Is your air conditioning making you sick? Some people describe this as air conditioning sickness. This can happen believe it or not. Why it happens and what to do about it is the subject of this article. This is a typical diagram of how air flows in a “split” air conditioning system. There are two units, the condenser and the air handler. The condenser sits outside of your home and the air handler inside. Air from inside or your home is drawn into the system via the “return” duct into the air handler (depicted in orange arrows) where it is passed through the air handler and cooled. Then this air is recirculated into your home. Only one problem however, what if the HVAC system is impacted with mold growth?
These images were taken from a home in which there were only small visible mold issues present. Our clients were having severe reactions to mold exposure too significant to be caused by the small issues in the home. A look inside the air handler showed us what the problem was. Note the severe rust on the evaporator coil and inside of the unit itself. This rust is the result of prolonged exposure and a malfunctioning condensate system which is designed to take moisture created by the system away from the unit.
The malfunction in the cooling system was allowed to accumulate on the coil and other surfaces; hence bacteria, mold growth occurred. The HVAC system was cleaned and serviced. The air ducts were cleaned. Our client was no longer suffering from mold related symptoms.
Sadly, it is difficult to see the mold growth in these images, but it is there none the less. We tried to take better photos but couldn’t get em to show the growth better. In any event, we strongly recommend that the air ducts be cleaned and the air handler units be broken down and have the dust removed from them.
Is your air conditioning making you sick?
The answer is that it could be. The best thing to keep the indoor air quality up is to regularly service your AC and mechanical ventilation equipment and remove all dust and mold spores from inside of the unit. Clean your AC ducts, and regularly change your return filter.
The single best thing you can do for indoor air quality is to ensure that you have sufficient make up or fresh air coming into the home. Preferably via an ERV or similar type of unit.
here is an image of a condensate pan which a malfunctioning air handler had been leaking water into