Your home’s heating and air system can be a source of comfort for more than just you and your family. HVAC systems are a source of moisture, warmth or coolness, food, and shelter for every type of critter imaginable. These pests each mean certain dangers and threats to your safety and health. Let’s take a look at what could be lurking in your system..
- Mold. Mold is everywhere in trace amounts. It is a dangerous pest that thrives in humid and moist environments that provide a source of food, 2 things your home’s heating and air conditioning system is definitely not lacking. Air conditioners and ducts are full of condensation and organic matter such as dust, dirt, and pet dander for mold colonies to thrive on.
- Cockroaches, spiders, and other insects. Roaches are drawn to the same things in your air conditioning equipment and ductwork that helps mold to thrive. Roaches love dark, moist, and temperate spaces. They also feed on the same types of organic matter that mold does (roaches will literally eat anything from toenails to their own fecal matter). If these unsanitary pests are not eliminated, especially if they are in your HVAC system, you put yourself at risk of exposure to diseases and sickness. Not only do roaches tend to come in through and live on your equipment, but other pesky bugs like spiders and ants can make use of your ventilation systems to wriggle their way into your home in search of shelter and food.
- Snakes. Being cold blooded and unable to regulate their own body temperatures, snakes tend to slither their way in to your home via dryer ducts, plumbing lines, ductwork, etc in order to find a source of warmth or cooler air. They are also drawn to your home in pursuit of food. If you have mice or other rodents in your attic or ducts, snakes will come in after them, and they don’t require much space to wriggle their way in. Most snakes can fit their heads into a space as wide as a pencil. They are a liability to damage heat pumps as they enjoy coiling up on condensers.
4 Mice and other small rodents. Mice enjoy using your ducts and dryer ventilation for warmth and shelter from predators and as a network of “tunnels” to get around your home. They love to make nests out of insulation. They will put your home at risk of fire by chewing through wires and electrical connections. Their droppings, dander, etc will also put your health at risk if they are in your ductwork, as these harmful pollutants can be blown out into your home’s air.
Now that you are aware of the pests that could be lurking in your HVAC system and their potential dangers, what can you do to prevent/eliminate them?
* First off, if you already know you have roaches, mice, etc in your system, call an exterminator or set traps and get rid of them yourself. You don’t want to go and seal off your ducts and trap any remaining critters or their carcasses inside.
* For mold solutions, see one of these other blogs from us about mold and indoor air quality management.
* For roaches, bump the temperature down under 77 degrees. Cockroaches hate cool temps. Change your air filters regularly so as to avoid buildup of dust and other organic material they can feast on in your ducts and on equipment. Also, make sure to have regular maintenance done on your system. Part of routine semiannual maintenance is to go in and suction your condensation drains, which is a common source of moisture pooling up in and around air conditioners.
* For mice and snakes, have your ductwork inspected for gaps, nests, and any potential opening they can come in through, and have them repaired/sealed. Seal off your gutter downspouts (mice climb up them to get on your roof and can come in through the attic or bathroom/kitchen exhaust vents. Snakes also use downspouts to crawl up in pursuit of dinner) with mesh wire. Pest-proof your dryer exhaust vent (which is a possible entry point for mice, snakes, wasps, etc). And lastly, but certainly not least, if you have had mice, it is a good idea to get your ducts cleaned in order to eliminate poop, dander, etc (same applies for if you’ve had mold or roaches).