Salisbury, MD – Living arrangements are tight for Sam and Anita Brown and their three children.
For weeks, the family has temporarily squeezed into a 37-foot camper parked behind their Salisbury house. Sam Brown says their four-bedroom home is unlivable because it is plagued by a mold problem they first noticed last July. He fears the mold has caused respiratory problems for him and his children: Sam, 14, Robert, 10, and Sheyene, 4.
“It’s kind of rough, but we’re getting there,” said Brown, 46, about living in the two-bedroom camper. “The kids are too close together and fight sometimes.”
Brown said their mold problem could have been prevented. He blames it on an improperly installed heat pump, which he said spread moisture throughout the duct system and led to a buildup of moldy spores.
A more thorough inspection process of HVAC installations in Wicomico County could have prevented the error, Brown said. It’s why he and his wife launched a crusade in March for the county to adopt, for the first time, an inspection process for HVAC installations. “We’re already done. It ruined our home and all. But we don’t want it to happen to someone else,” Brown said.
Wicomico County Executive Richard M. Pollitt Jr. responded to their concerns by instructing the Public Works Department to study the matter. County spokesman Jim Fineran said he expects the findings to be presented to the County Council “real soon.” Fineran said Public Works officials looked at the merit of starting an HVAC inspection system that would be similar to how electrical inspections are handled.
“It would not be at any cost to the taxpayer; it would be fee-based,” he said.
Vic Disharoon, president of Wicomico Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., said many HVAC contractors support the changes. The cost he pays for HVAC inspections in Ocean City has increased costs on his projects by between $100-$150, he said. “That’s a small amount to pay for peace of mind,” Disharoon said.
Disharoon said inspections are needed from a safety standpoint, as faulty HVAC installations can have dangerous consequences. Furthermore, inspections are needed to cut down on the number of unlicensed contractors who are out there doing work, he said. “There are other families out there who’ve had the same problems as (the Browns). They just haven’t taken the same time and effort to go before the council,” Disharoon said.
County Council President John Cannon said changes are definitely needed; a point he backed up by saying the Delmarva Master HVAC Association has written a letter to the council in support to requiring inspections. “The surprising thing is we’ve had advocates for it coming from the HVAC industry,” he said.
The Browns did not disclose the name of the contractor they hired for the HVAC installation because of pending legal matters. However, they did say the contractor they hired was licensed.
Sam Brown said he is now traveling to Pocomoke City to see a doctor who specializes in treating mold-related allergies.
“Something this dangerous needs regulation,” he said.