customers all around Skagit county. Alpine has won the Skagit Pulse's Business Of The Year award and the Angie's List Super Service Award.

The experts at Alpine Heating And Cooling offer quality sales, service, installation and maintenance services throughout Skagit County all year round since 2003.

$100 OFF a new Air Conditioner Install in Time for Summer

Who wants to be cool and comfortable this summer?

Whether you've never enjoyed a summer with your own air conditioning, or your old unit is loud, inefficient, or on the way out, here's $100 on us toward a new, quiet, efficient AC unit.

Alpine is the Skagit Valley's Air Conditioning Expert

Alpine Heating And Cooling is the top choice for Skagit County. Alpine Heating And Cooling installs all types of HVAC equipment, from portable air conditioners found in small homes and apartments to roof AC units on large commercial buildings. No matter what the installation, we have the experience. 90% of our projects come from word of mouth from our own satisfied customers. Just check our reviews.

Lifetime Guarantee

If we install a new AC, heat pump, ductless mini split, or an entire air conditioning system, we guarantee our labor for life. If something fails because of our labor, we will come back at no charge and fix it. We also honor any equipment and/or material warranties that the manufactures or wholesalers may provide.


We Service What We Sell

If you are considering a new air conditioning system or a replacement of AC, heat pump, or ductless mini split system, Alpine Heating and Cooling is eager to be your full-service, full-satisfaction provider. Alpine only sells HVAC equipment that we can service and repair, unlike other companies that install equipment but rely on others to repair their installs. We know and trust the equipment we sell and install. You can rest easy knowing our years of experience went into helping you choose your HVAC equipment.

A Few Air Conditioning Installs We've Done

american standard ac in a trane furnace
York and American Standard Matchup
Rheem Air Conditioner at Subway

Big Lake

Beautiful Big Lake

One of my favorite places to install heating or cooling equipment is in the Big Lake area, a small community that is embedded into the landscape. In this particular air conditioner installation, the home overlooked Big Lake, perfect to watch the fourth of July fireworks.

Trane and American Standard

Most people don't know that Trane is actually manufactured by American Standard. Funny thing is that American Standard is a higher rated(according to consumer reports) piece of HVAC equipment than Trane. Although the brand name Trane is more recognized, they are literally the same piece of equipment.

When the AC Coil Won't Fit

In this particular application, there is simply not enough room to get the new American Standard air conditioning coil into the existing duct system. In any gas furnace application, we must install the AC coil down stream of the furnace. What to do? In an upflow application (such as this) you can either enter the furnace from the bottom or the side. Here we simply dropped the furnace down, entered the return air from the side, and added the coil onto the top of the unit.

Air Conditioner Location

While it's not that hard to figure out where to place the air conditioner, I try to avoid putting the AC near a master bedroom or near the neighbors' master bedroom. I try to avoid water spigots, clothes drier outlets, and walkways. I also try to keep as close as I can to the electrical panel. In this case, though, the panel was literally around the garage and up a slope. No problem.

A Beautiful Install

In this air conditioner installation we were able to install a matching full-cased coil onto the existing Trane furnace, run about 40' of refer lineset, and install a 13 seer American Standard air conditioner on a pre-formed pad. My customer is going to be very cool for many summers to come.

Mix and Match

York Meets American Standard

Once in a while, you have to mix and match the equipment. In this case, this York furnace and American Standard indoor coil. Usually it's because the existing furnace is fairly new - this York 80% efficiency gas furnace was only 9 months old. As long you have the proper airflow and your equipment can match up physically without causing, it will work just fine. Keep in mind you should still match up your indoor coil and air conditioner by capacities.

American "Standard" Colors

I have to admit that somehow the folks down at American Standard have picked the perfect colors for their equipment. I have yet to see one of their air conditioners or heat pumps stick out, they seem to always match up to the home. I wish the refer pipe cover would come in the same color! Well, at least its paintable.

American Standard Air Conditioner - the Best You can Get

I can not tell people enough how much I prefer American Standard over any other brand. I will install a less expensive piece of equipment IF the customer is on a budget, or American Standard simply will not match up to the existing furnace. I feel American Standard is a better built piece of equipment. That's just not my experience talking, but also consumer reports over the last 6 or so years.


Subway Rooftop AC Install

The Finished Subway Rooftop AC Unit

Subway Roof Top Unit Replacement

I honestly like subway sandwiches ... my favorite subway sandwich is the Subway Club with spicy mustard. But like most people, I hate being in a hot restaurant, after all sitting in a nice air conditioned space is part of enjoying your meal.

Always Overheating at Subway

Subway has had problems from the first day they opened their doors, the space was always hot and uncomfortable, especially during the summer months. Turned out the RHEEM Air Conditioning unit was slightly undersized. And at this point it had worked so hard it finally gave up. I'm surprised it took this long seeing how poorly it was installed.

Rheem to Rheem

In all my years of replacing all types of HVAC equipment around Skagit county, I have never in my wildest dreams thought I would see a roof top unit so far out of level. The installer had to be one of the luckiest guys around, considering the drain sloped towards the lower end of the unit. That being said, the reason I went back to RHEEM for a replacement was because of the foot print and weight. We try to match up as close to the same dimensions and weight as possible, saving the customer time and money.

Curb Modifications

As you can see in the photo we try to have very little roof or curb modifications as possible. If we would have added a curb adapter and or increased the size of the unit dramatically we would have pushed the limits of the engineered trusses. The trusses were designed for the weight and size of the existing unit.

Finishing Up

In this Subway Roof Top Replacement installation we where able to replace the RHEEM roof top unit with a very close match to the existing units weight and dimensions. We improved on the efficiency and were able to provide more air conditioning to the space using less energy.

Contact us here or call 360-755-5146 for a free quote and your $100 OFF

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The Three Most Common HVAC Problems

Doing Some Maintenance on a Modern HVAC Unit

Doing Some Maintenance on a Modern HVAC Unit

What Is HVAC?

HVAC which is an acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, is the mechanical system that maintains a comfortable indoor air temperature.

This important role means HVAC systems are often used all day, every day without much of a break, especially in climates with intense hot or cold weather. Constant use can lead to problems, especially the following three.

Low Refrigerant

Refrigerant is a chemical which transitions from a liquid to a gas and back again to create a cooling effect. It’s possible for refrigerant to leak and, if the refrigerant level becomes too low, a host of issues besides poor air conditioner performance can result. Low refrigerant will cause your home to feel warmer than it should while your air conditioning works overtime to try to bring the temperature down. Your electricity bills will spike and condensation water will begin to leak out around your furnace. Read More

The Smartest Ways to Maintain Your HVAC System


Regular Maintenance Extends the Life of Your Air Conditioner

Creating an HVAC maintenance plan can easily prevent issues and save you a great deal of money and misery.

If you’ve ever suffered through a week or two of chilly winter weather without heat, then you can definitely identify with the importance of keeping an HVAC system in prime condition all year long. HVAC systems are situated away from main rooms, usually in basements or back closets, which places them at risk of being forgotten until a serious problem arises.

Do Routine Maintenance Yourself

Major problems with your HVAC system should always be handled by a professional, but there are simple measures you can take to minimize the chances that a problem will even occur. First of all, make it a priority to change the filters on a regular basis. Dirty filters cause additional wear and tear, premature failure, and forces the use of more energy to do the same amount of work.

  • A clean filter dramatically improves indoor air quality. In the depths of winter and height of summer, when the system is getting it’s hardest use, changing your filter once a month is best.
  • Try setting your thermostat at more moderate temperatures. Keeping it set higher in the summer and lower in the winter means that your HVAC doesn’t have to work so hard to maintain your desired temperature, thus preventing avoidable wear and tear.
  • Make a seasonal to-do list that includes inspecting electrical connections and testing your HVAC system’s voltage, lubricating all moving parts, and inspecting the condensate drain.

When to Call the Experts

If your HVAC is having problems, you can’t handle, don’t wait to call a heating and air conditioning specialist. The longer the problem is left ignored, the worse it is likely to get. Whether it’s a leak, blown fuse, or worn contactor, all issues can be resolved by an HVAC expert so that one problem doesn’t lead to six others that drain your bank account.

Sedro Woolley Furnace Replacement

Sedro Woolley Furnace Replacement.

Here we are again, decision time for another one of our customers.… do we put money into our older gas furnace or replace it. I try to be as honest as I can with people when making this decision. I look at age of the furnace versus the cost of the repairs and then the cost of the future repairs based on my experience. And in this case it was time for this Sedro Woolley furnace replacement.

Where did the quality go

I certainly see a lot of the York Diamond 80% in Skagit County, in fact I use to be a York dealer back when this furnace was actually installed. At that time York made a very good furnace. I personally have sold, serviced and installed 100’s of them, but today, based on actual field experience and experience with many other different brands I would say York and or Coleman all made by Johnson Controls have taken a big hit in the quality of their product.


The American Standard 80%

The new American Standard 80% gas furnace did require a little bit of modifications to the return ducting, as well as eliminating the angled base-can that the customer kept stubbing their toes on. We also added a Custom 4″ filter bank to the system, we just had to make a custom door for access because of the venting. Overall this Sedro Woolley Furnace Replacement project went fairly smooth.



Like I have stated on many occasions in Alpines blog before, American Standard is my choice of equipment to install, this is based on the fact I have sold, serviced and installed many other brands. I only like to install equipment that gives me the least call backs … American Standard is that equipment.


Sedro Woolley Furnace Replacement
Furnace Replacement

Anacortes Boiler Replacement

Anacortes Boiler Replacement, Iron Fireman To Navien

This Anacortes Boiler Replacement project involved this monster of a boiler, this boiler was burning massive amounts of fuel oil to keep my customers home heated, costing them dearly. They felt it was time for a change to something way more efficient and reliable.

A Test Of Time

When ever I remove a old unit like this I try to imagine what the installers where like, where they young or old? And or perhaps how much effort went into installing such a beast back then. At that time this was cutting edge equipment and they where probably extremely proud of the installation.


The Navien Combi/tankless Unit

As you can see the new Navien CH-240 Combi/tankless unit takes up very little room compared to the older monster of a boiler ... and not only does it heat the home, it heats the hot water as well. I have installed a few of these now with very little issues. They work exactly how they are advertised. The only draw back with this Anacortes Boiler Replacement is that it takes a little longer to get hot water compared to the standard Navien NR-210a tankless.



This Anacortes Boiler Replacement turned out great for our customer, the Navien heats both the home and the hot water(endless) and is super efficient. This is one of my favorite installations and I highly recommend doing this for anyone in the same situation.


Anacortes Boiler Replacement
Navien Anacortes Boiler Replacement