Help Keep Mold From Taking Hold: What New Homeowners Should Know About Preventing A/C Mold Issues

There is no doubt that becoming a homeowner for the first time is an achievement of which to be proud. But this achievement comes along with some serious responsibilities that go beyond the usual requirement of paying the home's mortgage, property taxes and insurance premiums. One of these responsibilities is learning how to prevent the home's air conditioning system from creating an environment that increases the potential for the development of harmful mold. If you are new to the responsibilities of home ownership and want to learn more about keeping mold from making its home in the drainage system used by your air conditioner, the following information can help.

Understanding Why A/C Systems have the Potential to Develop Mold

A critical part of the process of providing cool, conditioned air is to extract humidity from the environment inside the home. Since humid air holds a higher level of heat energy than dry air, it feels less comfortable to human skin. When warm household air is sent through the A/C's evaporator component, water vapor condenses from the air and is collected in a reservoir that connects to the home sewer system via a condensate drain line. If a problem develops that prevents the condensate from draining properly, such as a leak or a clog, the resulting moisture can allow harmful mold to flourish.  

Condensate Drainage Issues

When working properly, the condensation that is collected through the evaporation process feeds efficiently from the collection pan. which is plumbed to a household drain. Most systems also include an additional overflow storage area, in case a clog or some type of blockage causes the main collection pan to fill to capacity without draining. Since the secondary pan is plumbed to the same drain line, any blockage or clog that affects the main collection pan will also affect it, as well.

In addition, if either of the collection pans develop a crack or leak, the condesation collected within them can seep out and dampen the area under the air conditioner. If not noted and corrected quickly, this type of problem could result in the development of mold, as well as serious damage to the flooring.  

Maintaining the Condensate Collection Pans and Drain Line 

To avoid this problem, homeowners should periodically examine their collection pans to make sure that there are no visible leaks or splits. As a minimum, both pans should be checked annually, before the beginning of each air conditioning season. If you live in an area that requires air conditioning for much of the year, consider doing this at six-month intervals, instead. In addition, always be alert for any unexplained moisture on the floor near your A/C system or the development of any musty odors in the area that could indicate a moisture or mold issue is forming. 

To clean the condensate line on your A/C system, find where the pipe from your system drains - this will usually be either a floor drain in your basement or a drain pipe outside the home. Examine the pipe opening for any visible algae, dirt, debris or other signs of a potential clog. If there is a protective cover in place, remove it first, before attempting to use a shop vacuum capable of wet suction to suck up the clog or any debris that may be caught in the plumbing line. Once you believe you have removed the clog, spend a few moments observing the system to ensure that water is once again dripping slowly from the drain pipe, as it normally should. 

Signs of More Serious Trouble

If your air conditioning system drain pipe does not resume dripping normally, even after you successfully remove any visible clogs or debris, you may have a hidden blockage that prevents the system from working properly. In some models, a undiscovered clog can activate a sensor and shut down the entire system as a means of attempting to prevent an overflow situation. If this occurs, or if you are unsure of how to attempt to remove a clog from your condensate drain, contact a trusted HVAC contractor in your area to professionally clean and service your air conditioning system's drains, pipes and sewer connections.