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Mildew/mold in air ducts?
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Susan B
Mueller Community

Posts: 23
Joined on August 30th, 2007
Mildew/mold in air ducts?
by Susan B on March 18th, 2012

Now that it's warming up (and a bit more humid) we like to keep our windows open and not use the HVAC system. I've noticed that whenever it's off for a period of time, there are two rooms in our house that get a disagreeable mildew/mold smell. One of them is my office -- a room with no running water or otherwise wet things. The other is the downstairs half bathroom, right next to this office, which for a bathroom is relatively dry (no shower/bath). No other room in the house has this smell. It seems to be coming from the air conditioning ducts.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? Do you know a remedy? I'd like to get rid of this smell but am not sure where to start. I'd appreciate any information or ideas that people have.

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Mike Carroll
Mueller Community

Posts: 68
Joined on April 7th, 2010
Mildew/mold in air ducts?
by Mike Carroll on March 19th, 2012

I know when we did our move in walk thru several years ago, the builder rep told us we needed to pour a solution of water/bleach down a particular pipe that went to the AC unit (it was in our attic, where we do this) to prevent what you're describing.

We've only done it once a year since then, ( I think he told us do it twice a year, but I can't remember) and have not had any problems with mildew smells.

You might try that solution, but I don't know if it will work on mildew that's already there. Or, maybe the air filter needs to be changed?
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Susan B
Mueller Community

Posts: 23
Joined on August 30th, 2007
Mildew/mold in air ducts?
by Susan B on March 19th, 2012

Thanks. Those are helpful suggestions. Our filter is relatively new; and we had the system inspected in the fall. But it's worth pouring a bleach solution into it to see if it helps.
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Home Inspector
Mueller Community

Posts: 7
Joined on April 27th, 2011
Mildew/mold in air ducts?
by Home Inspector on March 19th, 2012

Pouring bleach down the a/c primary drain only helps prevent the drain from clogging, it won’t stop the odor. Mildew/mold odor is due water buildup for whatever reason; could be a plumbing leak, a leak from the a/c system, exterior, or whatever. One function of the a/c is to remove humidity from the interior of the house in addition to cooling and circulating the air. The a/c apparently is able to remove the moisture/odor from the air and that’s why you don’t smell the odor when it’s on.
I’d start looking in the ½ bathroom first; look for a discolor in the floor covering or swollen wood cabinets, baseboard, door case and trim, etc that indicates water buildup.
If you truly smell mold/mildew (and I don’t doubt you) then there is water building up somewhere that you don’t want.
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dancer texas
Mueller Community

Posts: 20
Joined on February 16th, 2009
Mildew/mold in air ducts?
by dancer texas on March 20th, 2012

Mike, which builder was yours? It's long over due for me to do thisl, yet I don't recall which pipe to put that solution down in. I don't believe I was ever told during the walk thru. I really hate the option of calling in a AC guy just to show me. Expensive option.
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Rick Krivoniak
Mueller Community

Posts: 59
Joined on September 22nd, 2010
Mildew/mold in air ducts?
by Rick Krivoniak on March 20th, 2012

My A/C man told me to use vinegar rather than bleach, as bleach and its fumes can be very corrosive. It's really only during the cooling season that you must worry about the condensate drain, and I'd think even once a cooling season should be sufficient for systems as new as yours at Mueller. But feel free to do the vinegar thing monthly.

You should see a black plastic pipe at the HVAC unit coming out near the cooling coils - at the top for vertical units, or the opposite end of the intake/filter side of horizontal attic units. The pipe should connect with a "T" fitting and the top end of the "T" may be open, or have an easily removable cap on it. That's where you pour the vinegar (or bleach if you must).

This will not help the musty smell. If you take the A/C register off in the room where you have the smell problem and there is black mildew or mold on it or inside the duct, I'd call an A/C specialist for advice, as it shouldn't be happening in houses this new.
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