What you saw was someone cleaning mold out from a ductless air conditioner. Dozens of large chunks of it, spilling out of the air handler in someone’s home. Mold. Home. Two words you don’t want to hear together.
Fortunately, for as gross as it is, it’s easy to avoid this from happening. With a little knowledge and a few simple tips, you can enjoy excellent climate control and indoor air quality without worrying about an infestation. You can even prevent mold in a vacation home at the Jersey shore (or anywhere else). Let’s take a look at why and how this happens, what you can do about it, and how you can prevent mold it in the first place.
Four signs of a mini split mold issueYou may have an issue with mold in your mini split if you notice:
- A dirty sock or cheesey smell
- Black or odd-colored splotches
- Lots of moisture or standing water
- Respiratory problems or allergy-like symptoms
Dirty Sock SyndromeYes, that’s a real thing in the HVAC world. Dirty Sock Syndrome is what we call the smell you get when there’s mold or bacteria in a heat pump system. These pollutants tend to give off a stale odor. People have compared it to the contents of an old gym bag or some aged – or fancy – cheese. If that smell is coming from your air handler, it’s likely due to a mold problem.
Black or odd-colored splotchesIf your nose has been clueing you into a problem, the next step is a visual inspection. Lift the cover on your air handler and shine a flashlight inside. Do you see black or odd-colored splotches on there? Could be nothing. Could be mold. But, if you spot those spots and you’re noticing other symptoms, call a professional.
Standing water and excess moistureThis isn’t a direct sign of mold. But, you should keep an eye out for it. If there’s still water or a lot of condensation on or around your HVAC system, you could have a problem. Mold and bacteria need dark, damp spaces to thrive. Parts of your heating and cooling system are often tucked away somewhere that’s usually dark. Add dampness or still water, and you’ve got a problem.
Seasonal allergy symptoms and respiratory flare-upsIrritated eyes, headaches, runny noses, sore throats, and other symptoms could be caused by a host of different things. That’s especially so in the summer when there’s pollen in the air. But, if you’re suddenly getting hit harder in your home, mold in your system could be the culprit. That’s especially so if you’re noticing any of the other signs.
Prevent mold in your ductless air handlersOne of the easiest ways to prevent mold from building up in your ductless air handlers is by not immediately turning off the system when you don’t need it. Mini splits don’t cycle on and off like conventional air conditioners. Instead, they often run in the background in a low-power mode. Sometimes, people think everything’s good to go, and they turn off the system. But, that’s a bad idea. Not only is it maintaining the temperature, but it’s also still draining moisture. Part of the air conditioner’s job is to dehumidify your home. It pulls water vapor from the air, condenses it, and sends it outside. But, when you turn the system off unexpectedly, that moisture stays put. Then, you’ve got standing water in a dark area where that you can’t access. When you leave the system on, however, it can remove that water.
Effects of mold in your ductless system
We touched on a few effects that mold in your ductless system can have on you. But, those scratch the surface. If you leave a problem like this untreated, it will spread throughout the house. And, you’ll feel worse and worse. The more spores you inhale, the more severe the symptoms: headaches, trouble concentrating, even memory loss. Meanwhile, you don’t want it to spread. Mold itself won’t cause any structural damage. But, it also helps breed fungus and other invasive things. Those can eat away at walls and rafters if left untreated. Now, it’s important to understand that spotting a little speck isn’t the end of the world. The truth is, we all have at least some mold in the house. In fact, any black spots on your bathroom tile grout or shower curtain are mold. There are many strains of mold out there. Most are relatively harmless, especially in small quantities. Still, you don’t want to let the situation get out of control. After all, you clean your bathroom regularly, right? In the same way, you want to stay on top of any problems with your ductless heat pump systems. Unfortunately, these components can cultivate mold quickly if you don’t use them properly.
How to clean mold from a ductless air conditioner We can give you some tips on how to clean mold from a ductless air conditioner. But you should get a professional to do it. There’s a risk of electric shock if you don’t cut the power correctly. And, you risk damaging the unit or voiding the warranty. There are some products on the market that allow you to clean out a mini split yourself. To do so, you have to make sure you disconnect the power. Then, there’s a large plastic drain pail that goes directly underneath the air handler. From there, you administer a special solution through what looks like a power washer to clean out the system. It all drains into the pail below.