Do you really need an air duct cleaning?

You’ve probably seen or heard an ad for air duct cleaning and wondered if it’s right for you. You may have even heard that your air ducts need to be cleaned on a routine basis. But what is it and is it really necessary? Here’s what you need to know:

What happens during a cleaning?

In accordance with National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) standards, your service provider must open all vents and doors throughout the system, and all components must be cleaned. This should include the fan motor and housing, drip pans, heating and cooling coils, and the housing around the air conditioning unit. The two-stage process should be performed only by a professional, and care must be taken to protect furniture, rugs, and pets. First, dirt and other debris must be loosened (the service provider must be careful not to cause damage that could result in an air leak). Then a high powered vacuum should be used to remove dirt from the entire HVAC system. Failure to clean a single component can result in recontamination of the entire system.

When should I do a cleaning?

The EPA does not indicate that there is any benefit from routine cleaning of air ducts. Instead, you should only perform this service if it is necessary. You may need an air duct cleaning if:

– There are rodents, insects or other pests (or their droppings) infesting your heating and air system.

– Excessive dirt or mold has built up inside the system. (The presence of mold can only be determined by testing a sample in a laboratory.)

– It is determined that there is an increased risk of fire.

– The system expels visible dirt or debris, or is the source of an objectionable odor.

– The system has been contaminated by fire, smoke or water damage.

Will Airway Cleaner help my health?

There is no evidence that buildup on vents can negatively affect your health, since most dirt sticks to surfaces. However, the presence of mold can be dangerous. If you have insulated ductwork and the insulation has become wet or moldy, it should be replaced. The EPA agrees that indoor air quality may be a factor in some health conditions. If someone in your family suffers from allergies or other unexplained illnesses, talk to your doctor about whether an air duct cleaning might help.

Could this affect my energy bill?

There is some evidence to suggest that cleaning your entire HVAC system can improve energy efficiency, reduce your energy bill and some costs associated with maintenance. However, duct cleaning alone is unlikely to have the same effect.

What should I look for in a service provider?

You should get estimates from at least three different companies and take note of what they promise. Make sure they agree to clean the entire system, and beware of anyone who claims to be EPA certified, recommends routine cleaning, or makes unsubstantiated health claims. Also, mold, bugs, or severe dirt buildup usually indicates an underlying problem, so look for a service provider who is willing to find and treat the cause, not just the symptoms. If the problem is not corrected, it is likely to happen again.

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