Mold is often referred to as a silent killer. It affects everything from the body’s central nervous system to the parts of the brain that control memory, problem-solving, and impulses. It’s typically found in places in which the air is humid such as bathrooms, kitchens, and crawlspaces. But mold also lives in areas that can’t be easily accessed. This is especially the case when it comes to the HVAC system.
While most people are familiar with the black mold that settles on their shower curtains, drywall, and basement floors, very few people ever consider what’s growing in their air ducts. And unfortunately, the longer it’s ignored the more time it has to grow. And when mold becomes airborne it can lead to serious health problems.
The key to dealing with mold is to know how to prevent it as well as how you should go about removing it. But first, let’s discuss what causes mold in the HVAC and the signs that you should be on the lookout for.
What Causes Mold in the HVAC?
There are four things that could be causing mold in your air ducts. First, the mold could be the result of moisture. Most air conditioning units have built-in humidity controls. And this helps to discourage a buildup of moisture on the inside of the unit. However, if the control isn’t working, this could easily cause issues.
Another factor that can lead to mold is a unit that is unused. Whenever an AC unit is completely turned off, meaning it’s not on auto mode, then it stops all airflow in the home. This allows moisture to settle and build up in the unit.
If your HVAC system receives very little maintenance it can lead to mold issues. Most people don’t think about their AC until it completely breaks down. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the HVAC cleaned or replace your filter every so often, mold will start to grow.
Lastly, dust can lead to mold buildup. Dust naturally settles on surfaces. However, it’s also something that mold tends to thrive on.
Signs of Mold in Air Ducts
If you want to ensure that your home remains safe, then it’s important that you’re aware of the signs that mold is present in your HVAC. Let’s take a moment to discuss a few things that you need to be on the lookout for.
- Musty Odor
If there’s mold in your HVAC, one of the first things you’ll notice is the scent. You may sense an odor that’s musty or one that smells like mildew. The scent will be most prevalent when your heater or air conditioner is actually running. It’s usually the strongest in the areas that contain the most mold. This means that the smell could be really noticeable in one, particular room of your home. If left to grow, you’ll start to notice the smell in every room of the house whenever you turn your system on.
- Mold on the Vents
Another sign that your HVAC contains mold is that you notice it around the vents. In most cases, when mold is present in the air ducts, the airflow will loosen it and cause the spores to be pushed up through the vent. You may notice growth that is yellow, green, black, or brown.
If you or your family have been experienced unexplained illnesses, there’s always a chance that it could be related to mold in the HVAC. Mold can trigger a host of reactions such as nausea, rashes, dizziness, headaches, asthma attacks, fatigue, and allergy-like symptoms. These symptoms typically worsen whenever the system has been turned on. Pay attention to the way your body responds.
How to Prevent HVAC Mold
What makes HVAC mold particularly dangerous is that most people don’t take the time to inspect their air ducts. So they never know that it’s there. Not only can mold grow in this location but within a matter of seconds, it can also spread throughout your home. Luckily, there are a couple of things that you can do in order to prevent HVAC mold.
For example, you need to regularly clean your air ducts. This is a process that is best performed by a professional. Specifically, they should be an individual who specializes in mold remediation.
You should also make sure that your air cuts are regularly replaced. This is another process that should be left up to professionals who specialize in mold remediation.
Ways to Remove Mold
As you can see, mold can pose a huge health threat if left untreated. The good news is that there are mold remediation specialists who can help with this issue. An individual who specializes in mold remediation will clean the area and seal it to ensure that it’s resistant to water damage. They can also help to get rid of the odor that was left behind.
However, there are also steps that you can take if you prefer to make your HVAC mold removal a DIY project. There are a few commercial removal products available. Ideally, you should only purchase those that have been EPA registered for HVAC use. It’s also recommended that you hire a specialist if the area covers more than 10 square feet.
Step 1: Put on your protective gear
During the HVAC mold removal process, you should do more than simply protect yourself from the mold. You should also protect yourself from the chemical that you’re using to get rid of the mold. The EPA recommends that you wear protective gear throughout the entire process. Specifically, they suggest that you wear rubber gloves, a mask, protective eyewear, and coveralls. These items will ensure that you have minimal contact with the cleaner. They will also ensure that you’re not harmed by mold spores.
Step 2: Turn Off the System
You need to make sure that the system is turned off before you start the mold removal process. This ensures that you’re able to safely access the coils, drip pan, and ducts. This will also prevent all of the fumes from the cleaning products from spreading throughout your home. The fumes can be just a dangerous as mold spores if you’re not careful.
Step 3: Clean the Moldy Areas
After you’ve put on the proper gear and turned your HVAC system off, it’s time to scrub the moldy area. Apply the solution directly to the affected areas and lightly scrub them with a rag. After this, allow the solution to sit for a couple of minutes. You can then begin scrubbing the area in a circular motion. Continue to scrub until the discolored areas have completely faded.
Make sure that after you’ve completed the area that you remove any excess solution. An extra precaution, you can also vacuum the area to make sure that it’s completely dry and free of debris. You may have to repeat this step several times if the mold is particularly stubborn.
Step 4: Dispose of Your Rags
One of the most important parts of the HVAC mold removal process is the disposing of your rags. You need to dispose of them properly so as to avoid getting sick. It’s a good idea to double bag your rags once you’ve completed the mold removal process. Ideally, the bags should be at least 6-mil thick.
Step 5: Add an Inhibitor
If you want to ensure that the mold never comes back then you need to apply an inhibitor to the area. Commercial inhibitors can actually control the growth of mold and mildew in your system. Luckily, there are several EPA registered products that you can choose from. Make sure that you apply the product to every component. And make sure that you follow all of the instructions during the application.
Step 6: Monitor the Area
Perhaps the most crucial step in the mold removal process is monitoring the area. Mold removal means more than just cleaning the area. It’s keeping an eye on it to make sure that the products and techniques that you used were effective. It only takes a couple of days for mold to grow. So it’s best to check the area over the next 48 hours to ensure that your moisture problem is gone.
If you happen to notice that the mold keeps coming back, then you may have bigger issues. You may need to insulate your ductwork. There’s a chance that you may need to consider purchasing a dehumidifier. Also, it could be time to get in touch with a professional who is more knowledgeable about mold and can offer a solution that best suits your specific needs.
Mold tends to thrive on moisture. It reproduces through spores and travels through the air. It’s something that we’re exposed to every day and is usually harmless in small amounts. However, when it lands in damp areas in your harm and starts to grow, it can pose a serious threat. Mold is particularly dangerous if it lives in your HVAC system because it’s not easy to spot. This means that you may not notice it until you become seriously ill.
Luckily, there are a few things that you can do in order to eliminate this threat. You may either use chemicals to get rid of the mold yourself or you could call in an HVAC mold removal specialist to design a solution that is specific to your needs. The good news is that the HVAC mold removal process can be simple if you know what resources are available to you.