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Why Should Air Ducts Be Cleaned? How Is it Done?

Professional duct cleaning can be a benefit to many Chicago area homeowners, while others don’t need the service at all. When should air ducts be cleaned? Duct cleaning doesn’t need to be done on any set schedule and certainly not every year. Having your ductwork professionally cleaned can improve your home’s indoor air quality as well as the performance of your heating, cooling and ventilation systems, if you have problems in those areas. 

What should be done on a yearly basis is preventive maintenance. Schedule an annual visit from your local HVAC contractor, and make sure the visit includes a duct inspection. Once completed, your technician can tell you if duct leakage is detected or other issues like mold are present. If necessary, debris samples or dust from the ducts can be sent to the lab for analysis to detect the presence of microscopic mold particles or other unhealthy contaminants. (Be sure to get a copy of lab results from your HVAC contractor.)

Primary Reasons for Air Duct Cleaning

If you’ve noticed signs of poor indoor air quality or your energy bills have been increasing without explanation, you may need duct cleaning. These conditions may signal that your ducts are lined with debris that may be recirculating in the air of your home. Alternatively, you may have a blockage within the system. This can be due to a collapsed, twisted or damaged duct. It could be an accumulation of debris or even a small animal or bird’s nest, especially if near the home’s exterior.

When should air ducts be cleaned? Consider it if you have:

  • Excess dust in your home’s air, despite normal cleaning. Over time, airborne debris and contaminants settle on duct walls and cover interior components of your HVAC equipment, just like they collect on furniture and surfaces in the house. The internal accumulation can damage heating and cooling equipment and recirculate dust and debris throughout the house.
  • Soaring energy bills. Duct leaks can become quite numerous—and large–before they’re noticed. In that time, they can waste as much as 30 percent of the conditioned air that should be cooling or heating your home.
  • Unusually strong allergy symptoms, headaches or fatigue not otherwise explainable.
  • Stale odors lingering in the house.
  • Insect or mice problems which can lead to or stem from infestations in the ducts.
  • Mold on walls or around duct openings just behind room air registers or grilles.
  • Rooms that are always to hot or too cold. This could be a sign of a partial duct blockage.

Should air ducts be cleaned? Consider it in these cases as well: If you’ve had recent remodeling, possibly leaving behind chemical contaminants that have been sucked into the duct system; there's a smoker in the house; or pets are among your home's residents. 

Proper Duct Cleaning Procedure

Procedure is important in duct cleaning. Should air ducts be cleaned improperly or carelessly, duct cleaning can spread lung irritants or contaminants around your house rather than cleaning them up. Be sure the duct cleaning company you choose has experience and doesn’t cut corners on the job. Ask questions about procedure and what’s included in your duct cleaning to be sure you’re hiring the right contractor. Your chosen contractor should follow recommendations set by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), including:

  • Examining ducts for asbestos before beginning the job.
  • Cleaning the complete home comfort system, including ductwork, plenum, joist area, crawl space and associated wall cavities.
  • Cleaning components like the A/C drain pan, whole-house humidifier, cooling coil and fans.
  • Sending exhaust particles from the duct system directly outside the home and cleaning up the immediate areas with a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
  • Covering and protecting your belongings, floor, rugs and/or carpet and furnishings during the project.
  • Working with a contact vacuum when brushing duct surfaces and cleaning in a controlled manner to contain debris.
  • Cleaning with soft-bristled brushes to avoid damaging fiberglass or fiberglass-lined ducts.
  • Removing wet or moldy duct insulation.
  • Replacing accessible flex ducts.
  • Repairing access points used or created during the duct cleaning project.

If your contractor suggests using biocides to kill mold spores, think twice. These chemicals may cause more harm than they're worth, since some people may have allergic reactions, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states. 

For best results, ask your HVAC contractor to seal the duct system to help avoid future air leakage and duct buildup.

For a duct inspection or any HVAC issue in your home, contact a local expert at Comfort24-7. Visit us online for valuable home comfort advice and to find a reliable, experienced contractor from our network.


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