How to Treat Mold in the HVAC System
Mold growth on your walls, floors, ceiling or any other place in your home or building is certainly unsightly. But worse, this uninvited guest will slowly consume the building material on which it sits as it disperses its spores into the breathing air in search of new breeding grounds.
One of the common places mold is found is the HVAC system. When it grows, the situation is deemed more dangerous as the spores are pushed by the air flow in the system throughout the rest of the home or building. This in turn can trigger a number of allergic reactions and respiratory issues like watery eyes, itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing and even a respiratory infection in the long run.
Common Causes of Mold in the HVAC System
Even though it’s common for mold to grow in the air ducts because of trapped moisture, it’s incredibly dangerous. During spring and summer, cool air is pushed throughout the ducts and leaves moisture trapped within the walls of the ducts. In just a few days, mold spores will accumulate in this area and possibly spread throughout the rest of the system.
If this has become your situation, it’s best to hire a mold removal professional. But if you’re willing to try the DIY way first, you should follow these steps.
How to Remove Mold from the HVAC System
A number of natural cleaners and chemicals can be used to remove mold. While some will prove to be more effective than others, you’ll want to try out each until you see results.
Trying to remove mold within your air ducts can be a tricky process due to the challenge of cleaning an enclosed system. So you might have to remove some parts of the system to reach the mold. But once you have full access to the infected area, follow these steps.
- Wear personal protection. It’s important to protect your health and safety first and foremost when dealing with any type and amount of mold. This includes wearing proper eyewear, mask, and gloves to prevent any direct contact with the mold spores.
- Turn off the HVAC system. When the system is running, mold spores can be blown directly into you with the air flow. Turning the system off will help to prevent direct contact with the mold spores.
- Identify the cause of mold. To prevent the problem from coming back, you’ll want to find out what caused the mold in the first place. So if there is a water leak in the air conditioning unit or the moisture levels in the home or building are too high, excess condensation is likely to remain in the ductwork until the issue is fixed.
- Clean the air vent register. Before using any chemicals to tackle the mold, first close the air register to prevent any more spores from escaping into the breathing air. Spray the cover of the vent with vinegar and allow it to sit for about an hour. Then wipe the cleaner away with paper towels, placing them into a heavy-duty trash bag when you’re done.
- Remove the air vent cover. After taking out the screws from the cover, place it upside down on top of a plastic bag to prevent any spores from landing on the floor. Repeat the process of spraying the back of the air register, allowing it to sit for another hour and wiping it down with paper towels.
- Look for mold in the insulation. Mold loves to inhabit insulation due to its porous surface and ability to hold moisture. If any insulation is in close proximity to your duct work, inspect it carefully. If you do find any amount of mold, it must be removed and replaced to prevent the growth from spreading.
- Clean the air ducts. If there is no infestation within the ductwork, be sure to spray the vinegar onto the metal and allow it to sit for another hour. Don’t forget to wipe it again with paper towels. For spots that are more challenging to reach, you’ll have to take off part of the ductwork, or call a mold remediation professional for help.
Because it’s a natural cleaner that penetrates the surface of the mold and attacks the membrane, vinegar is often the best over-the-counter cleaner to use against mold. But remember that removing any type of mold is a dangerous and difficult chore due to the spores released in the process and their ability to affect new surfaces.
If you find the mold has come back or vinegar isn’t effective against the mold, other cleaners to use include Lysol, baking soda, tea-tree oil or other cleaners available at your local hardware store. Keep in mind that some chemicals are more effective than others, so you’ll have to do a little experimenting if the first option doesn’t work.
Professional Mold Removal
If you just can’t seem to remove the mold yourself or the mold has become an infestation in your home, it’s time to call in the professionals. A licensed, trained, and experienced contractor uses products specifically made to remove mold at the source, penetrating deep within the surface and attacking the membrane. They will also be able to identify the cause of the mold so you can prevent the problem from re-occurring in the future.
When searching for a mold removal company, it’s best to choose one that is reputable, licensed, trained and experienced to ensure the mold is fully removed when they leave. They should also offer water damage restoration to address and repair any damaged areas in your home to help with keeping the mold away.
Finally, after the mold is removed, many contractors will work with your insurance agency during the claims process, so you don’t have to worry about the paperwork. Just be sure that your HVAC system is running efficiently, and moisture levels are kept below 50% to prevent mold growth.