mold in air conditioner

How to Get Rid of Mold in Your Air Conditioner

The damp or stuffy smell coming from your AC can make your home indoors quite uncomfortable. And, it is all because of some mold growing inside your AC unit.

If you notice such an odor, it is best to act quickly to get rid of it — especially if you have someone in your household who is allergic to mold.

When the air circulating in your house is mold-contaminated, the chances of getting respiratory infections are quite high. Therefore, if you can’t remove the mold yourself, call an HVAC expert to ensure you have the best air quality possible.

But why does mold in air conditioners occur? And, how do you get rid of it?

How Mold in Air Conditioners Form

Sometimes, even the best air conditioners will have mold growth issues. This can occur if the air conditioner stays idle for a long time.

Generally, mold in AC units will form during the winter months. During this cold season, your AC is mostly idle. As a result, dust and debris might accumulate inside your system’s vents.

Availability of moisture or humidity in the air acts as a catalyst for the mold to start growing on the accumulated particles. And, since you are not using the AC, you’ll only notice the problem during the warmer seasons.

Black mold in air conditioners can also occur when there is a leakage in your unit’s condenser or evaporator coil. This, plus a dirty filter, creates an ideal environment for mold growth. 

Luckily, newer AC units come with a “check filter light.” The light notifies you when your air filters need cleaning or replacing. This way, it reduces the chances of mold growing inside the unit.

How to Remove Black Mold in Your Air Conditioner

The basic steps to cleaning the black mold in an air conditioner are mostly dependent on the type of unit. It matters whether you are dealing with a window AC unit, central AC unit, or even a free-standing unit.

For this reason, we will look at each type of AC separately to ensure you have the proper information no matter your type of AC.

You should, however, note that no matter the type of AC unit, ample ventilation is necessary during the cleaning process. Don’t try to remove the mold in a poorly ventilated space.

Also, use protective gear, including non-porous gloves, goggles, and a face mask.

1. Window AC Unit

The first step in cleaning mold off a window AC unit is to disassemble the unit. From here, use a cloth and a regular household cleaner to wipe the mold off.

Ensure that you have cleaned every accessible part of the unit before reassembling it. A bleaching agent is not necessary for this process.

However, if the mold has touched any porous surfaces such as carpet, plaster, wood, or upholstery, removing it will be an almost impossible task. In fact, you might need to replace the item.

Also, the mold growth might have extended to some inaccessible parts of your system. In this case, a professional HVAC technician might be able to help you with this. In the worst-case scenario, you might have to replace the entire unit.

2. Mold in Central Air Conditioner

Mold can also infest your central AC unit. When this happens, you’ll most probably need to call an expert to do the cleaning.

Generally, when dealing with a central AC system, the mold will have grown in the unit’s ductwork. Therefore, vacuuming comes in handy to get rid of the mold. This process can sometimes be pretty expensive, especially if the entire system is affected by the mold.

Note: Once you notice the presence of mold in your central AC system, the first step is to shut the system off. This helps to prevent further spread, as recommended by the EPA.

When cleaning the AC unit, some surfaces are easier to clean than others. For instance, sheet metal ducts will be easier to clean than plastic, fiberglass, and lined ones.

However, it’s not recommended to use biocides or any surface treatment on any of these surfaces. This ensures that you maintain a high quality of air in your house.

3. Free-standing Units

Like their window unit counterparts, these AC units also draw in air and humidity through a window opening. Luckily, they can easily be removed and disposed of when they become moldy.

If you are not comfortable doing this job yourself, it’s highly recommended to contact an HVAC technician.

4. Wall-Mounted AC units

These units are mounted on the wall and provide cool air for a single room or space. For this reason, they don’t contain ducts like the central AC system.

Since most of them are permanently fixed, it’s recommended that you seek the services of a professional. 

However, if you want to clean the mold off your small AC units by yourself, follow these steps:

  •  Wear protective gear (gloves, goggles, face mask, etc.)
  • Take the unit to a safe cleaning area
  • Disassemble the AC unit
  • Remove the air filter
  • Clean the filter using a regular household cleaner
  •  If the filter is disposable, dispose of it
  • Clean the interior of the AC unit
  • Hose the unit to rinse, avoiding soaking the electrical parts
  • Allow it some time to dry
  • Reinstall the AC unit

Mold in Air Conditioner Sickness

If you didn’t know, the mold that forms in your home’s AC system could be quite hazardous for you and your entire household.

Your AC pumps air into your house. If this air is contaminated with mold spores, it can be harmful to your health. For instance, when you inhale these microscopic spores, they can irritate and inflame both your airway and lungs.

Consequently, you might experience sneezing, coughing, and asthma attacks. In serious cases, sinusitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, and several other respiratory infections are possible.

Also, while not everyone is allergic to mold, it is known to cause some severe allergic reactions. In severe cases, throat swelling is experienced, which can become life-threatening.

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