How to Fight Mold in Commercial (and Residential) HVAC Systems

How to Fight Mold in Commercial (and Residential) HVAC Systems

Mold in HVAC systems (air conditioning system) and HVAC ducts can be a significant concern for commercial property owners, property managers and homeowners. This surreptitious growth degrades Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and can affect the occupants’ health. Let’s explore how to tackle this issue.

The Impact of Mold in HVAC Systems

Mold is ubiquitous and thrives in your building’s environment, including your HVAC systems. Its growth varies with weather conditions, increasing during humid seasons and decreasing in dry ones. Poor ventilation, excessive moisture, and trapped moisture can lead to quick mold growth. Despite being impossible to eradicate, we can control mold by eliminating its growth conditions: warmth, moisture, and nutrients.

Certain types of molds, black mold, can significantly degrade air quality when they overrun systems, causing a significant health hazard. A mold-contaminated HVAC system can do significant harm to people and surroundings. Individuals with mold sensitivities might develop immediate respiratory problems, while those with less sensitivity might experience itchy eyes, watery eyes, and other allergy-like symptoms. Also, “stinky sock” syndrome and perceived unpleasant odors, or developing heightened sensitivity over time, can be a symptom of mold issues.

According to the U.S. EPA, routine HVAC system checks are essential for mold and moisture monitoring, thus maintaining healthy air quality.

Steps to Say Goodbye to Mold from Your HVAC System

Checking HVAC systems for mold is not just a spring cleaning event. Despite routine maintenance checks, mold presence may still occur. In such cases, here are the necessary actions for your HVAC maintenance team or HVAC company to tackle mold remediation. First, remember that personal safety is a concern, and mold presents a real danger. Pay special attention to the safety points identified below. If you aren’t comfortable, please consider getting professional assistance.

  1. Deactivate the HVAC system: Before cleaning, ensure your HVAC system is turned off.
  2. Safety Measures: Everyone involved in the cleaning process should wear a minimum of an N-95 respirator for safety.
  3. Replace Damp Materials: Discard any damp, porous materials like filters or insulation using double-bagged, thick (6-mil or more) plastic bags.
  4. Vacuuming: Utilize wet vacuums to remove any standing water. For “dry” coils, opt for a HEPA vacuum.
  5. Apply Disinfectant: Clean non-porous surfaces (ductwork, coils, plenums, pans, etc.) and other infected areas using an EPA-registered HVAC disinfectant.
  6. Clean Condensate Pans and Drain Lines: These are the lines that move water away from your HVAC system. Backups and backup lines can cause significant issues.
  7. Clean HVAC Coils: A mechanical coil cleaning system can help eradicate solid debris from HVAC evaporator coils. Dust buildup on coils can be a food source for mold.
  8. Isolate and Disinfect: Isolate each cleaned ductwork section with bladders to prevent mold spores from spreading. Subsequently, fog the area with an EPA-registered disinfectant.
  9. Apply Mold Inhibitor: Use an EPA-registered mold and mildew inhibitor on all HVAC components to prevent growth for up to two years.
  10. Final Clean-Up: Lastly, HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuums the treated area for a thorough cleanup.