Mold on Vents and Ducts
Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) vents and ducts are one of the last places people think to check for mold since they are tucked away in the basement and behind walls, but it is actually the place in the home that mold growth can be most harmful to the health of those living inside of it. If you suspect or spot mold growth on or inside of your air ducts, learn more on how to tackle this problem below.
How Does Mold Get on HVAC Vents and Ducts?
The two things that mold spores need to grow are a little water and some organic matter to cling to like dust, which is pretty much everywhere, making moisture control the most important aspect of keeping mold out of your vents and out of your home in general.
The problem is that attempting to prevent moisture from gathering on air conditioning vents is a fruitless exercise. This is because when cold air passes along warm air, as an air conditioning system and ductwork will do any time you are trying to cool a place down on a hot day, condensation can form along the vents. This is why monitoring your ducts and keeping them clean can be an important mold prevention step.
Other causes of mold growth inside HVAC vents and ducts include:
- Build up on air conditioning filters: Dust and dirt can build up on air conditioning filters, rendering them less effective at blocking these types of particles from traveling through the ductwork and into other areas of the home.
- Holes near HVAC return: If there are holes in the metal around your air conditioning return, these could be pulling in humidity each time it turns on, which is a common cause for mold growth in HVAC systems.
- Wrong size HVAC unit: If the unit is too large and powerful for the house size, it can add to humidity problems and increase the likelihood of mold growth.
- HVAC unit pulling air from attic walls: When an HVAC system pulls from unclean areas like the attic, that can create mold problems in the ducts.
The Danger of Mold in Air Ducts
The presence of open and growing mold in a home can negatively affect the health of nearby individuals. Common places for mold to appear indoors include bathrooms, kitchens, basements, attics, and anywhere with excess moisture. If mold grows in one of these rooms, at least it is in an isolated spot, the issue with having mold growth inside of a home’s air ducts is that those mold spores are getting distributed to every single room with a vent connection. There is essentially no place to hide from it.
If inhaled or ingested, mold can have the following effects on a person’s health:
- Runny nose
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Difficulty breathing/wheezing
- Neurological issues
These are only some of the many symptoms that one can experience from mold exposure.
How Do I Know if I Have Mold in My Air Ducts?
If you check your HVAC system ducts and do not see any signs of mold growth, that is great however that does not necessarily mean that your ducts are completely mold-free. Unfortunately, due to the hidden nature of air conditioning ducts and the fact that they are not large enough for an adult to climb in and have a look around, it is difficult to get a visual check on a lot of ductwork that winds throughout a home.
First, if you see any signs of dirt in your vents, this could be a precursor to mold growth and also causing some health problems for people living in the home. Here are a couple of simple ways to see if your vents are dirty:
- Remove various vent covers throughout the house and take a flashlight or a photo to see if you spot any excess dirt
- Dust your house completely and if you notice that the house is dusty one or two days later, then there is likely too much dust being pushed out of your air ducts
Besides actually seeing mold grow, another way to tell if you have a mold issue in your air ducts is by using your nose. Mold gives off a distinct musty odor. Position yourself at various vent openings and do a sniff test. If you smell that musty odor, it is very likely that it is mold and you will want to call in professionals to have it removed immediately.
If you do not see or or smell it, but people living in your home are still getting sick for unexplained reasons, you may want to consider calling in professionals to test for mold inside of your HVAC ducts. Every home has some level of mold in it, so do not be alarmed by a positive reading. It is the amount of mold that is safe for your HVAC system to have that you need to discuss with a health or mold professional.
How to Get Rid of Mold in Air Ducts
You can try to clean air ducts and vents by using soap and water on the places that you can reach. If you do this, be sure to throw away the tools, such as a sponge and gloves, that you used for the cleaning process. The mold spores will remain on those items long after cleaning and need to be disposed of immediately. Unfortunately, since there is a lot of ductwork that is hard for a normal person to access, home remedies for mold deep inside air ducts are hard to come by. Mold removal professionals will have the tools needed to get deep into the ducts of your home and remove the mold safely and effectively.
As far as preventative measures, there are also professionals that offer air duct cleaning to remove excess dirt and debris from HVAC systems before mold becomes an issue. They have tools like negative air machines that can attach directly to your HVAC system to suck the debris from the ductwork in your home.
Make sure to get an in-home estimate before choosing a professional to take on your HVAC cleaning, as the cost of air duct cleaning can range depending on the square footage of the home and the number of vents.
Tips for Preventing Mold Growth in Air Ducts
Here are the best things that you can do to protect your vents from mold growth:
- Making an effort to check your vents frequently for signs of mold
- Regularly wipe down the inside and outside of the air ducts that you can reach to remove dirt and dust particles that have a chance of developing mold
- Check and clean out the HVAC drip pan on a regular basis as this is likely to be a mold breeding ground
- Try to keep relative humidity levels down in the home
- Clean and change your filters often
- Use the air conditioner less often
- Repair any leaks in duct joints
- Have your air ducts regularly cleaned by professionals with the proper tools
- Make sure your HVAC unit is the appropriate size for your house
- Air sealing the attic to prevent dust-heavy air from leaking into the rest of your home
- Call in professionals to inspect and repair any holes near HVAC returns
Make sure not to neglect the HVAC system in your regular home maintenance checks as it is essential to keeping a home running smoothly and the people living in it healthy.