A man cleaning the exterior of a floor air duct vent in a home

We have all been there: you sit down to enjoy a nice meal with your loved ones and suddenly your cell rings. Of course, you answer thinking it’s an important call from a family member when it’s actually a pesky telemarketer, asking if you want air duct cleaning services. On top of being annoying, have these calls ever really made you wonder if you need to get your air ducts cleaned? 

Typically, homeowners have heard of air duct cleaning. However, most don’t know what it’s all about or whether they need it. If you are in the same situation, this guide will talk about all you need to know. 

What Is Air Duct Cleaning?

Air duct cleaning is a service offered by HVAC professionals to rid dust, dirt, pollen, dander, mold, and other contaminants that can accumulate in the ductwork. Cleaning typically takes 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on ductwork length, size of the home, and the complexity of the system. 

The cleaning professional will use a special vacuum, brushes, and other specialized equipment to clean:

  • Ducts – metal passages that connect to your HVAC system and conduct air throughout your house. 
  • Motors – connected to the air conditioner and furnace
  • Fans – blow the cooled or heated air from the air conditioner/furnace into the ducts
  • Coils – Heat pumps and air conditioners have condenser and evaporator coils that remove and absorb heat from your home
  • Registers – Slotted metal grates that cover the hole from where air flows into a room
  • Air handlers – Contain things such as the cooling/heating elements and the blower that circulate and regulate the air in your HVAC system
  • Drain pans – Collect water from the coils and prevent water damage and leaks around the unit.

Air duct cleaning comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. In the next section, we will comprehensively analyze both the pros and cons to help decide if you need this service.

Pros of Air Duct Cleaning

We will first take a look at the possible advantages that air duct cleaning offers. 

Enhance the System’s Efficiency

If dust and debris accumulate inside your air ducts, your HVAC system will have to work harder to ensure that your house’s temperature is at the perfect temperature. These additional efforts result in a higher level of wear and tear on the various HVAC components that support the heating and cooling process. Moreover, since your HVAC system is working more than it should, your maintenance and energy bills could increase. 

A profession using a brush for air duct cleaning

Cleaning your air ducts can extend the working life of your HVAC system. Plus, you can perhaps even save money that you would otherwise have to spend on costly repairs. According to the US Department of Energy, 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for cooling or heating a home is wasted. When your HVAC system is clean, it won’t have to work as hard to maintain the temperature you like. Consequently, improved cost-effectiveness results from less consumption of energy. 

While cleaning your air ducts, make sure to clean the fans, heat exchangers, and other components for the best results. 

Lowered Risk of Disease Transmission

When rodents or insects infiltrate your air ducts, you increase the risk of experiencing several severe diseases. Hantavirus is one of the worst diseases in this category, as it can spread when you breathe in dust contaminated with rodent urine or droppings. If you have cotton rats, deer mice, white-footed mice, or rice rats living in your air ducts, you could be breathing in these problems right now. 

Moreover, in the western side of the country, plague can also occur as infected fleas from wild rodents living in your HVAC system can perhaps infiltrate your home and bite. With this in mind, regular cleaning is probably worth the cost. 

Possibility of Improved Health and Hygiene

At present, there’s no research saying that cleaning your air ducts will result in improved health and hygiene. But at the same time, there’s nothing that says it doesn’t either. 

If someone in your family is struggling with allergies or asthma, you might find that you can control these conditions by regularly cleaning your ductwork. Just pay attention to any cleaning agents or chemicals used during this process, as some of them can trigger breathing problems. 

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association maintains that “some occupants are more sensitive to these contaminants than others. For example, allergy and asthma sufferers, as well as young children and the elderly, tend to be more susceptible to the types of poor indoor air quality that air duct cleaning can help address.”

Eliminating Unpleasant Odors

Paint fumes, cleaning products, food preparation work, and tobacco can all result in a musty or stale odor in your home. By getting rid of the dust that traps these smells in your air ducts, you can effectively eliminate a lot of such unpleasant smells. 

Cons of Air Duct Cleaning

While it offers many benefits, there are certain drawbacks associated with air duct cleaning. 

Your Air Filters Already Keep Dust Out of Air Ducts 

If you don’t have dust, mold, insects, or rodents coming from your air vents, you probably don’t need air duct cleaning. 

This is because your cooling/heating system consists of air filters that prevent dust from entering your evaporator coils and heat exchanger. Filters stop dust from entering your air ducts and blowing it back inside your home. So, if you frequently change or clean your filters, you are probably okay without air duct cleaning. 

A  furnace air filter being replaced

However, if you do not replace your air filters regularly, you should call a professional to check your air ducts for excessive debris and dust accumulation. Dust contains animal dander, dead skin cells, dirt, pollen, so it’s not something you want in your home or choking your furnace system. 

It Doesn’t Get to the Root of the Problem

If you find excessive debris, dust accumulation, mold growth, or even rodents in your air ducts, then cleaning can fix the problem. However, this is just a temporary solution, and you need to take the appropriate steps to prevent this problem from recurring!

For instance, you need to look for moisture access, leaks, or structural issues that could contribute to the duct problems you’re experiencing. If you don’t get to the root cause of the problem, the mold can grow back, and the pests can move back into the air ducts. 

Some Systems Need Replacement Rather than Cleaning 

If you have insulated air ducts, you might notice that the insulation can sometimes become wet. Wet insulation can lead to mold growth. In addition, as most homes use a fiberglass-based product to insulate the cooling and heating system, they cannot be adequately cleaned. 

In such cases, you will have to ask your contractor to replace the entire insulation. Replacement can become a challenging task if you have to go through a wall or a floor. However, it can even help you prevent dangerous mold growth that can result in even more expensive repairs. 

Increased Risk of Damage

Working with an amateur contractor can be more disadvantageous than beneficial to your air ducts. 

Many contractors use long vacuum tubes to extract the dust from air ducts. If they don’t work carefully, they can damage the inside of the vents, leading to holes or leaks. However, if they work carefully, these long vacuum tubes won’t do any harm and will clean your ductwork properly. 

Thus, if you are looking for an air duct cleaning contractor, we suggest you go through the guidelines given by the EPA for selecting a contractor. 

  • Don’t get fooled by contractors who promise health improvements from duct cleaning services. As we discussed earlier, there’s no research to back these claims. 
  • Look up the company on Better Business Bureau to see if anyone has complained about it. 
  • If your state necessitates contractors to have a special license for duct cleaning, make sure you check their license before hiring them. 

Stay wary of contractors who fail to meet these requirements as they might be fooling or scamming you. 

Is Air Duct Cleaning Actually Worth It?

Regardless of what the telemarketers say, air duct cleaning isn’t something that every home needs. And it’s certainly not something you need to do frequently. 

If you have some spare money in your bank account and want cleaner air ducts, feel free to contact a contractor to complete the job. However, if you wish to save money, you will be delighted to learn that air duct cleaning is only absolutely vital in particular homes and particular situations. Here is a list of cases when air duct cleaning might be necessary:

Excessive Dust

Certain homes seem to be dust magnets. Thus, if you are constantly dealing with dirt, dust, dander, or pollen in your home, you might need to get your air ducts cleaned to remove dust, debris, and other contaminants. 

Mold

Water leaks, damage, and other issues can result in mold growth inside your ductwork. Perhaps the only way to remove the mold is to invest in duct cleaning services. 

You Have Moved into a Recently Renovated or New Home

Suppose you have moved into a recently renovated or new home. In that case, you should opt for air duct cleaning to eliminate the excessive dirt, dust, or construction debris present in the air and accumulated in the air ducts. 

Pests

Insects, mice, rats, and other pests or rodents are known to infest the air ducts. After you have catered to the infestation problem, you should get your ducts cleaned to remove feces, nests, among other things left behind by them in your air ducts. 

Poor Airflow

Debris and dirt can lower the amount of space that air has to flow through your air ducts. Constricted air flow space can compromise your HVAC system’s efficiency. If you feel that the air isn’t moving around the house the way it used to, cleaning is perhaps necessary. 

Having air ducts in your home doesn’t automatically imply they require cleaning. For instance, cleaning will not offer many benefits to your home if your ductworks arent filled with dust, your home is free of pests, you don’t have any pets in the house, and you haven’t done any construction or renovation recently. 

Cost of Cleaning Air Ducts

The average cost of cleaning air ducts lies between $200 to $525. The actual price is going to depend on where you live and who you hire. Some other factors that can impact cost include:

  • Square footage of your home
  • Length of the air ducts
  • The complexity of your air duct system 
  • Number of resisters and vents inside your house
  • The time needed to carry out the cleaning 
  • The severity of problems like pests or mold

Conclusion

There are times when air duct cleaning can improve the effectiveness of your cooling and heating system. It’s always a good idea to routinely inspect the air ducts to ensure no rats, squirrels, or mice live in these spaces. If you hear weird noises coming from the vents, even when the system isn’t working, you might need to contact a contractor to find and get rid of those pests. 

There are no proven health benefits achieved through air duct cleaning. However, there are no potential detriments to health, either. 

The advantages and disadvantages of air duct cleaning are particularly important to assess when you move into a new house. Even though the EPA doesn’t recommend regular cleaning, tuning up the system can be beneficial. 

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2 Comments

  1. It’s great that you pointed out that cleaning your air ducts can help you extend the working life of your HVAC system. With that in mind, I would think that it would be important to make sure that you use the right tools and products when cleaning air ducts. I would think that hiring an HVAC technician to clean your ducts would be a good idea because you won’t have to worry about something going wrong.

  2. It’s valuable that you mention that you can improve the longevity of your home’s HVAC system by having the air ducts cleaned. I want the HVAC system in my house to last for as long as possible, so I’m considering hiring someone to clean my air ducts for me next Thursday. I’m going to see if there’s a good business in my area that offers air duct cleaning services.

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