Our air conditioning smells like sweat socks. Could this be mold?
A smell like this usually signals the growth of bacteria or yeast, rather than the growth of mold (though all three microorganisms may be present and producing odor).
If you have hot-air heat and/or central air conditioning (or a heat pump), it's important to keep the system as clean as you can, and have adequate filtration. Use only disposable pleated media filters with a MERV rating of 6 or higher.
Ever since we moved into our new house, our son has been constantly coughing. Now his doctor tells me he's asthmatic. He was fine before. Could the house be a problem?
You don't mention whether you have a family history of allergies and asthma, and we're not physicians, so continue to discuss this situation with your doctor.
That said, The Money Pit's indoor air quality expert, Jeff May, doesn't recommend that people with mold allergies or sensitivities live in houses with hot-air heat, central air conditioning, and wall-to-wall carpeting. If you do have this type of HVAC system, the least you should do is install a good quality electronic air cleaner to keep the air as clean as possible.
The presence of mold in your house could greatly impact your son's allergies or asthma. If your son's symptoms improve when he is out of the house for an extended period of time, such as a family vacation, we'd recommend that you have an air quality professional do some air and dust sampling for you, to see if mold is present.
If mold is found, removing the mold alone will not solve this problem. You could spend thousands on remediation and unless the source of moisture is eliminated, the problem will reoccur. Mold testing could help narrow down the cause of the mold. Hiring someone who understands buildings before you do a mold test, such as a home inspector who is trained in mold and a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), can help you find the problem and change the conditions, so the mold won't return.
A few members of my family are allergy-prone, and I'd like to add air cleaning systems to our home. Are portable air cleaner units okay, or is a whole-house air cleaner a better value?
An effective whole house air cleaning system is good for everyone in your family, especially when you consider that, in addition to naming indoor air pollution as one of the top five risks to public health, the EPA has found that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside.
Individual air purifiers and ionizers can make a dent here and there, but for more effective results, a whole-house air cleaner is worth the bigger investment. For example, top-ranked Aprilaire Whole-Home Air Cleaners can be installed as part of your home's HVAC system, and will remove several amazingly tiny, otherwise hard-to-stop contaminants such as pollen, mold spores and harmful bacteria. Look into these smart air quality solutions, and your whole clan will be breathing easier.