A multi-channel delivery system responsible for the even distribution of air throughout your home, air ducts are the ever important middle-man between you and the clean tempered air your HVAC system produces. Unless you rely solely on ductless mini-split systems (more common in smaller homes and apartments) for your air conditioning, your air ducts play a crucial role in the overall comfort of your home and the cleanliness of your air, so it’s important to keep them clean.
While they’re well hidden in most homes and thus easily forgotten or overlooked, air ducts can accumulate lots of dust, dirt and debris over time. With enough neglect, your air ducts can become home to everything from allergens and bacteria to potentially deadly contaminants like mold and living creatures like insects and small rodents, all of which have the potential to spread from within your ducts out into your home via your air vents and registers. Dirty air ducts can also complicate air flow, reduce your system’s efficiency and lower your home’s indoor air quality.
Unfortunately for most, making sure your air ducts are spotless is much easier said than done. Luckily for you, we put together this article to walk you through the what, why, when & how of keeping your air ducts immaculate.
Air duct cleaning is the process by which the aforementioned buildup of dirt, debris, contaminants, and even insects and animals (if present) are safely and systemically dislodged and removed from your system. A highly involved and laborious chore that requires special training and its own set of tools, air duct cleanings are almost always done by designated professionals as opposed to the homeowner, whose DIY domain over the state of their ducts is typically limited to dusting and vacuuming around air vents and registers.
A typical air duct cleaning from a professional service provider will consist of said provider using a specially designed snaking tool to loosen, dislodge and extract as much dirt, debris, etc. as possible from within your ducts, similar to the way plumber use a drain snake to unclog a pipe. Then, the service provider will use a heavy duty shop vac with an extension hose to clean up whatever’s left behind from dislodging. Afterwards, some service providers will apply chemical biocides, chemical treatments, sealants and/or other encapsulants to get rid of residual micro-contaminants and help your air ducts to avoid further build-up moving forward.
The equipment and expertise provided by professional duct cleaning services make it possible to safely reach, clean and decontaminate all the intricate inner workings of your home’s air ducts. Put plainly, it’s virtually impossible for your average homeowner to do this on their own, and attempting to do so could be dangerous and damaging to both you and your system.
Indoor Air Quality
Just as neglecting your air ducts over long periods of time can significantly reduce your home’s indoor air quality, the inverse is also true. Keeping your ducts clean can prevent the allergens and other impurities trapped inside from making their way into your home’s air and drastically improve your IAQ as a result.
Excessive buildup of dirt, dust and debris can obstruct the pathways within your air ducts and impede your system’s airflow, which can ultimately decrease your system’s overall energy efficiency and increase your monthly bills. Cleaning your ducts on a regular basis can prevent this from happening, thus maximizing your system’s air flow and energy efficiency while simultaneously minimizing your utility costs.
HVAC System Health & Longevity
In addition to indoor air quality and energy efficiency, regular duct cleanings can improve your HVAC system’s health and longevity. While dirty ducts can be the result of larger problems in your system, they can also cause plenty of problems of their own. The best way to ensure neither is negatively affecting the other is to keep both as spick and span as possible via regular inspections, cleanings and maintenance.
There are several factors that influence the frequency with which your air ducts need to be cleaned – mainly the level and pace of debris build-up, but the size and age of your HVAC system, and the configuration of your air ducts also play a role.
If you detect issues like visible mold growth, moisture within your air ducts (especially if your ducts are insulated), the presence of vermin like insects and rodents, or excessive debris buildup, you should have your air ducts cleaned as soon as possible.
If you don’t have an issue that’s in need of immediate intervention, there’s a few basic guidelines you can follow as far as when and how often to have your air ducts cleaned.
Barring any extenuating circumstances causing increased buildup, some homeowners can go multiple years between full cleanings.
It is recommended, however, that homeowners with fuel-burning appliances like furnaces, stoves and fireplaces get their air ducts inspected and cleaned at least once a year – preferably sometime prior to the winter season – in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Regardless of your other appliances, we recommend having your ducts inspected, if not cleaned, at least once a year, just to be safe. If you’re keeping up with your bi-annual HVAC system check-ups, chances are you’re already adhering to this recommendation.
If you’re still unsure whether or not your ducts need cleaned, there are a few more signs you can look to for guidance. Musty smells, odd noises and reduced system performance are all signs that could indicate that it’s time for a cleaning. Another good rule of thumb – if you can’t remember the last time you had your air ducts cleaned, or you’ve never had your ducts cleaned, there’s no time like the present.
Choosing the Right Company
When hiring someone to clean your home’s air ducts, getting the job done right means choosing the right company or service provider. You want a company that is competent, knowledgeable and thorough in their work but also fair with their pricing. No one wants to overpay, but you run the risk of wasting even more money by springing for the cheapest option available without doing your due diligence first. Cheap service often means cut corners, and failure to properly decontaminate any one component or section of your HVAC system could easily result in the recontamination of your entire system.
Questions to Ask
Asking the right questions can help you evaluate different potential service providers, find out exactly what they’re offering and how much it’s going to cost you. First things first, you’ll want to provide your address to ensure it falls within the service area of the provider you’re speaking with. Next, ask the provider to tell you about their duct cleaning process and what exactly their service entails – things like inspections and the application of treatments and sealants may be included by some providers but not others, so it’s important to know what exactly you’re paying for.
Speaking of payment, you should also inquire about pricing before agreeing to any sort of service. With air duct cleaning, final cost often depends on the size of your system and the amount of labor it takes to clean it, so keep in mind that providers will often provide a rough estimate or general price range as opposed to an exact price. Some duct cleaning services will even determine their pricing with a standard rate per foot of ducting or by the square footage of your home, so having these measurements beforehand may be able to help you get a more accurate estimate.
According to the EPA, the typical American homeowner pays an average of $0.14 to $0.25 per square foot of home, or an average of $500 to $1,000 total for a full duct cleaning. Regardless of how a company determines their prices, it’s also important to ask about the possibility of any additional charges that you may incur during or as a result of the service provided.
What to Expect
During a standard air duct cleaning, service providers will typically start by inspecting your ducts to assess the extent of your problems and check for any loose or damaged ducts. As mentioned prior, service providers will then use a specialized snaking tool to dislodge built-up dust, dirt and other debris from within the vent, then use industrial vacuum cleaners with extra long hoses to remove it.
Afterwards, depending on the state of your ducts, the recommendations of your service provider and the type of service they offer, the service provider may also apply chemical biocides, treatments or sealants to the inside of your ducts for extra protection. Depending on the size of your system and extent of your problems, this process can take anywhere from 1-3 hours on average.
Keep in Mind
With issues like mold growth and vermin infestation, it’s important to identify and address the source and cause of the problem – in addition to standard duct cleaning procedures – in order to prevent said issues from becoming recurrent. If the problem stems from poorly installed or damaged ducts, or reaches a point at which it’s causing damage itself, further repairs and replacements may be required.
If you’ve learned nothing else from this article, remember that cleaning your air ducts can help improve indoor air quality, maximize your HVAC’s energy efficiency and minimize your bills. Neglecting your air ducts, on the other hand, can lead to an array of increasingly negative consequences – all of which can easily be avoided with regular preventative maintenance, inspections and regular professional duct cleanings.
If you need your air ducts cleaned and happen to live in the Delaware tri-state area, our experts here at Maichle’s have you covered! Fill out our online contact form, click the Text Us button at the bottom of the page to message one of our experts or give us a call at (302) 328-4822 for 24/7 HVAC service you can depend on at prices you can afford!