Mold is a living organism with one purpose: to decompose dead organic material, like leaves, wood and plants. Because mold is a living thing, it needs certain conditions to stay alive. Mold needs food, oxygen and temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees to grow. But most importantly, mold needs water.
An ideal environment for mold growth is one with wet or damp material or one with moisture in the air. Many regions that are naturally humid are susceptible for mold because of the wet conditions. According to the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, “mold growth and spore counts increase with increased rainfall and high humidity, after the summer rains and in the fall.” Because of this, homeowners in subtropical states often run their air conditioners to ventilate moisture from their homes to prevent mold growth. When homeowners control airflow, they also control moisture.
Is mold still a threat to homeowners in southwest states, where the air is dry? The simple answer is yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “There is always some mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years.”
Mold growth and spore counts increase with increased rainfall and high humidity. While the semi-arid southwest’s atmospheric mold spore counts will be lower than regions with higher rainfall, they are still present, says the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. Southwest states are also susceptible to mold because of their warm temperatures. As air temperatures increase, so does its ability to hold moisture. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air can.
Condensation Is a Factor in Mold Growth
Although dry conditions may inhibit mold growth, southwest states are not off the hook! In fact, homeowners in New Mexico, Arizona and the like face increased risk for mold growth from condensation build-up in their A/C units and ductwork. Condensation forms when warm or humid air comes into contact with a colder surface — like your A/C unit’s ductwork. Basically, the colder surface chills the surrounding air, which causes water vapor to condense into a liquid. If you’ve ever seen your glass of water break a sweat on a hot day — this is condensation.
Condensation can form on ductwork when there is moisture in the air or when ducts are not properly insulated. Insulation basically prevents the warm or moist air from coming in contact with your ductwork, which prevents condensation.
There are few simple steps you can take to make sure your ductwork is not becoming a breeding ground for mold.
- Pay attention to your senses — Does your home smell musty or earthy? It may be an indication of mold even if you can’t see anything. Or if you enter your home and your skin feels instantly sticky or wet, your AC system may not be operating correctly.
- Keep an eye on widows and vents — If an HVAC unit is functioning properly and sized correctly for the area it is trying to condition, mildew and condensation should not build-up in windows or vents. Look out for any discoloration around vents or window caulking.
- Inspect your HVAC units often — Take note of any discoloration, corrosion or standing water. Identify any water stains that might have been caused by condensation.
- Get your AC unit serviced — Hire a professional to identify any potential issues with your unit to help prevent moisture build-up.
If you want the peace of mind that you and your family are living in a mold-free environment, call Mold Test USA today to schedule a mold test. We will perform our signature 52-point inspection to give you unbiased results about the type of mold in your home, the source of the moisture, and recommended next steps to handle your mold growth.
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