It's not uncommon for mold and other organic matter to find their way into air-conditioning systems. Not only can it be a drag on your A/C system's overall performance, but it can also spread throughout the rest of your home if left to its own devices. The impact to your comfort and indoor air quality can be tremendous. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can prevent mold growth.
Where Mold Grows
The inner workings of the typical air conditioner tend to be three things – relatively warm, damp and dark. Not surprisingly, this combination conspires to work perfectly for mold spores, as they need a relatively warm place with minimal exposure to natural light and plenty of humidity. These spores often originate from outdoor sources and they're often tracked in through human and animal activity, but the spores themselves remain dormant until the right conditions arise.
There are a few specific areas where you're likely to see mold colonies in action:
- Evaporator coils – Responsible for removing latent heat from the surrounding air, the evaporator coils are often kept warm and wet throughout their operation, making them vulnerable to mold infestation.
- Drip tray – Anywhere from 5 to 20 gallons of water falls into the drip tray on a daily basis during A/C operation. It's the tray's job to funnel this water out of the A/C system, but it also funnels mold spores and other debris into the small drainage pipe. Mold growth often starts here, as the abundance of moisture and other debris makes it an attractive spot to grow.
- Air ducts – Your HVAC ducts can pass around a wide variety of mold spores, reducing the air quality in your home.
- Return air inlet – Under high-humidity conditions, mold can congregate around this area. It's not uncommon to find mold growth on the air filter itself, especially if the filter hasn't been changed in a while. If left alone, it could bypass the filter and migrate to the rest of the A/C unit.
Preventing Mold Growth
It's nearly impossible to eliminate every single mold spore floating in your home's indoor air. However, it is possible to prevent the conditions that allow for mold growth to be replicated any time soon:
Change your air filter regularly – A major part of mold defense involves changing your air filter at least once a month. Dirty air filters often become too clogged to effectively block mold and other types of spores. Keeping your air filter clean improves your chances of preventing mold growth.
Keep those drainage lines clear – A full drip tray caused by a blocked drain line can spell opportunity when it comes to mold. Consider treating your drip tray with an anti-mold tablet every few weeks, as it could help slowdown or even prevent mold growth in this and other areas.
Consider investing in a UV lamp – Natural sunlight is the best disinfectant for mold, but good luck bringing any natural light into the confines of your A/C's plenum. Instead, attach one or two ultraviolet radiation (UV) lamps above and/or near the evaporator coil. As it turns out, the UV energy emitted by these artificial lamps is roughly the same as the UV energy in sunlight.
Clean the evaporator coils regularly – Allowing dust and dirt deposits to collect on your evaporator coil gives a mold infestation the upper hand. You can either have a professional perform a periodic cleaning of the coils or carefully do it yourself using available cleaners. If you opt for a professional cleaning, you can find an HVAC company online at a site like http://www.perryheatingandcooling.com.
Above all, keeping your home's indoor humidity levels in balance is crucial for preventing future instances of mold. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor relative humidity levels at 30 to 60 percent. Any higher and the stage could be set for explosive mold growth.