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Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are essential for climate control in homes and commercial buildings. These systems require regular cleaning and maintenance to operate safely and efficiently. HVAC problems not only affect the interior temperature of a building, but they can also spread contaminants that can harm the health of the people inside.
Without proper maintenance, HVAC systems can circulate allergens like dust and mould. Furthermore, mould inside an HVAC system can adhere to components and cause issues like excessive condensation build-up. If mould grows in the ductwork, its spores can spread throughout the building, causing additional colonies to form.
Luckily, mould remediation is possible in an HVAC system, and qualified remediation professionals can limit the problem so that it is easier to control in the future or eliminate altogether.
The HVAC system needs to be a part of every mould remediation project. If there is mould in the ductwork, spores will continue to spread and take root regardless of the other cleanup strategies.
The first step in responding to any mould problem is to isolate the cause. Mould forms in areas where moisture collects. Since condensation is a common problem in an HVAC system, the air conditioner and ductwork should be a part of every mould inspection. Once mould starts to grow in an air conditioning and ductwork system, it can affect components and exacerbate condensation issues.
Mould remediation and HVAC specialists may recommend several different steps to respond to a mould problem. The methods that a remediation expert will suggest will depend on the cause of the mould problem and how bad it is.
The first move is to make any necessary modifications to address the cause of moisture problems. This could mean dealing directly with condensation inside the ductwork, near vents, or on mechanical components.
In some cases, a remediation effort may include adding a dehumidifier to the central air conditioning unit. Using this component can lower the humidity within the duct system and throughout the building. Humidity levels need to be between 45% and 55%.
Another step is to ensure the ductwork is sealed without any air leaks and that areas with significant temperature contrasts have sufficient insulation. In addition to stopping condensation, the extra layers can increase the efficiency of the HVAC system.
The second step is to clean any mould colonies within the system using an anti-fungal cleaner. Ductwork is typically non-porous and, therefore, easy to decontaminate with an appropriate cleaning agent. However, you need to rely on a professional to handle this job since they need to ensure that every centimetre of the ductwork and every component gets treated.
While metal ducts will respond well to cleaning agents, other components within the HVAC system may require removal including flexible ducting which generally cannot be cleaned. Typically, any porous elements and components that are difficult to cover with an anti-fungal agent need to be completely replaced. Cooling coils and evaporators are especially difficult to clean because of their shape and multi-layer designs.
Other elements, such as fan blades and blowers, are cleanable if they have a smooth surface but need to be replaced if rough or porous.
In some cases, an HVAC specialist may be able to recommend replacement elements that will stand up better to mould.
In addition to performing preventive maintenance in the future, building owners can consider upgrading the HVAC filtration system. Better filters can ensure the health of the people in the building and also prevent future contamination.
HVAC remediation experts may also offer a coating or sealant that can inhibit future mould growth. These products should be approved specifically for this purpose. They should also be non-toxic and safe for use in a ventilation system.
Because the HVAC system can spread mould spores, it is best to clean the mould or remove contaminated components after completing remediation in other parts of the building. A remediation expert will be able to isolate the different areas so that mould does not spread to areas that are already clean.
Regularly scheduled duct and HVAC cleaning can help lower the risk of future mould infestations. Maintenance can include ensuring the effectiveness of dehumidifier equipment and inspecting for air leaks or loose insulation. As well as protecting against mould growth, regular cleaning and maintenance can limit the spread of other allergens, such as dust, and ensure that the HVAC system operates at peak efficiency.
There are different cleaning methods for removing mould. If you employ a specialist to remove mould from your home or building, they will be able to choose the best method for the specific mould problem.
Vacuuming can remove mould particles. However, this method requires multiple passes over the same area in a cross pattern. A vacuum or other air-based method could be a solution for porous or semi-porous surfaces that are difficult to replace.
Liquid cleaners can include anti-fungal agents that can kill existing mould colonies and potentially limit new growth. An expert can select a cleaner that is safe for use in a ventilation system.
Abrasive cleaning measures may seem like a good solution. However, any method that scrubs the mould may cause the spores to become airborne and spread to other areas of the building. In general, using an abrasive method is not ideal unless you can place the components outside where airborne spores are less of an issue.
Because of the different factors involved in mould remediation in an HVAC system, it is essential to work with an expert who has experience dealing with mould problems in climate control and ductwork systems. Choosing the correct cleaning agent, identifying components for complete removal, and making mechanical and structural upgrades to prevent further growth in the future can ensure a successful remediation effort.