Fungal and bacterial growth inside ductwork is a common problem, especially in high humidity areas. AC ductwork that is incorrectly installed can also cause serious mold growth issues. Over the years I have spoken to quite a few HVAC contractors, hygienists, and remediators. Below are a few pointers I have learned along the way from them.
When dealing with ductwork issues and mold consider the following:
– Were ducts installed properly? This is especially important if you are considering the purchase of a new home. In Florida and in GA, for example, I have heard numerous complaints of AC ductwork in an attic being installed directly on the truces which should not be the case. Ductwork should be elevated to avoid a mold growth problem.
– Depending on test results for mold in your home, ductwork can be cleaned and or replaced completely. If you are not sure what to do about testing click here.
– Ductwork replacement and or cleaning should be done by a licensed AirConditioning Contractor who is NADCA certified. You can also check if a company is licensed by finding your state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation office. For example, if you live in TX you would look up a business here to see if they are licensed. If you live in FL you would click here.
You can also look up their rating on the website for the Better Business Bureau. There you will be able to read complaints filed against them and also see if they are an accredited business.
– If you are going to contract someone to clean your ductwork please keep in mind that they will clean ducts by using brushes, a vacuum, negative air pressure and in some cases they will apply a fogging agent. A responsible contractor will set up a workspace by covering the floor and any furniture and belongings in and around the areas where they will be working. They will also be careful to not cross contaminate your space.
If you are chemically sensitive make sure you ask for a sample of all products being used to determine your tolerance. You can also opt out of their fogging agent and purchase your own product. USEnzyme.com sells fogging agents/enzyme-based cleaners that may cause fewer reactions in chemically sensitive individuals. Their products are made for the DIY homeowner and for commercial use and they can also be used to wash clothing, stuffed animals and similar items.
– Cleaning the ductwork is not enough, however. Make sure that your Air Handler unit, coils and all electrical components are taken apart and cleaned outside of your home. Cleaning the ductwork and not the rest of the HVAC components is a total waste of money and not recommended as you will just recontaminate your home once your heating and or cooling is turned on.
– After cleaning fiberglass or fiberboard ducts it is imperative that the same ducts be sealed. The cleaning process will undoubtedly detach fiberglass particles and if ducts aren’t sealed these particles can be blown into the air once the heating and or cooling system is turned on. Breathing in fiberglass particles can lead to mesothelioma and other serious health issues. To seal ducts many companies around the country use a product called IAQ8000. Similar products are available but I have yet to find one that is recommended for people who are chemically sensitive. After ducts are sealed some contractors will tell you that you can reenter the home within a few hours, I would recommend leaving for at least 3 to 5 days. I would also recommend running your AC and a good quality HEPA and VOC filter inside your home during the days you are away.
– Keeping a clean AC air filter for your home is super important. Changing your filter every 45 to 60 days is also very important. I can’t even begin to tell you the dozens of homes my husband saw last year that had massive fungal growth on the AC filter. We were searching for a new home and out of over 6 dozen homes, only one had a somewhat clean HVAC system. Sadly this is a problem all around the country due to lack of education and information by both landlords and tenants. In most cases, people don’t service their AC units and they never change the filter. A dirty and moldy filter is a dead give away that the landlord and or business owner does not service and maintain the HVAC system as needed. To find your HVAC filter look for the return register and the air handler. The return register is usually a square or rectangular shaped grille that is on the wall or on the ceiling. The air handler is the part of your HVAC system that is inside of your of your home, it is where the air is cooled. The air handler can be tucked away in a closet, attic, crawlspace or basement.
These are just a few tips, for now, please check back often as I will be updating this post periodically.
Chemical Free Gal