Here’s What You Need to Know:
The problem of pesky mold problems in both residential and commercial locations is common. There are many reasons but one that seems to be a common one is the HVAC equipment. This equipment includes pipes and drain pans that are a haven for the growth of mold and subsequent transportation means for distributing mold spores throughout the facility.
Prevention as opposed to eradication has become the more effective method of dealing with mold. Both engineering and maintenance managers are beginning to discover how HVAC systems can perpetuate mold problems which should assist them with helping to solve the problem.
1. The Issue is Right There, It’s Time to Understand It
To even exist, molds need water, agreeable temperature, and a food source. Molds found indoors vary from those found living in outside air. Visible indoor molds are the potential problems that homeowners need a resolution for. Mold and fungal growth can cause discomfort and serious risks and health problems for homeowners.
The environment indoors is a haven for mold providing food sources such as drywall, carpet, paper, fabric, wood, and furniture. The temperature is generally consistent which further enhances the environment for mold.
Since indoor mold cannot exist without moisture, eliminating this moisture can help eliminate the potential for mold.
Eradicating existing mold with fungicides, cleaners, and biocides, is a temporary fix. It only removes the symptoms of an existing problem with moisture that will cause the mold to return. If the mold is allowed to continue to exist within the HVAC system, it will compromise air quality. The mold must be eliminated at its source in the HVAC system.
An integral part of any HVAC system is preventing the growth of mold. Contractors and managers all need to adopt the specific steps to take and those to avoid in controlling a mold sensitive environment.
2. Professionals Not Helping or Guiding the Inexperienced
Federal guidelines are being developed pertaining to the regulation of mold. Mold eradication professionals in many states are required to be licensed.
Without current regulations, associations, groups, and agencies are publishing guidelines on ways to investigate, prevent, and eliminate indoor mold.
3. Take a Closer Look at your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
Essential to the elimination of indoor mold, is the elimination of its environment. Appropriate design, installation, and maintenance of the HVAC system will help in eliminating this mold friendly environment.
HVAC systems are a constant source of condensation and moisture for mold to propagate. In addition, mold spores can be delivered to all areas of a facility via the ducts and vents.
Key components to check during an HVAC system assessment include these:
- Mold can develop in coils and drain pans. Water from condensation drips into a drain pan. When the drainage pan is not installed or designed properly it can create a mold-friend habitat. Simple sloping of the pan and frequent cleansing can eliminate this environment.
- Duct linings should be kept dry and humidification and dehumidification equipment can be used to maintain the equipment to alleviate the potential for mold.
- Clean all outdoor air dampers. Any dust that develops will cause mold growth.
- Air filters need to be replaced regularly. Filters should fit tight and should be replaced with the fans turned off. High-efficiency filters are recommended and technicians should match filtration efficiency with the capabilities of the equipment and appropriate airflow.
- Ducts are important within the system of mold control. Watch those areas that may have a restricted flow of air and check ducts for moisture and condensation. Technicians can control this by:
- alleviating dust and dirt build-up, especially during construction or renovation work
- Quickly repairing leaks and water damage
- Keeping key system components dry
- Cleaning coils and drip pans
- Performing proper filter maintenance
- Performing proper housekeeping in occupied spaces.
- Return air flows or ‘plenums’ need to be addressed by technicians to assure that the strict code guidelines for materials and supplies to alleviate contamination are followed. Following the construction of these return airflows, workers need to clean them out to assure that materials are not left behind that could cause mold issues.
- Monitoring the water quality and treating with chemicals will help to keep the cooling towers free from mold. Clean out all sediment. The installation of drift eliminators may be required.
- Technicians should pay particular attention to air intakes. Check for organic material buildups in these areas. Keep non-essential items such as garbage cans, etc., away from these areas. Standing water consistent with ponds, waterfalls, and digging areas should not be close to the air intake areas. Bird and bat droppings need to be cleaned out around from these areas also.
There are many areas within an HVAC system that can provide things that mold needs to survive and affect the entire system. Once it starts, it will be difficult to get rid of. Technicians should pay particular attention to;
- check filters for dampness and dirt
- assess heat filters
- keep an eye on any standing water for any growth and dirt in the area
- check out ductwork for debris that could attract mold
The cooling coils are hard to inspect and clean. Fins on the coils can have mold on them and they will require the use of a cleaner, but be sure that the cleaner won’t damage the coil fins. High-pressure spraying can also damage these fins which will in turn damage the HVAC system.
4. In-house Responses
The effective design, maintenance and operation of your HVAC system can improve the air quality indoors or IAQ. Technicians and managers should develop a plan to initially prevent and then combat the growth of mold within the overall system. We have detailed all the areas of an HVAC system that can support an attack of mold.
If and when a mold clean up project becomes necessary there are several beliefs of the order and action that should be taken:
Use only adequately trained and professional technicians. These people should have the proper knowledge and training, and the ability to utilize that knowledge.
The National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences has issued a guide for the Protection and Training of Workers Engaged in Maintenance and Remediation Work Associated with Mold, and this should be followed when dealing with a mold remediation situation.
Technicians should use effective methods to remove and clean mold materials that have been colonized as well as any dust that could include any mold spores. They should use EPA registered disinfectants and cleansing agents for the HVAC system.
Using stabilized chlorine dioxide-oxine or an equivalent can accomplish this process. Fungicide coatings can include EPA registered polyacrylate emulsions type that was developed for long term fungicidal infection and application to an HVAC system.
Use methods to clean that provide protection and prevent the spreading of additional mold spores to other areas. Use protective equipment, isolate the area, and decontaminate for technician protection outside of the area where they are working.
5. Outside Assistance
It all boils down to locating a professional who is knowledgeable in the treatment of mold. There are many factors that they will need to be trained in. Someone familiar with an HVAC system with knowledge on the treatment of mold will be very helpful. Look for the license requirement in your particular state. Some states do not require a license, but get references and check out the references for your professional.
Check out the technician’s procedures for operation and safety. Also, be sure to check their training and knowledge certifications. Anyone who cannot adequately explain the entire mold issue shouldn’t be working on your HVAC system.
Another beneficial issue would be the insurance they carry. You will need to make sure that it covers fungal remediation.
When you pay attention to your HVAC system and complete the maintenance required to keep it operating effectively, you can control the outbreak of mold within your home. Prevention of the overall mold growth will eliminate the need to remediate it after it has spread throughout your home. One is much more difficult than the other.