Mold can prove to be a major problem in a home or business. A residential or commercial HVAC system can prove to be a primary contributing factor to harmful mold contamination. When it comes to the development of a general and yet crucial understanding of the nature of mold contamination of an HVAC system, there are a number of points to consider:

  • A basic understanding of mold
  • How mold gets into an HVAC system
  • Health risk of mold
  • Process of HVAC mold remediation

Mold: A Brief Primer

Mold is a type of fungus that grows in multicellular filaments. This contrasts with the other most common type of fungus, yeast. Yeast is a single-cell type of fungus. There are thousands of different species of mold. 

Moisture is required for mold spores to germinate and live. Mold derives its energy from the organic material on which it grows. 

Mold reproduces through the release of huge numbers of spores. These spores become airborne and can travel significant distances. In addition, mold spores can remain viable for extended periods of time.

The most common types of mold include:

  • Acremonium
  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus
  • Cladosporium
  • Fusarium
  • Mucor
  • Penicillium
  • Rhizopus
  • Stachybotrys
  • Trichoderma
  • Trichophyton

How Mold Gets Into Your Home, Business, and HVAC System

The manner in which mold gets into your home or business HVAC system is a simple function of the way in which this equipment operates. By definition and design, HVAC equipment circulates air throughout a residence or business. In doing so, an HVAC system draws in air both from indoors and outdoors.

The reality is the mold spores are ubiquitous. They literally are everywhere. If there is moisture within an HVAC system and associated ductwork, mold spores readily will germinate and grow. Moisture commonly can be found within an HVAC system, including ductwork. When mold spores germinate in an HVAC system, a home or business owner can have a full-blown and potentially dangerous mold problem in a matter of hours. Not days, not weeks – hours. 

You may be able to actually see mold growing in certain locations in your HVAC system. For example, you may see mold growing on vents or in ductwork. 

Many people initially detect the presence of mold in their HVAC systems because of an unpleasant odor. 

Potential Health Risks of Mold

There is a fair amount of debate at this juncture in time over potential health risks associated with mold. There has been a considerable degree of confusion over mold-related health issues. Unfortunately, there has also been a notable amount of misinformation about the possible health consequences of mold exposure. 

There is generally firm agreement that mold exposure can result in a variety of lung-related conditions. Mold can produce what are known as allergens, substances that cause allergic reactions. These allergic reactions can result in relatively widespread symptoms beyond those that directly impact the lungs. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Indeed, these symptoms can prove to be profound. 

Mold can significantly aggravate a preexisting asthma condition. Many people with asthma report that when they are exposed to mold, they face what can be called a profound asthmatic response. 

Other recognized physical conditions attributed to mold exposure include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Aches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Unusual pain
  • Ice pick pain
  • Headache
  • Light sensitivity
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Morning stiffness
  • Sweats (particularly night sweats)
  • Temperature regulation or dysregulation problems
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Static shocks
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Vertigo
  • Metallic taste
  • Tremors
  • Appetite swings
  • Skin sensitivity

In addition, in recent years, mold exposure has been considered to be the underlying cause of mental health and brain functioning related issues and conditions that include:

  • Memory issues
  • Focus or concentration issues
  • Word recollection issues
  • Decreased learning of new knowledge
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Mood swings

The Ins and Outs of HVAC Mold Remediation

The Environmental Protection Agency has established recommended parameters regarding when a professional should be called in to address mold contamination. The EPA maintains that a mold remediation company should be engaged if mold is an extensive problem in generally accessible parts of a home or business. The EPA defines excessive as mold that impacts 10 square feet or more in a residence or commercial property. 

Mold in a home or business HVAC system presents a particularly challenging situation when it comes to effectively eliminating the fungus. Because of the unique challenges associated with HVAC mold remediation, the EPA generally recommends that a professional mold cleaning and disinfection company should be hired to address this type of formidable and potentially dangerous issue. 

In theory, you can cleanup mold in your HVAC system on your own. With that said, odds are strong that you will miss mold growing somewhere in the system. Moreover, even if you use a decent mold inhibiter product, such a agent does not last forever. With that said, there are certain tactics that need to be employed if you elect to undertake mold remediation on your own.

Before you attempt to remediate mold in an HVAC system on your own, you need to make sure you utilize appropriate personal protective equipment or PPE. The EPA recommends PPE that includes:

  • N95 facemask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Coveralls
  • Protective eyewear

Before embarking on trying to cleanup mold in your HVAC system, you need to turn the power to that system off. Indeed, when you discover mold growth in your HVAC system, the recommended course really is to shut the system down and block vents with cardboard or some other similar type of material. 

You need to purchase a commercial mold cleaning and removal agent. In the alternative, you can make your own. For a hard, nonporous surface cleaning agent can be 1-part bleach combined with 16-parts water. For porous surface, you can make a cleaning agent that is comprised of 1-tablespoon of detergent, ½ cup of baking soda, and 1 cup of water. 

After using the selected solution and thoroughly scrubbing the contaminated HVAC system, you need to apply an effective inhibiter to try to stave off future mold growth as best as you can when trying to eradicate this fungus on your own. 

Again, although you can attempt to undertake mold remediation contaminating your HVAC system on your own. The stark reality is that time and again people who attempt to do this on their own end up hiring a mold remediation company to eliminate mold contamination. 

Author

Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services such as biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, infectious disease disinfection and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.