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Duct Cleaning — What to Expect and How This Professional Service Can Improve IAQ

  • July 2013
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You may have heard about the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality to lessen allergies and asthma attacks. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified indoor air pollution as one of today’s top five health concerns. The top techniques for improving indoor air quality include changing the air filter monthly, scheduling annual preventative maintenance, ensuring good ventilation and keeping moisture at bay.

Another technique for improving indoor air quality is duct cleaning. While there’s limited scientific evidence that routine duct cleaning improves indoor air quality, countless cases of improved allergy and asthma symptoms make it clear that this procedure definitely has the potential to help you breathe easier.

What duct cleaning entails

Before the process begins, an HVAC technician creates an access point to see into the interior of the ductwork. This visual inspection helps the technician assess the contamination level. The easiest way for a technician to get a look inside the ductwork is to use a handheld mirror, video camera or direct-view periscope.

The best cleaning approach is determined by the visual inspection, and the technician then seals off the air duct system by covering supply and return registers with a special tape. Duct cleaning methods vary, but in general, the process refers to cleaning various HVAC system components, including:

  • Supply and return ductwork
  • Supply and return registers
  • Heat exchanger
  • Heating and cooling coils
  • Condensate drain pan
  • Fan housing
  • Fan motor
  • Air handler

An HVAC contractor typically uses special tools, such as a mechanical brush or compressed air whip, to dislodge dirt and debris stuck to the interior ductwork surface. Then, the technician uses a high-powered vacuum to suction up and remove the loosened debris from the system.

In addition to these methods, the contactor may suggest applying chemicals to kill mold and other fungi inside the ductwork and on other parts of the HVAC system. After the chemicals are applied, a sealant kills off any remaining microorganisms and prevents future colonies from establishing themselves there.

Benefits of duct cleaning

  • Improved indoor air quality: This primary reason to have duct cleaning performed is significant to anyone suffering from indoor allergies. Without proper installation, maintenance and operation of HVAC system components, they can become contaminated with pollen, dust, pet dander and other debris. In addition, moisture harbors mold growth, the spores from which circulate throughout the ductwork and into your home. If you are allergic to any of these contaminants, their presence in the ductwork means you are exposed to them any time the HVAC system runs. That’s why removing contaminants with duct cleaning is so important for anyone with asthma or allergies.
  • Reduced energy costs: Airflow is critical for optimal heating and cooling equipment performance. With dust, dirt, grime and fungi clinging to the ductwork walls, airflow is diminished up to 50 percent due to increased friction, and therefore efficiency suffers. Plus, when heating and cooling coils become caked with dirt, their ability to transfer heat suffers as well. Cleaning each of these components results in an immediate energy bill decrease.
  • Extended equipment life: Excess dust and debris on coils and other components are a primary cause of early system failure. These factors make every part of the HVAC system work harder than necessary to keep your home comfortable, thus ultimately reducing the number of years the equipment can last.

When to have duct cleaning performed

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests scheduling duct cleaning only as needed, rather than as part of a routine maintenance agreement. Consider having your ducts cleaned every three to five years or any time serious problems develop. If any of the following conditions occur, there’s usually one or more underlying causes that you need to address or the situation is likely to occur again:

  • Visible mold growth: Removing mold from the ductwork is not enough. Whatever caused the problem, such as standing water, needs to be rectified alongside the mold removal operation.
  • Vermin infestation: Rodents, insects and other vermin may find their way into the duct system and build nests that block airflow. Aside from removing nests, droppings and other evidence of their stay, you must find the vermins’ access point and seal it up.
  • Excess amounts of dust or debris: Sometimes, dust becomes visible exiting the supply registers when the system turns on. Have duct cleaning performed and then make it a habit to dust and vacuum more often so less debris accumulates in the ductwork.

To learn more about duct cleaning, please contact Meyer’s Company, Inc. in Griffith today.