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How Can I Tell if There Is Mold in My Air Ducts?

Published January 4th, 2021 by Earth Friendly Air Duct Cleaning

We expect our HVAC systems to keep us cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and ultimately improve our indoor air quality. What happens when the latter is no longer the case?

According to the EPA, there are three occasions on which you should absolutely have your air ducts cleaned: when they're home to vermin, when they're releasing dust and dirt into your home, and when they've developed mold growth. 

When we talk about mold growth in air ducts, we often hear the same question: "How can I tell if there is mold in my air ducts?"

We're here to shed light on the harmful effects of mold growth and how to spot mold growth in your air ducts before things get out of control. Keep reading to find out whether or not it's time for a professional air duct cleaning!

How Does Mold in Air Ducts Form?

Mold thrives in environments that contain two things: moisture and warmth. That means that whether your HVAC system is filtering hot air during the summer months or generating warm air in the winter months, there is a potential for mold to grow. 

How does moisture end up trapped in air ducts? There are a number of ways that this can occur.

Most often, you'll find condensation inside of air ducts in humid climates. This becomes worse when the air ducts receive poor ventilation, making it more difficult for that water to evaporate. 

In effect, moldy air ducts create a sort of feedback loop. Mold begins to grow along the surfaces of your air ducts, making ventilation more difficult. As ventilation becomes stifled, the mold is able to thrive even more.

How Can I Tell If There Is Mold in My Air Ducts?

The best way to prevent a mass mold buildup is to take care of the conditions causing mold as soon as possible. However, that requires homeowners to recognize signs of mold early on. Let's take a look at how you can tell whether or not you've got a mold problem in your air ducts.

Increased Allergies and Respiratory Problems

Mold isn't just unpleasant to look at. It can also exacerbate the symptoms of respiratory issues such as allergies and asthma. 

When your indoor air quality is good, the symptoms of seasonal allergies should lessen while indoors. While asthma can be triggered by factors other than poor air quality, you do not expect asthma to flare up when someone is relaxing at home.

If you start to notice increased respiratory problems in any of the members of your household and can't find the source, take a look at your air ducts. If mold is growing behind your vents, mold spores are likely being pushed out into your air. Breathing in these mold spores is likely the culprit. 

Musty Odors When Your HVAC System Is Running

If you've ever entered a bathroom or basement filled with mold, you've probably noticed a distinct odor. This smell is often described as musty or earthy.

When you first turn your heater or AC on for the season, you may notice a dusty smell. This smell should go away within minutes of increasing air circulation in your air ducts. If a musty, earthy smell continues to linger, that likely means that your HVAC is trying to filter air that is mixing with mold. 

Mold in Your Furnace or Air Conditioner

When mold growth occurs, it has a tendency to spread. Displaced mold spores can float to nearby surfaces and start their own mold growth.

If you inspect your furnace or air conditioner and discover mold (not unlikely, given that both generate moisture and warmth), there's a good chance that you've got mold in your air ducts. 

Increased Energy Bills

When HVAC systems experience blockages of any sort, they start working harder to reach the temperatures you desire. That means that trying to achieve a 70-degree internal temperature may be using the amount of energy you'd normally need to achieve a 75 or 80-degree internal temperature.

When your HVAC starts using excess energy to achieve the intended results, you're going to see that reflected in your energy bill. If a bill seems high to you, compare it to your energy bill from the same time last year. If there's a noticeable difference, it's worth getting your air vents and HVAC system inspected and cleaned.

Visible Mold On Your Vents

The most obvious way to spot mold in your air ducts? Literally spotting mold in your air ducts.

Mold comes in all colors and textures, but you know it when you see it. Whether you're noticing a thin white film or a dark black gunk on your vents, it's time to get your air ducts cleaned.

If you're not sure how bad the problem is, remove the vent cover and take a closer look at your air ducts. If you find that same moldy substance growing on the walls of your air ducts, the problem is probably farther along than you think.

Do you need to have the mold inspected to determine what kind it is? Not really. Most health experts will tell you that no matter what kind of mold you're dealing with, it can still cause health problems--and should be removed right away.

We're Here to Help 

We often warn of the hazards of moldy air ducts and are often met with the question, "How can I tell if there is mold in my air ducts?" Hopefully, this guide has given you the tools you need to keep an eye on your HVAC system and detect mold early on.

Worried that you do, in fact, have mold growth in your air ducts? Don't sweat it! Contact us and find out more about our air duct cleaning services and pricing. 


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