Mold is unsettling no matter where you find it. However, it’s especially concerning when it shows up in your AC system. Once mold spores make their way into your air conditioner, they’ll compromise the health of everyone in your Glendale, Arizona home. Mold infestations in AC systems can also cause extensive property damage and diminish the value of your investment. Thus, although this is a fairly common issue, it isn’t one that should be taken lightly. Following is everything that you should do the moment that you spot this progressive and potentially dangerous problem.

Turn Your Air Conditioner Off

Mold in your air conditioner is a likely sign that you’ve got mold in other areas of the building. You may have wet, condensation-covered windows, damp drywall, or other building materials that are starting to soften, sag, and discolor. However, there are also times when mold is strictly an HVAC issue. In these instances, mold formation is caused by:

  • Clogged condensate drain lines
  • Old, outdated cooling equipment
  • Damaged HVAC air ducts
  • Slow or hidden leaks

If the underlying cause of mold is related to your AC unit, turning this unit off will keep the problem contained. Continuing to use your air conditioner after you’ve discovered mold will result in mold spores being distributed throughout all of your living areas. Not only will this wreak havoc on resident health, but it will also make mold remediation infinitely more challenging.

What Are the Dangers of Using a Moldy HVAC System?

Having mold in any area of your home is dangerous. Prolonged exposure to mold can cause a vast range of symptoms. Although those with chronic respiratory ailments like asthma, COPD, and allergies will probably be the first to complain, active mold infestations do far more than irritate the airways and throat. They can also cause:

  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Chronic and profound fatigue
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Recurring headaches
  • Skin disorders
  • Ear infections

When mold is contained in a small area and dealt with in a timely fashion, exposure is limited. For instance, if you have mold on a windowsill or in a damp corner, this is a localized problem that will only impact those who go near it and those who tamper with the affected materials. Wiping, brushing, or otherwise agitating these accumulations will release mold spores into the air.

Comparatively, mold infestations in HVAC systems result in constant exposure to mold spores throughout every area of the home. The same system of air ducts that distributes heated or cooled air to each room will also deliver harmful pathogens. Worse still, the more the HVAC system is used, the more widespread the problem will become and the more challenging it will be to eliminate it. Before you know it, you’ll have colorful growths on every damp, habitable surface in your home. Rather than being contained to your AC unit, mold will be visible on your blinds or curtains, on your walls and light fixtures, and more.

Using an AC system that’s infested with mold will also lead to a pervasive, musty smell throughout the entire building. It’s additionally important to note that moldy air conditioners are often the underlying cause of their own problems. Whether these units have blocked condensate lines, dirty air filters, or an insufficient ability to regulate indoor humidity, they’re both the cause of the issue and the issue itself.

Rule Out Other Problems

Before you panic and pull out your bleach or other surface disinfectants, make sure that mold is actually what you’re dealing with. Your AC unit may be covered in various types of common, airborne debris rather than actual mold. Accumulations of dust, dander, and lint can look suspiciously mold-like, especially when they get damp.

Several tell-tale signs of a moldy AC include:

  • Black dust or white fuzz growing on or around your HVAC air vents and grilles
  • A strong mildewy or musty odor around the air conditioner and at the air vents
  • Wet, colorful accumulations that may be green, yellow, pink, orange, brown, black, or white

If unpleasant odors intensify whenever your AC system is turned on, this is a sign of fast-spreading mold.

Identify the Source of the Problem

The next step is to identify why you have mold growing in your HVAC system. In addition to a blocked condensate line, you might have leaky air ducts, blocked vents or grilles that are causing airflow issues, or an AC fan speed that’s too high. Mold needs warmth and moisture to grow, and it tends to thrive in dark, dank spaces. Although air conditioners are designed to regulate indoor humidity and route excess moisture out of the building, they cannot accomplish this if their cooling cycles are too short due to fast-moving fans, excessively tight home envelopes, or other factors. Having an HVAC technician inspect your home cooling equipment is the best way to learn whether your air conditioner is responsible for the development of mold and why.

In some instances, the excess humidity that’s responsible for mold growth exists in other areas of the building. When this is the case, the initial mold infestation will likely be near a slow or hidden leak, the site of a recent, mismanaged flood, or a leaky, unsealed window. If growing infestations are left unchecked in these areas, they will eventually find their way into your HVAC equipment. Before clean-up efforts are started, the initial source of mold must be identified and resolved. If it isn’t, even your best efforts at removing mold and sanitizing the affected surfaces will eventually fail.

Don’t Try to Clean It on Your Own

Mold remediation should always be handled by trained professionals. This is especially true when ducted heating and cooling systems are impacted. Only a professional can tell you whether or not your current HVAC equipment is safe to keep, and only a professional can prevent the problem from recurring. Although simple, store-bought applications such as white vinegar and bleach are capable of eliminating mold, these products only work on hard, non-porous surfaces. When building materials have tiny, microscopic openings, mold spores can set up vast networks of root systems known as mycelium and hyphae. Even when discolored areas are cleaned of visible grime, when these networks exist, mold problems will invariably return.

Establish a Mold Prevention Plan

After mold remediation services are complete, you may need to consider upgrading your HVAC system to prevent further issues. For instance, in homes with excessively high levels of indoor humidity, integrated dehumidification equipment could be required. In these homes, having whole-house dehumidifiers put in will prevent the recurrence of mold problems, protect building materials from moisture damage, and create cleaner, safer, and more comfortable living environments overall.

For more than 40 years, Christian Brothers Air Conditioning Plumbing Electrical has been a trusted provider of heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical services. We can provide everything from home home wiring to water heater services. Residents of Glendale, Arizona and the surrounding areas can also count on us for advanced indoor air quality solutions. If you’ve got mold in your air conditioner, we can help. Give us a call today!

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