Keeping the indoor air quality (IAQ) of your home high requires maintaining a clean indoor environment, as well as clean equipment, appliances and HVAC systems. For some, this also means regularly checking and cleaning the ductwork that carries heated and cooled air from your furnace, heat pump or air conditioner to your home. The concept of duct cleaning remains somewhat controversial, but in some cases, it’s definitely warranted. Here’s a brief introduction to duct cleaning and what it involved.
The Need for Clean Ducts
Over time, it’s possible for foreign material to accumulate in the ductwork of your HVAC system. Since air is always moving through the ducts, this air movement could loosen this material and carry it out into your living environment. Even small particles of dust, dirt, molt, pollen, dander or other material could be sufficient to reduce indoor IAQ and trigger asthma, allergies and other conditions.
When Is It Necessary?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions against duct cleaning in most cases, noting that there’s no reliable evidence to show that duct cleaning prevents or alleviates any kind of health problem or respiratory condition. However, there are three situations in which the EPA does recommend a professional cleaning:
- The ductwork has visible indicates of mold growing anywhere inside or outside the ducts, on the HVAC equipment or elsewhere within the system. Anything suspected to be mold should be tested before proceeding with duct cleaning. Some harmless substances look like mold.
- There’s an infestation of small animals, rodents, insects or other vermin. These creatures can leave feces, fur, body parts and other material that could be blown out of the ducts and into your home.
- There’s a complete or partial blockage of ducts caused by an accumulation of dirt or other debris. This type of blockage not only increases the risk of particulates being sent into your living environment, but it also interferes with the performance of your HVAC system. Restrictions of airflow can lead to system malfunctions and breakdowns. Energy waste and higher heating and cooling bills can also result as the system works harder to compensate.
What Duct Cleaning Involves
It’s debatable whether the cleaning of ducts has a direct effect on health, but a clean ductwork system will certainly present fewer opportunities for particulates or contaminants to get into your indoor air from the ducts. Some professionals recommend duct cleaning as part of regular preventive maintenance for your HVAC system, while others say a cleaning every three to five years is sufficient. A thorough cleaning will allow a trained technician the opportunity to inspect the ductwork from end to end, finding any problems that need to be fixed, such as loose or detached sections, broken seals or damaged parts.
Find a reliable duct cleaner by asking your local trusted HVAC service provider. Check references and membership in industry organizations such as the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). Be cautious of any overly positive claims made about the benefits of duct cleaning.
During a cleaning of your home’s ductwork, you can expect the professional to tackle the following tasks:
- Perform a thorough visual inspection of the entire ductwork system, from end to end, to check for damage, loose sections or other problems.
- Interior inspection of the ductwork using a video camera, periscope, handheld mirror or other appropriate visualization device.
- Seal ductwork and use a high-pressure vacuum to create negative pressure inside the duct pipes. Any loose dirt, debris or other material should be easily extracted with this technique.
- Break up larger accumulations of material with a mechanical brush or blast of compressed air, then remove it using the vacuum techniques.
- Apply a biocide to kill mold and fungi inside the ductwork. Be careful when it comes to application of this type of chemical. Ask questions and make sure you understand the possible effects of the biocide before it is applied.
For more information on duct cleaning and its potential benefits, check out Griffith Energy Services’ duct cleaning solutions or call 888-474-3391.
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