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Is Air Duct Cleaning Worth It?

July 22, 2013

Is Duct Cleaning Worth it or is it a Scam?

Indoor air quality is a growing concern for many households, and an increasing number of HVAC contractors are now offering duct cleaning services to help maintain central air systems and keep the home cleaner. This post will tell you what duct cleaning is and how it can help your home, but whether or not it’s a scam is up to you to decide based on your household’s needs.

From the horse’s mouth: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a statement claiming that routine duct cleaning is not effective at controlling indoor air quality, because the dirt and dust that accumulates in the ducts tends to stick to the sides rather than being released back into the house. One could even argue that ducts help clean your home by drawing in dirty air and then releasing cleaner air while leaving the contaminants behind.

While the EPA does not recommend routine duct cleaning, they do recommend cleaning on demand, which requires routinely monitoring your duct work for contaminants, in addition to leaks and other defects. And the EPA does recommend cleanings for a few specific reasons, which are discussed in more detail below.

What is Duct Cleaning?

Duct cleaning refers to cleaning the ducts, registers, grills, diffusers, filters, and intakes of a forced air system such as central heating and cooling. The ducts on a forced air system are the passageways that the heated or cooled air travels through to get to the rooms it’s needed in. Air travels through the intake register, filter, and diffusers before it enters the ducts for travel and output.

You can limit or eliminate the need for duct cleaning by performing the rest of the cleaning system work and skipping the cleaning of the ducts themselves. Because dirt from inside your home builds up inside the ducts, stopping it at the source—before it enters the actual ducts—is the best way to keep your ducts clean and free of contaminants.

Specific Reasons to Clean Your Ducts

The EPA says the dirt and dust that accumulate inside ducts doesn’t pose a health risk itself, but other contaminants that may enter the duct system can pose a health risk. Therefore, ducts should be monitored for these other contaminants and cleaned accordingly if they are present.

Concerning contaminants. Mold, pests, and excessive dirt or debris are the three big contaminants to look for in duct work.

Mold releases microscopic spores into the air which are hazardous to your health when inhaled over time and can also cause your home and the things inside it to smell musty. If your home has a high interior humidity level, moisture can become trapped in the ducts and lead to mold growth. If you have insulated ducts and the insulation becomes moldy, the ducts can’t be cleaned and will need to be replaced.

Don’t bother to clean or replace your moldy ducts without simultaneously addressing the problem causing the mold, or else it will recur. Look at ventilation-related issues, especially if your air intake is located near a bathroom or other humid part of the home, and consider using a dehumidifier while working on improving your ventilation.

Pests such as mice, rats, and cockroaches can take up residence inside leaky, poorly sealed, or improperly installed ducts. These pests all carry airborne diseases that can be spread through inhalation, so they need to be kept out of all areas of the home, especially places like air ducts where traveling air can pick up and spread their diseases.

The presence of such pests is an indication that the duct work needs to be repaired or replaced, in addition to being cleaned. Regular maintenance and monitoring of the entire forced air system should help prevent pests from becoming a problem. Just as with mold, the places where pests are entering your home must be sealed, in addition to performing the ductwork repairs, or else the problem will recur.

Excessive dirt or debris builds up when filters aren’t changed regularly and ducts are seldom to never checked for leaks, to the point that debris no longer adheres to the ducts. You may see dirt and dust accumulating around the output register and there may even be visible chunks of debris coming into your living spaces through the air system. When dirt from the ducts is noticeably visible around the home, it’s time for some much-needed maintenance and cleaning.

Is Duct Cleaning a Scam?

Duct cleaning is really only a scam when it isn’t needed. But don’t confuse duct cleaning with general heating and air conditioning maintenance. Regular maintenance of your air and ventilation systems helps to make them last longer, improves efficiency, and saves you money.

If you’re not sure about the health of your ducts, please feel free to contact Bob Jenson Air Conditioning and Heating. We’d be happy to help!

About The Author

Bob Jenson

For over 45 years, Bob Jenson has been providing quality heating and air services to the San Diego community.

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