Cold and wet is on the forecast for this winter; and, despite the last few dry winters, it’s something we’re pretty used to here in the Sacramento Delta area. After months of running that AC almost 24/7, we’re finally getting a chance to give it a break and enjoy cool nights and moderate days, with rain and colder temps on the horizon for November and December. It’s much needed, especially with our record drought, but there are places where cold and wet isn’t such a good thing. I’m thinking of your HVAC system.
Spotting Mold and Mildew
As the air gets more humid, your system has to work harder to keep the ducts, filters, and vents dry. Normally this isn’t too much of a problem, especially during peak AC usage in the summer months. Hot, dry air is prevalent and problems are few. But then come the wet months, and here in Sacramento they can be really wet! Many older systems aren’t up to the task of removing humidity, especially if they haven’t been maintained correctly. Filters clogged with particulate matter don’t just make it harder for air to move through the system, they also retain moisture and provide a “petri dish” for the growth of mold and mildew.1 The same is true of dusty ducts and vents that become wet with humid air. If your AC system isn’t condensing correctly, or the condensation line is clogged up, water will build up in the system, exacerbating the problem.
The first step in treating mildew is noticing it, usually through sight or smell. Black spotting in and around the vents in your home is often a sign of an issue, as are any musty odors. Mildew has an old, musty smell that your HVAC system will spread throughout the house—should be easy to catch, right? If it’s not, but you’re still concerned, you can always unscrew the vent covers in your home and shine a flashlight down the ducting to do a visual inspection. You can also call a professional to inspect your HVAC system as well.
Even if you don’t have a pro inspect the system, if you see mildew or mold it’s time to call one. This stuff doesn’t take long to hit crisis point—it grows. Fast. It’s not uncommon for folks to wait a week or two before calling and then be shocked at the amount of mildew that has grown in that time. The sooner you get a professional out there, the sooner you can get your HVAC back to spec and clean of contaminants.
Why You Need to Worry about Mold in the House
And there are some good reasons to call a professional about mold or mildew. In addition to the unsightly and unsanitary aspects, there are other potential complications that come with contamination by these fungi. For one, HVAC drain lines get clogged quickly, and mold is a common cause for those clogs. While easy to clear, they will make life difficult in a hurry: we’ve all see clogged drains lead to an HVAC unit flooding out the floor, damaging carpet and worse. At that point you’re paying for much more than cleaning the drain—you’re also replacing anything the water damaged or destroyed.
It can get more expensive if left unchecked. Mildew and mold can spread to other areas of the house besides the HVAC system, and since those ducts run all over, it’s like a highway for mildew to get all over your home. These contaminants, if left unchecked, can destroy furniture, belongings, and even the structural elements of the house if given enough time. They can also irreversibly damage an HVAC system in less time than you might think, which can be a very expensive fix.
Finally, mold and mildew can be potentially hazardous to your health. While uncommon, certain kinds of mold can act as pathogens and cause a whole host of health issues affecting the skin, eyes, sinuses, and even the brain.2 People with a mold spore allergy, asthma, or other breathing difficulties may find themselves more likely to have respiratory trouble if there’s mold or mildew in their home environment.
Fixing a Mold or Mildew Problem
Getting your system fixed starts with a diagnosis and consultation from a licensed HVAC professional, like Bell Bros. This professional will examine not just the extent of the mold growth but also the underlying issues—for example, perhaps a bad filter is allowing mold spores to enter the system where they can then come to rest on the moist AC coils, which can be a perfect breeding ground for molds. Whatever the issues, expect the professional to make recommendations to fix the problem at hand—the mold or mildew that is currently in the system—as well as prevent further contaminant growth in the future. These measures could be as simple as cleaning the system thoroughly and then unclogging a clogged drain line or changing filters.3
Of course, the best preventative measures are to have routine maintenance performed on your hvac system. But that’s not always enough to prevent these common contaminants from arising, and if they do you know who to call. Even if you don’t have mold or mildew but are concerned about the possibility, call Bell Brothers today to get a consultation and maintenance scheduled.