Signs of Mold in Home: Is this Mold in My HVAC Vents?

Most home air conditioning and heating systems have or will become discolored with visible mold or visible dust to some degree - but it's not normal or healthy for your ducts to become excessively moldy or to produce a strong mold odor.


It's important to look for signs of mold in home because mold spores from your air conditioning and heating ducts can potentially result in health problems, and even mold odors in the absence of mold spores have been shown to cause health problems. In fact, according to a 2005 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and cited in Total Health Magazine, one out of every six allergy sufferers' symptoms can be directly linked to the mold and bacteria found in their air duct systems. Most people are exposed to some mold every day without suffering any side effects, but people with mold allergies can have a reaction if exposed to too much mold, including symptoms such as wheezing, rashes or hives, itchy eyes, and respiratory failure.


Your air conditioning and heating system works to ventilate rooms by recycling air. When warm air is laden with moisture, it creates the perfect conditions for mold to grow. The mold attaches itself to the inner areas of the ventilation system. When that happens, the system's fans help distribute the mold spores throughout all the rooms of your house. To look for signs of mold in home, specifically in your air conditioning and heating vents, look not only on the outsides of the vents, but on the inside as well.


Types of Mold:

• Mold that is black in color grows mostly on exposed foods, particularly those containing wheat.
• Green mold is not poisonous to humans but is an allergen. Both black and green mold can trigger sneezing fits, and the affected person may have itchy red eyes when they've inhaled or touched the mold.
• Molds that are orange or yellow rarely grow indoors and are non-toxic. They tend to grow on decaying organic matter and wood.

Categories of Mold:

• Allergenic Mold: Black and green colored molds fall into this category. They can have devastating effects on asthmatic individuals. The spores they emit are allergens, and may cause the symptoms described earlier.
• Pathogenic Mold: This type of mold can cause diseases, especially to the respiratory system, for persons with weakened immune systems or newborn babies.
• Toxic Mold: Toxic mold, most commonly referred to as black mold, is poisonous when inhaled or touched, and has been linked to cancer in some cases.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests having our ducts cleaned if the surface of your ducts have visible mold, but unfortunately many areas of your HVAC system that contain mold might not be immediately visible. To avoid the health hazards associated with mold in air ducts, you need to reduce the sources of particulates and moisture found in your ductwork.


Have your HVAC system inspected and cleaned by an air duct cleaning professional. Cleaning your air duct system removes the particulates and chemicals that are trapped in your ductwork.


Use central air conditioning set on "recirculate." Doing this exclude much of the pollen and mold from the air in your home.


Use a vacuum with double-bagging, or a HEPA filter.


Inspect your HVAC system. Inspecting your system at least once a year for mold growth can not only save you money on your heating and cooling costs, but it can also help you put a stop to any contamination.


Cut back on the carpeting and drapes. Consider tile and hardwood, and roll up shades instead.


Take off your shoes right outside the door, before coming inside, or at least wipe them well on an outdoor mat.


The best way to prevent mold from infesting your home, and specifically your air conditioning and heating vents is to reduce the levels of moisture inside your home. Proper air conditioning and ventilation in areas particularly susceptible to attacks, like in the shower and kitchen, is your best bet.

Small changes, such as using a HEPA filter in the air conditioning system, are recommended to maintain the cleanliness of the vents. Annual maintenance of all parts of your system, including the coils, can also help reduce the risk of mold spores entering the ducts. You will typically need to have a professional inspect and clean your furnace or air conditioning system annually to complete these tasks.

If you live in a humid environment or experience a lot of humidity in the home, then you may want to consider investing in a dehumidifier. The dehumidifier can remove excess moisture from the air, which is needed for mold spores to thrive. Lastly, maintaining cleanliness in the home by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly and limiting the amount of dust in the home can reduce mold spores. If you are renovating and there is a lot of dust, then you can close off vents with plastic sheeting to keep vents clean.

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