As your AC system works hard to produce cold air, it is also producing gallons of water – between 5 and 20 gallons a day during the summer months! When air passes over the evaporator coil of your HVAC unit, the water vapor in the air condenses into liquid, draining off the coil into a drip pan beneath the air handler. This water, in turn, is channeled out of the drain line and into your home’s sewer system. Take a continuously wet drip pan and add in the dark, wet location of the air handlers (usually the attic or a closet) and the result is a perfect breeding ground for mold and microbial organisms.
Consequences of Drip Pan Mold Growth
As the mold continues to grow, over time it forms into a jelly-like consistency that can plug up the drain lines. As stated above your air conditioner can produce upwards of 20 gallons of water a day – so a drip pan that isn’t draining is a looming disaster. Unfortunately, this building problem often goes unnoticed, due to the air handler being located in a closet or attic, until it’s too late and an overflow occurs. Keeping your AC drain lines open and running efficiently is critical to preventing water damage to your home’s structure and prized possessions.
An even more dangerous consequence of drip pan mold growth is the spread of mold throughout your home. From its breeding ground in the drip pan, millions of airborne mold spores are spread every hour. The microscopic particulates have the perfect opportunity to slip into your AC systems airflow and circulate through the HVAC ducts, contaminating your indoor air. Mold spores can cause health issues, asthma and allergies, especially affecting those with weakened immune systems. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) also links household mold to the development of childhood asthma.
Drip Pan Mold Growth Prevention
There are things you can do to prevent mold growth in your drip pan. If condensation or runoff are not being drained out of the system and there is any standing water, it needs treatment. Here are some things you can do to keep your HVAC free from these microbial dangers and running efficiently.
- HVAC pan tablets can be placed in the condensation tray. These tablets prevent algae and other organisms from growing in the moist area.
- Keep your home as free from dirt and dust as possible. Indoor and outdoor airborne bacteria and organic particles are food for the mold.
- Change your air filter regularly! We’ve talked about the importance of this many times, but it applies to mold growth as well. A dirty, clogged air filter won’t capture the airborne contaminants, bypassing the filter and ending up in the drip pan as another source of food for the mold colony. Check your air filter’s manufacturer’s recommendation on how often the filter should be changed. During the hot season where the AC is working overtime, monthly filter changes are your best bet.
- Get your system inspected by an HVAC technician to check for mold in the drip pan and drain lines. They will ensure the drain slopes are the right angle to keep the water flowing away from the drip pan and there are no areas where water can become trapped and collect.
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