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Mold in Air Ducts: How It Gets There and How to Stop It

Home air ducts are structures homeowners don’t access too often unless they’re far too curious for their own good. The lack of easy access to air ducts means it’s hard to see what goes on in them.

One of the more sinister activities taking place in air ducts is mold growth. Situated in the path of general air circulation, mold spores can easily spread from their air duct colonies into the air of the rooms of your house, which can cause a lot of environmental and health issues to the people inside.

How does mold accumulate in air ducts, and how can a homeowner stop the growth?

Signs of mold in air ducts

Of course, most people don’t root around in their air ducts to check for signs of mold infestation. It may be possible to see growth in areas around the visible openings to an HVAC system’s air ducts, such as the vents and drip pans.

However, the presence of mold in air ducts can cause physical reactions in humans. The most telltale sign is odor: a strong, musty smell that permeates throughout the house. Mold can also result in symptoms that affect personal health—eye, nose or throat irritation, allergic reactions, mysterious headaches or dizziness, nausea may all be indications of mold growth.

How mold gets in air ducts

The key to mold growth is moisture. If moisture collects in a certain area—especially when combined with suitable temperatures, humidity, and bad ventilation—the chances for mold infestation in that spot increase. Any area with more than 60% humidity is very hospitable to mold and fungal growth.
Air conditioning systems can be especially conducive to mold growth if not monitored or maintained. If the air conditioner circulates air that’s too cold, moisture may collect more quickly and condense upon the surface or vents of the duct.
This especially happens in AC units that are too large or powerful for the areas they cover: A small room may get too cold, allowing moisture to keep and expand in certain spots, and mold starts collecting around them.
Leaky ducts can also lead to a strong presence of mold. When leaked warm, humid air combines with the cold air an HVAC system circulates, they condense into water, which helps the easy growth of mold.

How to prevent mold growth in air ducts

If your air ducts are already infested with mold, it’s time to get them cleaned. For that, you’ll need to hire a professional who specializes in duct cleaning—it’s not something you should do yourself. Air ducts are incredibly tricky to access, and even the strongest everyday household cleaners aren’t effective in getting rid of the growths.
But you take preventative measures against mold growth in air ducts:
-Schedule regular HVAC maintenance. Consistent upkeep of your ventilation and duct system, especially professional duct cleaning, is a strong measure to take.
-Install a UV lamp. Ultraviolet light is a proven mold-killer, and an HVAC professional like those at Rowland Air can install a UV lamp in a strategic spot that inhibits the spread of spores.
-Use a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier can keep mold in check by reducing the presence of moisture in the rooms of your house.
-Check for plumbing leaks. Make it a point to look for signs of leakage, especially around walls, to detect mold growth before it spreads too quickly.
-Add more vents. In rooms where moisture combines with warm temperatures—such as bathrooms and kitchens—adding more ventilation outlets can keep mold growth in check.

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