As a type of fungus, mold is actually a distant cousin of the mushroom. But unlike tasty morels and portabellas, mold is definitely not something you want anywhere in your home. Mold is a hardy organism which can develop indoors or out, especially under damp, airless conditions. Usually resembling a soft fuzz, mold produces seed like spores which are dispersed easily by air currents. Like mold, bacteria also thrive on moisture. When found in heavy concentrations, mold spores and bacteria can provoke severe health problems in humans, such as allergies, asthma and other breathing difficulties. Young children, senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk.
How mold and bacteria grow
Mold does not spontaneously generate, but starts from a spore from an existing mold culture. As living organisms, mold and bacteria both require air, water and food in order to grow. Unfortunately, your air conditioning system, particularly if not properly taken care of, tends to provide the ideal conditions for cultivating a crop of mold, due to the dampness that results from the air cooling process and the microscopic particles of food and mold spores that can get into the unit. Bacteria enjoy the standing moisture often found inside an a/c system; legionella bacteria, the cause of legionnaire’s disease, are the most common type found in air conditioners.
Getting rid of mold and bacteria
If you are dealing with an air conditioning system that is already in place, the first step is to eliminate any bacteria or mold that may be growing inside by giving it a thorough cleaning. Turn off the unit and disconnect it from the power supply. Make sure that the room you are working in is well ventilated. Then remove the filters and wash or, if necessary, replace them. Dust the evaporating coil and clean both the coil and the drain pan with a disinfectant cleaner made for use on air conditioners. Rinse if necessary and make sure all items are completely dry before reassembling the unit.
Keeping your a/c mold and bacterium free
After you have cleaned your a/c well or if you have just purchase a new HVAC system, be sure to minimize the potential for mold and bacteria to grow. Check and clean the filters frequently in order to remove sources of food and mold spores. Clean the evaporator and the drain pan on a regular basis, at the beginning of the season for a/c use and at least once every 2 months while the unit is operating frequently. Open a window or door occasionally to ventilate the air conditioned area and alleviate moisture build up; running an electric fan or vent can also be helpful.