Mould Growth in Air-conditioners: How Do You Know If Your AC is Safe?

Does it smell a little musty in your home? Are your allergies a little more pronounced than usual? If so, you may have mould in your air conditioner.
Mould in air conditioners is a real problem throughout Queensland. Queensland’s humid climate and warm summers are perfectly conducive to mould growth, which can be a nightmare for homeowners! Of course, mould growth is far from ideal, but mould in air conditioners is nasty.

Air Conditioner Cleaning
Air Conditioner Cleaning

Mould in Air Conditioners

Mould can grow in many areas of your home, especially where it’s dark and damp. It should come as no surprise, then, that air conditioners are one of the places where mould occurs. Unfortunately, air conditioners are dangerous for mould to grow because they push air through the home.

This means that a mouldy air conditioner blows microscopic mould spores into the air you breathe, spreading the spores throughout your home. Because mould poses several health risks, it’s crucial to prevent mould from forming in your air conditioner and to remove it if it does.

What are the signs of mould in air conditioners?

If you suspect mould in your air conditioner, search for the following signs:

  • Musty odour: Mould spores give off a distinct musty odour. If there is a central air conditioning system at your place, you may notice a musty odour throughout your home without a source or visible signs of mould. You may detect this odour in the room where your window air conditioner is positioned (if you have one or more). A musty smell coming from a vent when the air conditioner is running is a clear sign of mould in your air conditioner.
  • Health symptoms when the air conditioner runs: Mould can cause several adverse reactions, including allergic reactions and respiratory problems. If you or someone in your family only experiences these symptoms when the air conditioner is running, mould may be the culprit.
  • Visible signs: Depending on where your air conditioner is located, you may want to visually inspect it, of course, along with the vents if you have central air conditioning. Look for the familiar blotchy mould spots, which are sometimes fuzzy and often black or green-black. Remember, however, that mould spores are microscopic, and the source of the spores may not be visible. So even if you don’t see mould, it may still be lurking in plain sight.
  • Professional Inspection: If you suspect mould in your air conditioner, it’s best to call in a professional mould inspector. This person can determine if mould is in your air conditioner, ventilation system and other parts of your home.

Causes of mould in air conditioners

Mould is a type of fungus. Like all living organisms, fungi need three things to grow: oxygen, water and organic matter. Since air conditioners circulate air and cooling coils tend to form condensation, the first two criteria for mould growth in an air conditioner are bound to be present.

Air conditioning and ventilation ducts also provide dark spaces where mould can thrive. Add organic material – which can simply be dust and other debris – and you have all the makings for mould growth. Regular cleaning will help to keep your air conditioners clear from mould!

What types of air conditioning systems are prone to mould growth?

Your home can be cooled with one of several types of air conditioners:

  • Window air conditioners
  • Freestanding, portable air conditioners
  • Wall-mounted split systems
  • Central ducted air conditioning

Mould can form in any air conditioner, but there are slight differences in how each one detects and eliminates mould.

  • Mould in window air conditioners: Air conditioners installed in a window are often relatively easy to inspect and remove. Depending on your knowledge and confidence, you may feel confident removing mould in your window unit – however, always use caution and safety equipment when dealing with mould in homes.
  • Mould in freestanding air conditioners: Freestanding air conditioners are becoming increasingly popular. They use a window opening to remove air and moisture like window-mounted units. Because these units are often designed to be easily transported, you may be able to handle and possibly dispose of a mouldy unit without professional help. Still, be cautious if you suspect mould in a freestanding unit.
  • Mould in split systems: Split systems are installed directly into a wall. These units serve only a single room like window air conditioners and are not connected to the home’s ductwork. This limits the ability to inspect, clean moulds or replace them. However, as permanently installed units, they can be more challenging to deal with than freestanding or window-based air conditioners.
  • Mould in ducted air conditioners: Central air conditioners present a greater challenge when suspected mould. They tend to be much larger and may be installed in an inaccessible location. However, a much bigger problem is that they are connected to a ventilation system where mould can also grow. Replacement is rarely a viable solution because central air systems are larger and more complex than smaller ones. Professional treatment is recommended for these units to address a mould infestation. We refer to The Mould Removers if there is a mould problem that is beyond our scope of works.

What types of moulds grow in air conditioners?

There are thousands of species of mould. The most common types of mould found in air conditioning systems and ventilation ducts include:

  • Aspergillus: A mould genus that can cause allergic reactions and illness in people with weak immune systems.
  • Cladosporium: A widespread mould genus with a green to black appearance that is often relatively harmless but can still trigger allergic reactions and aggravate asthma.
  • Stachybotrys chartarum: Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as black mould or toxic mould, is a particularly dangerous mould species that produces toxic mycotoxins.

Black mould in AC

While many types of mould tend to trigger allergic reactions and cause respiratory problems, black mould poses a particular risk in air conditioning systems. Black mould produces mycotoxins that are toxic to humans. As air conditioners circulate air, they blow black mould spores into the air we breathe and throughout the home. These spores can then take root in various places in the house: the walls, ceiling, under carpets, etc. Due to these reasons, it is necessary to identify and eliminate a black mould infestation as soon as possible.

How to prevent mould in the air conditioner?

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prevent mould from growing in your air conditioner:

  • Reduce humidity: The easiest way to prevent moisture from accumulating in an air conditioner is to begin when you purchase the unit. Look for an air conditioner that can regulate humidity. Many modern units vent water vapour into the air. If you have a unit that collects water in a container, empty it regularly. This article answers more questions.
  • Avoid organic debris: Mould needs organic material to grow other than water and air. Clean or replace your air conditioner filter more often, and vacuum the inside to remove dust and debris. Don’t give mould food to live on!
  • Keep the unit running even when you’re on vacation: Mould thrives when the air conditioner is turned off, and the air is still. Keep your unit running even when you are on vacation. You can set the temperature higher to reduce energy consumption, so the unit runs less often but don’t turn it off completely.

We have a team of specialists specialising in eliminating fungus, mould and mildew in air conditioners – harmful toxins that make you and your family sick.
Our comprehensive air conditioner cleaning services ensure that the air you breathe is fresh and clean, so you don’t suffer from health problems caused by a dirty or inadequately cleaned air conditioner.
Get in touch today to book in your Aircon cleaning!

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