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If you’re concerned about the indoor air quality in your home, you may have considered getting your ductwork cleaned. Many companies advertise duct cleaning as an effective way to improve the quality of your indoor air using before and after images showing extremely dirty ducts next to immaculately clean ducts.

But before shelling out money for duct cleaning services, learn when it’s necessary and when it’s not. If you do get your air ducts inspected or cleaned, make sure the contractor is a member of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. Contact Sobieski Services for a professional duct cleaning diagnosis in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

What to Know About Duct Cleaning

  1. Duct cleaning has not been shown to prevent health problems

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, no studies show that duct cleaning actually prevents health problems or demonstrate that particle levels increase because of dirty air ducts. The dust and dirt that is in your air ducts sticks to the inside of your ducts and stays there for the most part. You should be much more concerned with other contaminant sources, such as cooking, cleaning products, smoking, pests, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. 

The small amount of dust and particulates that air ducts may distribute throughout your home probably doesn’t pose a risk to your health. While research continues, so far nobody really knows if duct cleaning improves indoor air quality or prevents health problems. If, however, you have mold, pests, or significant amounts of contaminants in your air ducts, duct cleaning is recommended (see end of article).

Be wary of any duct cleaning companies that claim to be certified by the EPA. According to the EPA, the Agency “neither establishes duct cleaning standards nor certifies, endorses, or approves duct cleaning companies.”

  1. Duct cleaning tools can damage your ductwork and HVAC system

It takes a lot of expertise to clean your HVAC and duct system properly. First, the cause or causes of your dirty ducts must be fixed before any cleaning takes place. Then, the service provider should clean all HVAC system components, including ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers, coils, fans, fan housing, air handling unit, and condensate drain pans.

If your HVAC and duct system are not properly cleaned, everything will simply get contaminated again, negating any potential benefits. Improper cleaning can also release contaminants into the atmosphere that otherwise would have remained put.

That’s why it’s important to make sure the duct cleaning company is a member of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. 

Specialized tools are needed to clean your ductwork. If the proper tools and methods aren’t used, you might end up with damaged ductwork and system components. You don’t want to pay for expensive ductwork treatment only to find out that you now have a compromised HVAC system and worse indoor air quality.

  1. Building occupants may be sensitive to duct cleaning chemicals

While physical removal of ductwork contaminants is the main method for cleaning and decontaminating air ducts and HVAC systems, many duct cleaning companies also apply chemicals, cleaners, sealants, and/or coatings that could trigger allergies, asthma attacks, and headaches. Be cautious about any chemicals used in HVAC systems.

Some companies advertise “green” or “eco-friendly” duct cleaning methods, but never disclose the chemicals being used. Most of the disinfectant and antimicrobial products used for duct cleaning have not been assessed by the Agency. Therefore building occupants cannot be sure that these products are safe or effective.

Even if a certain product lists HVAC systems as a possible use, the Agency has not fully reviewed the data or made any conclusions about them for duct cleaning purposes. Use of these duct cleaning chemicals may be unlawful and have negative impacts on consumer health and safety. According to the EPA, many duct cleaning products are being used in manner not authorized by the label and may lead to significant exposures in indoor environments with adverse health effects.

It’s important to ensure that disinfectants, sanitizers, and antimicrobial products used in HVAC&R systems are properly registered for HVAC&R use and approved by the EPA. If any chemicals are being used, the service provider should show you the label, which will describe its approved uses. Do not allow the product to be used outside of its strict label instructions.

Read the NADCA White Paper on Chemical Applications in HVAC Systems for more information.

  1. Duct cleaning ignores the causes of dirty ducts

The first question you want to ask yourself is “Why are your ducts are so dirty?” Duct leaks are the main cause of dirty air ducts. If you have leaks in your ductwork, lots of dirt and debris can get sucked into the ducts, especially if they are located in your attic, basement, or crawlspace. Before any cleaning, retrofitting, or replacing of your air ducts, the cause(s) must be addressed first. Often duct cleaning companies won’t address these underlying issues, making duct contamination likely to occur again.

  1. Little evidence exists that cleaning your ductwork improves system efficiency

While it has been shown that cleaning heating and cooling components such as cooling coils, fans, and heat exchangers can improve energy efficiency, little evidence exists that cleaning your ducts will improve the efficiency of your system (EPA). Duct cleaning is not a part of routing heating and cooling maintenance, however, regular HVAC inspections and cleanings before each heating and cooling season are highly recommended.

  1. Duct cleaning can actually make your indoor air quality worse

Ironically, duct cleaning can actually cause indoor air quality problems if the proper procedures aren’t followed. For instance, chemical treatments and inadequate vacuum collection can release more dust, dirt, and contaminants than if you had done nothing at all.

When to Be Worried About Dirty Ducts

While everyday dust and dirt inside your air ducts are nothing to worry about, there are some cases when you should be concerned with contaminated ductwork:

Mold

Companies that offer professional duct cleaning may claim you have mold inside your ducts that needs to be removed for your health and safety, but since the inside of your HVAC system is not available for visible inspection, ask your service provider to show you any mold that exists.

Even if something looks like mold doesn’t mean it is. That’s why it’s best to send the sample to a microbiology laboratory for confirmation. It will cost you about $20 – $50 to get your mold sample tested, but it’s a small cost considering the huge expense involved in duct cleaning and mold remediation.

When collecting a mold sample for analysis, make sure you are wearing rubber gloves and a full-face respirator mask. Learn more about testing your home for mold.

Keep in mind that if your duct insulation has gotten wet and moldy, it will need to be completely removed and replaced. Make sure you hire a reputable HVAC company to inspect your HVAC system for mold. It’s important to address the conditions that caused the mold in the first place so it doesn’t reappear.

Pest and vermin

Sometimes, insects, rodents, and other critters can make their way inside your ductwork. If you suspect pest contaminant in your ductwork, contact a professional HVAC technician right away. Not only can rodents and other pests present an indoor air quality problem, they could also damage your electrical wires and other system components. A trained and certified HVAC technician will be able to seal ducts, vents, and flues to ensure that pests cannot enter the HVAC system.

Excessive dust, dirt, and debris

If you have a large amount of dust, dirt and debris in your ducts, you can probably see the particles getting released into the air from the supply registers. If this is the case, you probably have large duct leaks that are sucking in contaminants from dirty areas of the home, such as attics, basements, and crawlspaces.

In this case, it might be best to replace your ductwork with sealed and insulated ductwork to prevent it from happening again.

Contact a Reputable HVAC Company for a Duct Cleaning Inspection

When you call a reputable HVAC company like Sobieski Services, we will evaluate your home for the most effective way to eliminate allergens and air pollutants from your home, including inspecting your ductwork. If we find major contamination of your HVAC system, such as mold, pests, or fire and smoke damage, we will probably recommend duct cleaning or a full duct replacement.

After a comprehensive inspection of your HVAC system, your trained and NADCA-certified HVAC technician will recommend the most effective ways to prevent air duct contamination in the first place. This usually includes sealing and insulating your ducts, as well as cleaning the areas around your HVAC and duct system.

Do your research before hiring an HVAC service provider. Make sure they are licensed, insured, and highly experienced. Learn more about choosing the right duct cleaning contractor.

If you want to know if you should clean your ductwork, contact the licensed and trained professionals at Sobieski Services. We can clean your ductwork, replace sections of your ductwork, or perform a full system replacement.

Looking for a trusted HVAC and plumbing company in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey? Contact Sobieski Services for duct cleaning and sealing services you can depend on.

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