I recently bought my first home and property, a minihome on 3 acres in rural Nova Scotia. One of the things I loved about the minihome when house-hunting was the ease and efficiency of a heat pump, which was only three years old. Now that we've been in the minihome for a few months, including one of the hottest Nova Scotian summers in history, we truly know the heat pump's worth!
But my son and I have both been feeling a bit 'stuffed up' since moving in, and I noticed our sinus issues were worse on mornings when we had the heat pump running all night to stay cool. I started looking into how often heat pumps should be cleaned and found that if you aren't cleaning your unit once a year, you may be giving black mold and bacteria the perfect place to grow!
I reached out to an expert: Tommy Campbell Gallant owns and runs Breathe Easy, a mini-split heat pump cleaning and disinfection company located in Pictou County but servicing all of Nova Scotia.
Tommy runs a one-man business. Back in January, he noticed there weren't any professional services fully dedicated to disinfecting heat pumps, and with a BSc in Toxicology and over 5 years experience in the HVAC industry, he was uniquely qualified.
He started the business in March of 2018 and since then has already cleaned and disinfected an estimated 1000 heat pumps in the Maritime provinces, seeing as many as 10 appointments a day. I happily hired Tommy to come clean our heat pump and share some of his knowledge and experience with our readers. I'll also share with you some before and after photos of our heat pump...When I saw just how much mold and dirt was inside I was disgusted, but Tommy assured me that this is very typical of what most units look like after going a few years without maintenance (so please...don't judge me!)
When we moved in, we cleaned the exterior of the heat pump but I didn't attempt to take it apart because it looked clean enough. Boy, was I wrong. Take a look at what was hiding under the plastic cover:
No wonder we were feeling stuffed up! The damp, dark and warm interior of a heat pump is the perfect breeding ground for black mold, and when you turn the unit on these spores can travel throughout your home.
Once the heat pump was taken apart, Tommy showed me where the coil and blower fan were collecting mold and dirt and cleaned it with his machine. Simply cleaning your heat pump filter is a good start, but a professional service once a year is required to clean the coil and blower fan and prevent this build up. It's important to make sure the company you hire are using only FDA approved chemicals which are Alkaline-based and safe for family and pets to breathe!
Take a look at the difference once half of the fins had been cleaned:
Tommy also cleaned the outside of the unit, where even more debris was trapped between the fins and reducing our efficiency. Look at the before on the left and after on the right. You can see a lot of Dandelion spores had made their way into the unit.
After the heat pump was cleaned inside and out, Tommy told me about the popular 'bucket challenge' his customers like to do, where he pours the 'outcome' of the process from one bucket to the next (just in case you haven't been sufficiently grossed out yet). So, of couse I had to do it.
Lastly, the heat pump was treated with an FDA approved chemical which helps to prevent the black mold from returning. This will help keep your air quality high until your next regular cleaning!
If you're asking yourself if your heat pump needs to be cleaned, Tommy says to check for a 'dirty sock' smell when you first turn your unit on. This is a good indicator that mold is present. Other than that, he recommends yearly professional cleanings and treatments.
Here's the finished product!
When I turned the unit back on I noticed it was almost completely silent, instead of the low hum we used to hear. I'm looking forward to seeing if this improves our stuffy noses!
Special thanks to Tommy Campbell Gallant from Breathe Easy for the information provided within this blog.
Find his website: https://breatheeasy.biz/
Call or Text: 1-902-331-0535
Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/breatheeasyNS
Catherine Millen is mama to her son Lazlo and the Digital Marketing Coordinator for Stone's Prestige Homes and Stone's RV.