A moldy air conditioner is one of the most common complaints among Wasatch Front homeowners. Mold can be a tricky problem to deal with. For starters, it’s practically everywhere in your home, albeit in the form of inactive mold spores. But once the right conditions develop, those spores can quickly take hold of an area and flourish with little difficulty.
When mold takes hold of your air conditioner, the consequences often go beyond poor cooling performance. Once mold gets inside of your AC system, it has the potential to spread throughout your entire home. Exposure to mold can also trigger a range of upper respiratory tract symptoms, from coughs and nasal stuffiness to skin irritation and asthma.
Regardless of the season, you should always check your air conditioner for signs of possible mold growth. If you happen to find mold inside your air conditioner, you can take these steps to eliminate it.
- Clean Your Evaporator Coil
Mold grows best in areas that are constantly damp and well-shielded from direct sunlight. So it’s no surprise to find mold growing on the evaporator coil. Enclosed within the air conditioner plenum, the evaporator coil is kept damp and in the dark — the perfect conditions for mold to flourish.
The evaporator coil helps your air conditioner produce cool air by removing latent heat from air that passes through the coil. Mold growth can directly affect your air conditioner’s performance by blocking air flow to the evaporator coil. Without adequate air flow, the evaporator coil can’t do its job properly, resulting in poor cooling performance.
Having your evaporator coil cleaned on an annual basis can help curb mold growth. You can clean the evaporator coil yourself using mild detergent and warm water, but you risk damaging the fragile aluminum fins lining the evaporator coil. Your HVAC technician has the tools and training to safely and properly clean your evaporator coil.
- Drain and Clean the Condensate Drip Tray
Right below the evaporator coil is the condensate drip tray. As your air conditioner removes latent heat from the air, it also condenses the moisture trapped within the air. The condensate drips off the evaporator coil and falls into the drip tray. A nearby drain funnels the condensate out of the tray and the air conditioning unit.
The condensate drip tray is also a hotbed for mold growth, especially if there’s a blockage preventing the condensate from draining properly. After cleaning the evaporator coil, the drip tray should be drained, cleaned, and disinfected to tackle mold growth. The drip tray should also be checked for cracks, holes, or rust spots that could cause water leaks.
- Keep Up With Air Filter Changes
When it comes to preventing mold growth, your air filter is usually the first line of defense. A clogged air filter is no good for blocking mold spores and other airborne pollutants. In fact, a clogged air filter can actually harbor mold growth, especially if the filter is exposed to moisture due to a leak or excessive humidity.
To prevent mold from circulating throughout your air conditioner, you should replace your air filter on a regular basis. If you have pets in your home, you should change your air filter on a monthly basis. Otherwise, you can replace it once every three months.
You should also consider upgrading to a better air filter, if you haven’t done so already. Pleated air filters rated between MERV 8 and 13 offer better air filtration performance than the stock fiberglass air filters used in AC systems.
- Reduce Excessive Humidity Levels
An overly humid indoor environment can also trigger mold growth. Keeping your home’s relative humidity levels below a certain threshold can help curb mold growth in your air conditioner and throughout the rest of your home. Most experts recommend that you keep indoor relative humidity levels between 30 percent and 50 percent.
In most cases, dealing with excessive humidity is as simple as turning on your air conditioner. Your AC system can actually dehumidify the indoor air, but only in a limited capacity. A stand-alone dehumidifier offers a better way to regulate indoor relative humidity levels on a regular basis. Dehumidifiers are available in portable form and whole-house variants that are installed as part of your home’s air conditioning system.
- Consider UV Germicidal Lamps
Another way of effectively dealing with mold growth inside of your air conditioner involves the use of ultraviolet (UV) light. UV-C radiation has been clinically proven to curb mold and bacteria growth. Exposure to UV-C radiation renders mold and other microorganisms inert on a molecular level, preventing them from thriving and reproducing.
UV-C radiation’s mold-killing capabilities are accomplished through the installation of UV germicidal lamps. These lamps are usually installed near the evaporator coil and other places that are a hotbed for mold growth. Long-term usage of UV germicidal lamps not only tackles existing mold growth, but it also plays a role in preventing future mold, mildew, and bacteria growth.
The above tips can help you take care of mold growth in your air conditioning system. If you need a helping hand, you can always call on Smedley & Associates for assistance.