When considering having your ducts cleaned, there are many questions that you may be confronted with. How much should I be paying? How do I know if I am being scammed? What are the benefits? What is duct cleaning in the first place? It can become overwhelming to search and search for answers, and often times you will receive mixed answers that confuse you even further. So, this article is an attempt to answer those questions and more based on the what the credible sources have to say when it comes to duct cleaning. The sources used were the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
What Is Duct Cleaning?
According to the EPA, duct cleaning is the cleaning of the HVAC system including, supply and return ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers, heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans, fan motor and housing, and the air handling unit housing. When having a company out to do this procedure, you must make sure that all of these components are being cleaned and not just the duct work alone. This is the only way to truly experience the full benefits of a duct cleaning. Each duct cleaning company may vary their procedures slightly, but there are a few things to look out for in order to ensure that you are having a proper job done. First of all, you must make sure the company is using the right equipment. Industrial vacuums are hooked up to the duct work to suck out any debris that is inside the vents. To loosen up the particles that are stuck to the inside of the vents, each company may vary slightly in their technique. In my research, I found that the main two methods are the Rotobrush and air sweep methods. The Rotobrush method involves a brush that spins counter clockwise inside the duct work. This scrubs every inch of the duct work, and ensures a thorough job. The air sweep method involves an air wand that pushes a concentrated stream of air throughout the system of ducts to kick up particles which are then sucked in by the vacuum. The air sweep method is most effective in homes that have their duct cleaned yearly because a smaller amount of particles will be present in the vents. Next, you must make sure the company you use is able to properly remove the debris in the ducts from the home. To do this, they need to create negative air pressure in the ducts by hooking up their vacuums to the supply and return ends of the duct work. This type of pressure prevents dirt and debris from escaping during the cleaning. It is important that the company has a good vacuum collection system. If they are not using a proper system, a duct cleaning could cause damage to your ducts or the other components of you HVAC system. Also, particles may escape and enter the air you and your family breathe. If the company wants to use a biocide spray on the ducts, you should first make sure that it is registered with the EPA, and it is also recommended that you not be present in the home when the spraying is done. These chemicals will kill off and prevent future growth, but they are dangerous if inhaled. The EPA suggests that they shouldn’t be used unless you have mold growth in the ducts. After this is complete, the technician should then clean the cold and hot air returns. The cold air return is the vent that sucks in cold air into the furnace, and the hot air returns are the vents that blow the warm air into the home. Once completed, the duct work has been cleaned successfully. However as I mentioned earlier, the system is not fully cleaned until the furnace and air conditioner have also been cleaned.
Am I being scammed?
Unfortunately, the duct cleaning business is one that is riddled with lies and half truths. There are many companies out there that will offer a “good deal.” In reality its a scam. For example, you flip through the newspaper and come across an add for a $99.00 duct cleaning. Seems like a good price right? Wrong! A price this low is the first sign that the company is no good. Once you have the company out, they will immediately start tagging items onto the cost. The next thing you know you are down a couple thousand dollars and have nothing more to show for it then a couple of dusted vents. A legitimate company should charge somewhere between $400.00 and $1,000.00 for a typical 2,000 sq ft home (NADCA). Before signing a contract, it is important to make sure that you actually need the cleaning done. An honest company will do a thorough inspection and provide evidence of the condition of the duct work. When the job is being performed, it should take at least two licensed technicians and about 8 to 15 hours to complete. Beware of companies that use sub-contractors because there is no guarantee you will get someone who is licensed. Also, if the job is done incorrectly, the company may abandon you and want you to try and track down the man who did the job. Chances are at this point he is long gone, and he took your money with him.
Why have my ducts cleaned?
The EPA suggests that a duct cleaning be performed if there is mold present, if vermin were once inside the duct work, and if the ducts are clogged with a significant amount of debris and dust that is being released into the indoor air. If mold is the problem it can be easily removed with a good duct cleaning. However if you have a home with insulated duct work that has mold because it got wet, your ducts need to be replaced and water exposure eliminated. Insulation material in duct work cannot be cleaned well enough to remove the mold. If your ducts are not insulated, a duct cleaning will be able to remove the mold. If the ducts have never been cleaned before chances are there are inches of dust and debris build up from the constant circulation of air the HVAC units cause when they are being used. The air filter on the furnace may be able to trap most of the particles but still some may escape and enter the air inside the home that you and your family breathe. This can create a hazardous situation if there is someone in the home with allergies or asthma. This is worsened if there is a mold growth in the ducts. If someone has one of these conditions it is important to give them the cleanest air possible to breath. A duct cleaning, coupled with other precautions, can significantly improve the air quality in your home.
Improving Air Quality
Having your ducts cleaned is just one step in the right direction when it comes to improving your overall air quality. There are several other steps that can be taken. First of all, it is important to lower the humidity in you home. Dust mites grow more easily in humid conditions. Next, you should have the drapery, furniture, carpet, and mattress cleaned. This should be done with the use of an ultra violet vacuum for the greatest results. This will kill the dust mites. For bedding, you can purchase mattress encasement or allergy bedding that keep dust mites out. You can also freeze your pillow and stuffed animals in order to kill off any dust mites that may be present. Finally, an air purifier can eliminate any other airborne allergens that may still be present in your home.
If all goes well and the job is done right, the indoor air quality of your home should be greatly improved. Hopefully this article cleared up any confusion on the subject of duct cleaning, and reassured you that this is a legitimate service that can provide many benefits for your home and your family.