What is HVAC?
Whether it’s the middle of winter and you’re trying to stay warm or it’s the hottest days of summer and staying cool is priority number one, many of us confine ourselves indoors with the air conditioning or heat cranked up trying to stay comfortable until the outdoor conditions are more suited to our taste. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems maintain the temperature, humidity, and air quality in your home and are a part of most modern homes. The HVAC system can consist of many components but in most modern homes generally includes the heating unit, sometimes called the furnace; the air conditioning unit; the ductwork; and the air handler which houses these components along with the blower fan and other special equipment. Other components or equipment within an HVAC system can include alternative heating fixtures, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air exchangers or various filtration or cleaning units.
Maintaining your HVAC system is crucial to maintaining comfort and safety in your home. Failing to change or use the correct filter for the air handler unit, allowing coolant levels to run low or failure to check for gas leaks or other problems can create some serious health issues or poor indoor air quality.
Is HVAC Mold Common?
The answer is Yes and No. Because mold is a common component of household dust, it will always be present to some extent on the interior of your HVAC system. It is not, however, common or acceptable for visible mold growth to be present on the interior of your system or the interior of your ductwork. This is almost always the result of elevated humidity levels in the home or some other moisture problem in or around the air handler unit or ductwork. So, while there is never a truly “mold-free” home, visible mold and moisture control are the key to a healthy HVAC system.
How to prevent HVAC Mold
Using preventing visible mold from occurring in your HVAC system is a much better alternative to having to fix it later. Here are some tips for keeping your system healthy and functioning properly:
- Maintain your humidifier – While not all HVAC systems include a humidifier, when installed they can help to make the home more comfortable in cooler months by adding moisture into the air. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for indoor humidity levels based on the current outdoor temperatures or select a unit that monitors the outside temperature and makes this adjustment for you. It is vital that a humidifier is maintained annually and checked periodically for proper operation. If humidity levels in the home exceed where you have set them or if there is condensation forming on your windows, turn off the water to the unit immediately or call someone for immediate service. Many large scale mold problems in air handlers and ductwork are the results of a malfunctioning humidifier.
- Change your filters regularly – A dirty system is significantly more likely to have mold growth than a clean one. Keeping high quality, allergen type furnace filter in your air handler keeps both the interior of the unit clean as well as all the air passing through the supply ductwork in the home. Most one inch filters need to be changed every three months while wider filters can be changed every six to twelve. More frequent filter changes won’t hurt, so, if you find your filter becomes dirty more rapidly, change it more frequently. There is little that improves indoor air quality better than a good furnace filter.
- Duct Cleaning – While annual duct cleaning is certainly not needed in our opinion, every 3-5 years, consider having your ductwork cleaned to help prevent the accumulation of dust and debris in the system. Make sure that the air handler (furnace cabinet) is cleaned at the same time along with the cooling coils. Indoor air quality may actually get worse immediately following duct cleaning, especially for fine particulates, but in the long run, it will be good for the system and the overall health of the home.
- HVAC Unit size matters- Make sure you have the right-sized air conditioning unit. If your air conditioner has gone out and you are looking to replace it, make sure that the contractor performing the work takes the time and has the experience to size the unit correctly. Undersized units may work tirelessly to achieve the desired temperatures in your home and lead to hot and cold spots as the system struggles to stay ahead. Oversized units cool the air too quickly and don’t operate for long enough cycles to pull enough moisture out of the air on humid days.
These are all key prevention tips to help control HVAC mold growth. In part 2 of HVAC MOLD: Here Is What You Need To Know, we will cover what to do if you find mold in your HVAC unit and options for mold removal.
In Part 1 of HVAC MOLD: Here Is What You Need To Know, we discuss key Mold prevention and control tips for your home’s HVAC system. We provided key details on how to keep mold growth to a minimum and have the healthiest possible system. In Part 2, we will discuss what to do if you find mold in your HVAC unit and your mold remediation options.
What happens next if you have HVAC mold?
So you had someone tell you that they found mold in your HVAC system. First, don’t panic! Mold has a really bad reputation and people tend to assume the worst when initially finding out about a mold issue in their home. Don’t get us wrong, Mold can cause serious health symptoms and problems, however, this often depends on various contributing factors and is never just as simple as “having mold”. The amount of mold and time of exposure can play a big role in those symptoms and health issues. Mold within an HVAC system can impact the indoor environment in significant ways. More so than visible mold growth on surfaces in the home, mold found in the airflow of your home’s system can be a serious problem. If you have reason to believe your health is at risk do not hesitate to first contact your doctor or health care provider and follow their advice.
Second, a mold remediation plan is a must, and you must. You can consider deactivating the system until the mold is removed. Depending on how your being impacted, continuing to use the device can increase the risk of affecting you and/or your family’s health.
Is HVAC Mold A DIY Situation?
Minor mold growth can often be a DIY situation. We have guides to help you with various scenarios. With a little bit of elbow grease. the right cleaners, and some knowledgeable direction you can solve many mold problems faster and easier than you would anticipate. However, mold growth on the interior of your HVAC system can often exceed the skill or comfort level of the average homeowner and professional help is needed. Unless you’re comfortable with opening the air handler cabinet, removing the blower or other components as needed, correcting an interior problem can be challenging.
It is very important to remember safety first! Working around electrical components can be risky with water based cleaners, so always disable the power to the system prior to attempting any cleaning. Make sure you have gloves and a mask to protect yourself from directly touching or inhaling the mold. Just because mold may not have caused any immediate health effects in the past, it doesn’t take too much time or cost to avoid contact and lower your risks of getting sick or having a reaction.
Vacuuming up surface growth with a HEPA vacuum is generally the first step followed by spraying and wiping hard surfaces with a sanitizing cleaner like lysol. Removal of paper labels or other heavily contaminated parts may be needed. Duct work can be vacuumed and treated from the interior, but only as far as your equipment will reach. If the ductwork is impacted beyond a few feet, you may have to replace it. This is especially true of duct board type ducts that are composed of fiberglass filaments that can hold onto mold even after cleaning.
Dont be afraid to Seek Out Professional Mold Remediation Services?
Many homeowners tend to find mold in their HVAC system unexpectedly and after it has grown out of control. Whether the mold is discovered by accident or during maintenance, it is always a good idea to get an expert mold removal specialist’s advice on how to tackle the problem. Mold can grow in hard to reach areas that sometimes require a mold remediation expert to minimize the damage and costs with their special tools and techniques. Some scenarios require the use of an HVAC contractor, a duct cleaner or coordination of multiple specialties to adequately resolve the problem.
Indiana Mold Removal and Remediation has over 75 years of combined experience. We understand that Mold can be scary and overwhelming, so we are here to help. If you suspect you may have mold in your home, contact us today for a free inspection.
Mold. A word that many fear.
When growing in a controlled environment, mold can be quite helpful. For example, mold is needed to make cheese, penicillin, and other antibiotics, and is the source of many other useful things. In the outdoor environment, mold helps decompose organic matter and is part of the ongoing cycle of life. However, if mold grows unnoticed and uncontrollably in your home, school, or office, it can be a serious problem.
Mold has a bad reputation and it’s easy to understand why. They are known allergens and can pose additional health risks to certain individuals depending on the level of exposure and sensitivity they may have. Mold spores transport and transfer easily on air currents and grow anywhere and everywhere at a rapid pace when adequate moisture or water is present. We can find mold growing on clothes, food, carpets, and even in places not visible to us on a daily basis. Places such as inside or under walls, ceilings, flooring, attics, and crawl spaces. It can be a very difficult and expensive problem to fix.
While you nor your home will ever be “mold-free”, you can take steps to prevent mold growth in your home and avoid putting you and your family at risk. The best mold preventative strategy always centers on moisture control and cleaning. Here are 4 tips from Indiana Mold Remediation to help control and prevent mold.
- Identify IF Mold is Growing– To correct a mold problem, you first must identify if and where the moisture problem is. A visual inspection is the first recommended course of action before spending any money on mold testing. If you have visible mold present, testing would likely not be needed to create a plan of action. A thorough visual inspection should help you identify what is going on in your home or business regarding water and drainage, airflow in the building, and the general state of any appliance or equipment that could be or become a potential mold problem. If you find mold, it is best you address the issue as soon as possible. Mold can spread quickly if underlying moisture issues are not resolved, so time is already not on your side. Now is the time to act. Mold remediation may be costly upfront, but it will help save money from costly future damages or health problems if the mold continues to spread and grow.
- Monitor humidity & Prevent Moisture indoors. According to EPA, they recommend keeping the humidity indoors between 30 and 60 percent. Some mold experts would limit the humidity levels desired in a home to under 45 percent to prevent mycotoxin production (Mold toxins) and prevent the growth of molds that need less water to grow. Measuring your home’s humidity is an essential mold precaution and can be done inexpensively with a humidity gauge that can be purchased from most hardware or department stores.
Pay attention to condensation on windows, pipes, or walls, they could be a sign of high humidity in the home. Make sure you have proper ventilation in high moisture areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry area. This is essential for preventing build-up of moisture in areas of high water use. Ensure you keep these areas dry and clean to reduce the possibility of mold. Annually check air conditioning units, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers to make sure they are functioning properly.
- Work Towards Making Your Home or Office Mold-Resistant not Mold Free – As we stated above, you nor your home can ever be “mold-free”, but making your environment as mold resistant as possible is key. Equip your home or office with mold-resistant products. This is definitely something to think about when planning any renovations or construction phases. Removing mold from walls is tough. Mold resistant drywall, sheetrock, baseboard, and paints are great mold prevention resources and can make the difference between moldy walls and clean ones. Install these mold precautions in high moisture areas throughout the home or office to discourage mold growth. Diffusing of essential oils like lemon, cinnamon, clove, and thyme has been proven to reduce spore counts and help prevent mold from growing on surfaces in the home. Cleaning is essential in preventing mold growth. Even a damp area that is kept clean can avoid significant mold problems. Regular dusting, vacuuming, and wiping of surfaces is often the difference between a healthy and unhealthy home.
- Know your surrounding outside environment. While you focus on visual inspections and cleaning indoors remember there are key precautions to put in place outdoors as well to help with water and moisture control. Know your surrounding climate and what the outdoor humidity levels are like. Listening to or reading allergen reports from weather forecasters can help to determine if it’s a good day to open windows and doors or better to keep them closed. Direct any rain or groundwater away from your home or business with downspout extensions or exterior drainage. Make sure that gutters are cleaned and functioning properly. If there is a moisture problem in your crawlspace, it is likely to impact your home. Consider additional drainage, airflow, dehumidification, or encapsulation (wrapping in plastic) of the crawl space to prevent groundwater evaporation into the interior of the home.
Lastly, no matter what you find, Don’t Panic! There are a lot of horror stories where mold is concerned, and it can be an overwhelming issue. However, there are great mold remediators and removal companies that can help you turn your home or office into a safe zone. Indiana Mold Remediation has over 75 years of combined experience and offers free visual mold inspections to help you assess how severe the problem is and what preventative measures can be put into place. Call us or visit us online today!
Mold can easily grow in a wide variety of places throughout your home. You only need three things for mold to grow: mold spores, a food source, and enough moisture. Since mold spores are literally everywhere on earth and anything cellulosic (used to be alive) can act as a food source, moisture is generally the only missing requirement for mold to grow in your home. While there is no such thing as a home being “mold free”, mold prevention and control should be at the top of every homeowner’s “to-do” list.
One of the key factors to consider when making sure that your home is as mold resistant as possible is insulation. Insulation can help to maintain indoor temperature conditions which can help to control factors leading to mold growth so not having it where it counts can be a big problem. There are times, however, when poorly thought out insulation installations can actually make mold growth more likely and take a bad situation and make it worse.
Choosing the right insulation for the job
Many of us make the assumption that any insulation will do when remodeling or building a new home. Choosing the right insulation for the job can make the difference between years of increased comfort instead of increased headaches and possible mold problems.
Cellulose is a common material used as a loose or “blow-in” material because of its biodegradable properties and some unique advantages. Often repurposed newspaper, Cellulose insulation is a very green choice for your home that may really speak to your desire to be environmentally conscious. Cellulose is commonly installed in attics and can be blown into or on walls with a binder. Because of its highly efficient insulating ability and ability to stop air flow better than fiberglass between spaces, it can be a great choice for attics and wall cavities.
When installing it over existing fiberglass insulation as an improvement, it’s weight can be a problem because it can compress the fiberglass and eliminates the existing insulating value of the material. Mold rarely grows in cellulose insulation without direct water damage because of boric acid used as a fire retardant in the material. Boric acid is a natural mold preventer that is very effective at preventing mold growth. However, if installed in a very humid or wet environment like a crawl space, the boric acid can leach out with enough moisture and the cellulose material become a food source for mold. Due to the loose nature of the materials, it can be very difficult to completely remove, especially once it gets wet.
Fiberglass insulation is constructed of tiny shards of glass that form pockets to trap air and help restrict the transfer of heat. Its naturally mold resistant in that the material itself is not a food source for mold. Because of the high amount of air that can move through fiberglass however, trapped particles can be filtered out of the air including food sources for mold and mold spores themselves. Over time, given the right conditions, mold can grow in fiberglass. Some forms of fiberglass insulation can be covered or “faced” with paper products. This paper is often a food source for mold and can be a problem if installed directly against wet areas (like basement or crawlspace walls).
Fiberglass insulation, like all fibrous insulation materials, can trap moisture and lead to condensation problems. Care needs to be taken to avoid water vapor from interacting with cold surfaces, so appropriately installed vapor barriers are really important with fiberglass.
Extruded foam board and spray foam insulation are becoming popular choices for wet areas of the home like your crawlspace or basement because they have great insulating properties, can stop most airflow leaks and are fairly impervious to moisture. Like all surfaces, when dirt accumulates over time, mold can grow on the surface of these materials, but often times it is fairly easy to clean off and remove. Some concerns over off-gassing of these materials has been made, but for most people, this is unlikely to be a major concern.
Check out the National Insulation Association to learn more about insulation to choose one right for you and your environment. Choosing your insulation is only half of the battle to prevent mold within your walls. Properly installing insulation is just as important to mold prevention.
When trying to create a mold resistant environment, installing the insulation properly is just as important as the type of insulation chosen. Insulation’s sole purpose is to be your home’s first line of defense for regulating temperature and often to aid in moisture control. Improperly installed insulation can have a negative effect on a home with regards to mold growth. For example, gaps left in the insulation can create cold spots that can lead to condensation and surface mold growth.
Insulating a home’s attic with additional insulation when the walls are not insulated could lead to an increased level of heat and humidity at the top of exterior walls leading to some significant mold growth around the outside perimeter of the home. Understanding the dynamics within the home and how additional insulation will impact it can be challenging. Seeking the advice of a professional and then holding them accountable for the results is often the best course of action for a homeowner trying to improve the efficiency of their home or reduce interior moisture issues.
Whether you are taking part in the building or remodeling process of or your home or not, understanding home insulation is impacting your home is important. Indiana Mold has over 20 years of experience working in and around buildings and can be a resource for questions about appropriate insulation and how it could relate to future mold problems. We are always available for questions and can provide an on-site inspection if mold is already a problem.
While many of us love carpet for the soft, warm comfort it provides, it can become an issue if it gets wet or isn’t properly maintained. Mold can grow in unseen areas such as underneath carpets when exposed to excess moisture, and, because the problem is hidden, it can often go unnoticed until it’s not easily corrected. Knowing prevention tips and signs of mold can help save you time and money on mold removal and remediation services. So, here is what you need to know.
Where NOT to Install Carpet- Mold thrives in damp or humid places. This means carpet should not be installed in areas like the bathroom, kitchen or basement of your home. Instead, consider hard floor options like tile or vinyl in these areas and use basic throw mats or rugs that can be easily washed and dried after being exposed to moisture.
Don’t Go Organic– While eating organic is popular in today’s time, synthetic carpets made from nylon, polyester or olefin are better options to help prevent mold growth. Natural fibers like wool, jute and cotton are more prone to mold growth when they get wet. If your going to install natural rugs in areas, consider how easily they can be cleaned and try to do so on a regular basis.
The type of Padding Matters- Installing high-quality padding with anti-microbial properties may be more expensive upfront but will save you money in the long run. If your household is prone to spills or pet accidents, padding with a heavy vapor barrier may be a better choice to avoid areas that stay wet a long time. Keep in mind, while padding may help prevent water from getting into it, they can be harder to dry out if they do get wet. Considering where the carpeting is being installed and what the chances of it getting wet are can really help in the padding selection for any particular situation.
Clean up Accidents – Liquid spills or pet accidents should be cleaned up immediately! Waiting until a time that is more convenient may be too late. Make sure you remove any soiling or liquids and dry the area quickly no matter how small. If your not sure how to clean a certain type of spill or any spot, let us know, IMR has a lot of experience and can help with almost any carpet soiling problem.
Take off the Shoes! – The cheapest way to clean your carpets is to keep them from getting dirty in the first place. Removing shoes, and politely asking guests to do so too, can dramatically reduce the amount of soiling and wear that a carpet accumulates over time. If you prefer to wear shoes in the house, take a hint from Mr. Rogers and go purchase a pair of house shoes or slippers to change into when you get home. Wiping off paws from the smallest family members can also help prevent soiling. While you may not want to do this all the time, when it’s wet and muddy outside, it’s a must!
Perform Regular Cleaning – Regularly cleaning your carpet is a must. Like moisture, dirt, which is made up of all kinds of cellulosic sources, is also a leading cause of mold growth in carpeting. Regular vacuuming is the best way to remove dirt and other debris that may promote mold growth. At a minimum, try to vacuum those high traffic areas once a week and the harder to reach areas a few times a year. Professional cleaning should be done on a regular basis to keep carpets there cleanest. Make sure that the professional you choose guarantees reasonable dry times (not more than 24 hours) and that they don’t use dirt attracting soaps in their cleaning processes.
Signs of a Problem
Carpet Odors- Musty smells in rooms where carpet is installed can be a sign that mold is present in or under the carpeting. Often this will follow some type of water damage. Wet carpeting can develop mold growth on the tape joints that hold the padding together as well as in the layers that bond the carpeting together. If the carpet smells musty, it is probably time to replace it and identify any moisture sources.
Discoloration or Surface Growth – Regular visual inspections should be part of your prevention plan. While vacuuming carpeting, make sure you pay attention to any spots in your carpet. Most spots and stains on carpeting are not mold and can be cleaned with normal household products. However, if you notice discoloration and high humidity or water damage has been an issue, you could be looking at mold. Don’t panic!! Take a couple of pictures of the area and send them to IMR, we can usually determine if your just dealing with some normal soiling or a mold problem.
Symptoms & Health Problems- Mold can cause health issues depending on the level of your exposure to it. Allergies, breathing difficulties, itchy eyes and skin, coughing, sneezing are just a few symptoms that mold can cause. Now, this doesn’t mean if you find mold this will automatically happen but, if you have unexplained current health issues and you’ve noticed problems with your carpets or any other surfaces in your home an Indiana Mold Remediation specialists can probably answer your questions and, if needed, set up a remediation plan right for you. Let us know how we can help!
Black mold is a subject every home or business owner should research and be aware of. Mold is tricky because it can cause various health issues or none at all. While black mold itself isn’t considered any more dangerous by the CDC or EPA than any other mold, the toxins released from black mold may be more harmful to some individuals than other types of mold. Let’s look at the causes of black mold and the possible dangers to you.
Hidden Truth of Black Mold
The truth is, mold is everywhere. Mold releases spores into the air as part of its life cycle that can literally be found in every environment in the world in almost any weather condition. Wherever you find moisture you may find some sort of mold growing. Mold requires a cellulosic food source, so it likes to grow on cellulosic building materials like paper faced drywall or wooden structural materials, but it can grow on almost any surface. “Black mold” is a term coined by the media that refers to a specific species of mold named Stachybotrys Chartarum. Black mold may be recognized by its distinct greenish-black color, but definitive identification can only be made through microbiological sampling. It is often visible, but it could very well be hiding underneath your floorboards or within walls, if a hidden moisture source is present. Black mold can rapidly spread in a warm, wet environment, and exposure to it can cause health issues or symptoms in some individuals.
Black Mold Exposure
It is possible you will get sick or experience symptoms if exposed to black mold. If you inhale, ingest or have long-term exposure to black mold you are at risk for health issues. Exposure to black mold can cause coughing, wheezing, red eyes, itchy skin or eyes, sore or scratchy throat, and other allergic-type symptoms. Symptoms could be more dramatic for those with a weakened immune system or respiratory issues like asthma. Long-term Black mold exposure could contribute to additional symptoms, as toxins may accumulate in some individuals over time. These more serious symptoms such as nerve issues, memory loss, trouble concentrating, and anxiety among others, have been reported by some people.
What does all this mean
Black mold has the potential to make you sick, leaving you to deal with health issues that may take time to recover from. Keep in mind, various factors weigh in on how severe the health risk is for every individual. However, black mold is definitely something you want to get removed as soon as possible.
Dealing with black mold can be scary and overwhelming. If you are reading this and just discovered you may have mold, Don’t panic by assuming the worst. Indiana Mold Remediation can help restore your peace of mind and restore your home to a healthy place for you and your family. Check us out online today.
Black mold, like all molds, is a health concern for everyone living in your home, including your pets. It may cause a variety of symptoms and health issues depending on the level and length of exposure. Pets are more likely to ingest moldy food than their human counterparts and tend to spend more of their time in areas that could be impacted by mold growth. The allergic effects of exposure to black mold can be experienced through inhalation (breathing) and direct contact while toxic effects are more often associated with ingestion. Pets can ingest small amounts of mold while they care for themselves through grooming which makes the impact of mold toxins more likely.
While there is usually visible evidence of mold growth in a home that has a problem, it can be tricky as it thrives in dark, warm and moist areas which can sometimes be hidden. It’s common that we aren’t aware of it until it begins to cause obvious problems. Unfortunately, your pet falling ill is actually a key indicator something toxic may be poisoning your daily environment which could include certain types of mold. As indicated above, Black mold can affect our pets at sooner than it does us. Some smaller dog and cats, compared to other pets or breeds, are commonly at the highest risk because their size allows them to fit into or near areas where mold may be growing unseen. Higher levels of mold spores near hidden sources are inhaled at a much higher level than the humans in the home are exposed to. Also, once spores become embedded in their fur, later ingestion occurs while they are grooming themselves. Let’s look at the effects of black mold on dogs and cats.
How Black Mold Effects Cats and Dogs
Black mold may cause similar symptoms in dogs and cats as it does us. Some pets will be more affected than others, just like it is in humans. Symptoms generally fall under three categories and include respiratory distress, an allergic reaction, and toxic reactions. Some pets will be more affected than others, just like it is with humans.
Respiratory distress symptoms could include:
- Constant sneezing or coughing
- Runny nose (nasal discharge)
- Watery eyes
- Fatigue (excessive tiredness)
- Bleeding from the mouth or nose
Allergic Reactions could include
- Excessive scratching/itching
- Constant Sneezing or coughing
- Runny Nose
- Watery eyes
- Fur Loss (due to scratching)
- Sores or Rash
Toxic Reactions could include
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Decreased appetite
- Shaking or Tremors
- Neurological problems which could include odd behavior or loss of function
Black mold exposure could be life-threatening to our cats and dogs, if not addressed quickly. One case study from 2007 describes a pair of cats that died of a pulmonary hemorrhage following exposure to black mold in their home. While this is unlikely to be a normal situation for most pet owners, it does reiterate the need to be aware of potential exposure to pets and correct underlying issues as quickly as possible.
If your four-legged family member is showing signs of illness, take them to your family vet or find a veterinarian near you. If the Veterinarian diagnoses your pet with black mold poisoning or exposure, the first thing to do is correct or remove underlying mold problems in your home and treat your pet. Exposure to other family members is likely happening as well, so addressing any potential concerns within the home should be made a top priority.
Keeping your family and pets safe is all about the preventative steps you take to keep your home as mold-free as possible. You will find peace of mind knowing you don’t have to go through this overwhelming experience cluelessly. Indiana Mold Remediation is here to help you keep your WHOLE family safe. With over 75 years of combined experience, there’s no need to panic because we will be one step ahead. Visit us online today to check out our guides and preventive tips to keep your home and business healthy.