Cleaning Duct Systems “Yes” or “No”?
The cleaning of your Duct System has never been proven to prevent health issues. Studies on particles and dust levels in a home has also not been proven to increase in your air because your ducts are not clean.
Just because you have dirty air ducts, we must also take in consideration other possible issues currently present in the home that may cause airborne particles in a home to increase such as:
Pollutants that enter the home from outdoors and indoor activities (cooking, cleaning with chemicals, smoking etc. etc.) these are just some of the examples that can cause greater exposure to contaminants in you air.
There is also no for sure evidence regarding a light amount of household dust or particulates in the home pose a risk to an individual’s health.
Duct System Inspection/Mold:
Having an inspection done on your Duct System can make a big difference on weather a cleaning needs to be done or not.
Take the following into consideration:
1. There is visible mold growth inside the sheet metal ducts.
2. There is visible mold growth on other components of the heating and cooling systems.
3. If the insulation in the air ducts is wet or moldy must be removed before any cleaning can be conducted.
4. What ever caused the mold growth in the first place must be determined and corrected otherwise the mold growth can return.
Note: Just because you may think it is mold does not mean it is so, a positive determination must be made by an Air Quality Professional such as a Certified Mold Inspector who will take samples and send them to a Lab to be tested for final confirmation.
Other things to look for:
1. Vermin such as rodents or insects might be in your Duct System
2. Large amounts of dust, debris or particles being released by the supply registers in the home.
Improving Your Duct Systems Efficiency:
Not enough evidence currently exists that only cleaning the ducts will increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. You should have the other components (cooling coils, fans, and heat exchangers) also inspected to determine if these components need to be cleaned or replaced which can help improve the efficiency of the system, meaning an increase in the operating life of the system possibly receiving some energy savings and any maintenance savings in the long run.
Recommendations on Duct System Cleaning:
Some HVAC Inspectors will recommend having the air ducts cleaned only because it seems the right thing to do, air ducts do get dirty over time and should be kept clean. Any cleaning of the air ducts should be properly cleaned though.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that air ducts should only be cleaned when needed and not on a routine basis. The Agency does recommend a house that is equipped with a Fuel- Burning Furnace, Stove, or Fireplace, should be evaluated to make sure it is functioning correctly, and that a Fuel-Burning Furnace, Stove, or Fireplace should be serviced before each heating season for the sole purpose of exposure to possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you decide to have your air ducts cleaned, you should make sure the service provider you choose is competent and reliable.
If you hire a Service Provider, you may encounter the following:
1. You may be told by the service provider that they are going to apply a chemical biocide to the inside of the ducts which is going to kill any bacteria (germs) and fungi (mold) growth inside the ducts to stop future biological growth.
2. The service provider may also propose the application of a “sealant” which is to prevent dust and dirt particles from being released into the air or seal up any air leaks in the duck work.
Understanding the Pros and Cons of Duct Cleaning:
Make sure you understand the pros and cons of allowing the application of chemical biocides and or sealants because no chemical biocides are registered with the EPA for insulated air duct systems.
The use of chemical biocides and sealants should only be used under specific circumstances and there is no research that has proven their effectiveness when it comes to the cleaning of air ducts and if there are any possible adverse health effects associated with the use of these chemical biocides or sealants.
Note: The best recommendation when it comes to keeping the air ducts clean in your home is the prevention of water and dirt from entering the system in the first place and this is the most effective way to prevent contamination and mold growth within the duct system.
Remember no matter how much cleaning you have done to the air duct system if the source of the contamination is not removed first then having the air ducts cleaned is a futile move.
If you ever have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,
Troy Halstenson (Founder of Performance Air and Heating)