It’s back to school time. Time for fall colors, football parties, pumpkin spice lattes, and cooler weather. And of course, time to turn on your furnace for the very first time of the season.
That warm breeze on a crisp morning can be a welcome relief. But if you turn it on and your home suddenly smells like a gym locker, don’t start wondering if your teenager forgot to clean his room again; it may be a problem called Dirty Sock Syndrome.
That musty, moldy smell may be coming from your vents. It’s a condition that occurs after your air conditioner or furnace is turned back on after being off for an extended period of time. It usually occurs either in the spring or fall, when equipment has had months to sit without operation. It’s a difficult problem to solve. But with a little expert help, it can be treated and prevented.
Dirty Sock Syndrome happens when moisture in the evaporator coils of your HVAC equipment are motionless for a few months. In the spring and fall, when you consistently switch between heat and cooling, the moisture build up becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Then, when you turn on the fan for good for the summer or winter months, the bacteria passes out into the air of your home through the vents. And that’s when the odor appears.
There has also been an increase in Dirty Sock Syndrome being reported in recent years, possibly because of changes to HVAC equipment. Today’s materials may be more porous than what was used in the past. More pores mean more moisture – and a bigger breeding ground for bacteria.
Dirty Sock Syndrome is dangerous for several reasons. The smell alone is unpleasant, but the consequences can be hazardous. Allergies and chronic respiratory issues can begin and increase simply by taking in this contaminated air. And over time, if not treated, Dirty Sock Syndrome can affect the quality of indoor air, making it several times more polluted than the air outside.
Once it occurs, there are a number of things your HVAC specialist may do to solve the problem., ranging from cleaning with antimicrobial agents, to coating the coil with a barrier that prevents future growth, to coil replacement altogether.
While Dirty Sock Syndrome can occur in any part of the country at any time, the real hassle comes from trying to eliminate it. With simple maintenance, regularly changing your air filters and upgrading them to higher MERV ratings, you can overcome these serious problems, and prevent it from occurring in the first place.
When was the last time you had maintenance performed on your HVAC equipment?