There’s nothing more vital to good health than the food you eat, the water you drink and the air that you breathe. So, what if the air you’re breathing in on a day-to-day basis is contaminated? It’s a disturbing situation, and one that’s a lot more common than you might think.
If your air conditioner is growing mould, it is emitting mould spores and bacteria into the air, and your lungs every time it is turned on. If so, you’re exposing yourself and your family to a range of potentially serious, even deadly health problems.
Why does mould thrive in air conditioners?
Mould thrives in a moist and humid environment and air conditioners provide the perfect conditions for mould and mildew to grow.
An air conditioner works by sucking the outside air into the air conditioning unit where it is cooled. That air isn’t purified, so naturally it draws in some airborne bacteria and mould spores from outside.
When an air conditioner is at rest, its interior warms up and any lingering moisture and condensation within the unit and its ducting creates ideal conditions for mould to grow.
Why should you worry about mould in your air conditioner?
Not all moulds are created equal. There are good and bad moulds, for example, camembert or brie cheese relies on mould for its distinctive flavour and texture. Unfortunately, the types of mould you might discover lurking in your air conditioning unit aren’t particularly useful ones. In fact, they are much more likely to cause you harm than good.
Mould spores are the seed through which mould reproduces. When your air conditioning unit is at rest, it’s the perfect petri dish for a mould spore to grow on. Once comfortably at home in your air conditioner, a mould spore will reproduce. Further spores will be released and become airborne. They’ll spread throughout your home, landing on your food, your clothes and you. And from there you’ll eat them and breathe them in.
If you have an allergic sensitivity to mould, its presence in your air conditioner is likely to trigger a significant reaction and if you have asthma or any other respiratory illness, mould is a risk factor that can put you in hospital.
Mould, if left long enough, can also cause significant problems that will affect the efficiency of your air conditioner. In some instances, a build-up of mould can lead to blockages within the air conditioning drains.
Signs of mould in your air conditioner
The first sign you might have of a mouldy air conditioner is often a musty or funky smell when it’s in operation. If you’ve eliminated all other potential suspects as the source of the smell, you need to turn your attention to your air conditioner.
Once mould is established in your air conditioner you might notice black or grey circular marks on the interior surfaces. Worse still, you might see evidence of mould spreading to your walls and ceiling.
Tips and tricks for fixing a mouldy air conditioner
Proper cleaning of an air conditioner involves dislodging the mould spores and as the mould can grow deep within the unit, this should be done by a licenced professional.
If you are looking to clean the parts of the air conditioner that you can access yourself, you need to take steps to ensure that you protect yourself. You should always wear gloves and a face shield or filter mask rated to protect you from mould spores.
Your first step is to ensure the power to your air conditioner is turned off at the switchboard. You can lift the cover and vacuum the interior of the unit thoroughly and remove and wash the filters under running water. The vacuum should take care of any loose or airborne mould spores within the unit.
Use warm, soapy water to wipe down all surfaces of the air conditioner before allowing them to dry thoroughly. You should then apply a mould-inhibitor. You can do this with a clean, damp cloth. Some of the best mould inhibitors are actually naturally-derived products including:
- Tea tree oil
- Oil of cloves
- Vinegar and water
We do not recommend you use bleach on your air conditioner.
Once you’re done, you should discard any mould-contaminated cloths in an airtight plastic bag.
What NOT to do if your air conditioner is mouldy
An air freshener, scented candle or diffuser is only a band-aid solution to the problem of a mouldy air conditioner. It will only temporarily mask the odour caused by the mould. You need to eliminate the mould and the smell will go with it.
You should not use generalised anti-mould sprays because they will become airborne and you and your family will inhale the fumes and can suffer adverse health consequences as a result.
Some chemical cleaners on the market are corrosive and can actually cause long term damage to the inner workings of your air conditioner, shortening its lifespan and leaving you at risk of breakdowns.
Preventing mould in your air conditioner
Once you have mould in your air conditioning system it can be extremely difficult to remove. For that very reason, you should do everything possible to try and prevent the mould from taking hold.
You should clean your air conditioner regularly. Ensure that the filters are clean and properly fitted. They’re your first line of defence against mould spores. A regular schedule of air conditioning maintenance should include getting your air conditioning ducts cleaned and also ensuring that any evaporation trays in your air conditioning unit are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
You should do this every 12 months or even more regularly if possible. The best time to do so is after the winter months, when temperatures and humidity start to rise again. That way, your air conditioner will be ready to go as soon as you need it.
If you notice that your air conditioning unit has any significant areas of moisture build up, particularly when it’s not running, there might be a bigger problem that can be addressed by getting your unit serviced by a professional air conditioning technician.
When to call a professional
Accessing all of the potential hiding spots for mould in your air conditioner can be a difficult and painstaking process. It requires an excellent working knowledge of the anatomy of your particular air conditioning system .
Some of the parts of your air conditioner on which mould might form are in areas that should not be accessed by anyone other than a licensed and trained air conditioning specialist because of the potential for electrocution or injury.