Find A Home Air Duct Cleaning Service

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With a growing awareness of indoor air pollution and the subsequent rise in popularity of air filters, purifiers, and cleaners, many home owners consider cleaning their HVAC(heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)systems' air ducts. Approximately 70 percent of American households currently have air conditioning systems, though knowledge of air duct maintenance and cleaning is still in its early stages. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has offered a guide for homeowners to determine when, how and why they should clean their air ducts.

Why Clean Your Home's Air Ducts?

There are several signs that a home's heating and cooling air duct system may need maintenance. Several may affect the health and wellbeing of the home's occupants, and should be addressed as soon as noticed. You should consider cleaning your air duct system if:

  • Mold growth is visible inside the air duct system, or other components of your heating and cooling systems. Not all parts of your air ducts may be visible, so ask a service provider to inspect the system for you
  • Air ducts are infested with rodents or other vermin
  • Air ducts are clogged with debris, such as dust, dirt or building material. If left in the air ducts, these particles may be released into your home when the heating or cooling system is used
  • You have noticed a decrease in your heating or cooling system's efficiency. While it is not a guarantee, cleaning your air ducts may improve efficiency

While the EPA does not state that regular air duct cleaning is necessary, it does encourage home owners to undergo air duct cleaning and maintenance when needed. Further, some HVAC service providers may offer a chemical biocide application to the air ducts, designed to discourage the growth and survival of bacteria within the air duct system. Currently, research has not demonstrated biocides to be effective in air duct cleaning or maintenance, though they may be applied when deemed appropriate, as no evidence currently suggests adverse health effects. Should you choose to employ a chemical cleaning process, consider the following:

  • Ask a service provider to demonstrate evidence of bacterial growth
  • Ask the service provider to explain why the growth cannot be removed by physical means, and requires the use of chemicals
  • Ask to see the biocide label, where its approved uses will be described
  • Only apply biocide to un-insulated areas of the air duct system
  • Always use the biocide according to directions

How To Choose An Air Duct Cleaning Service Provider

To find local air duct service providers, check the yellow pages or an online directory service for "air duct cleaning", or contact the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. When selecting a service provider to maintain and clean your home's air duct system, there are several aspects to look for or avoid:

  • Do not buy into service providers' claims of health benefits from duct cleaning. The EPA states there is no current evidence to support this claim
  • Avoid the use of chemical cleaning processes or chemical biocides unless or until you fully understand the risks and potential benefits
  • Verify references from former customers to ensure the service provider was professional and effective. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau to view any complaints lodged against the service provider
  • Confirm that the service provider holds all necessary state licenses to perform maintenance on your air duct system
  • Request an estimate of the time and cost for your home's air duct cleaning

What To Expect From an Air Duct Cleaning

Once you have selected a service provider, you should expect:

  • Open access for the service provider to all of your home air duct's ports and doors
  • A thorough inspection of the entire air duct system by the service provider
  • Use of HEPA (high-efficiency particle air) vacuum equipment to clean the air duct system
  • Protection of your home's carpet and furnishings during the air duct cleaning process
  • Thorough brushing of the air ducts. The service provider should only use soft-bristled brushes on fiberglass duct board and sheet metal ducts lined with fiberglass
  • Re-sealing of all access ports or holes used during the cleaning process
  • Cleaning process should follow all guidelines set by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association

How To Determine The Quality Of Your Air Duct's Cleaning

Once your service provider has completed the cleaning process, run through this EPA checklist with them to ensure the quality of their work:

1. Was the entire air duct system cleaned?

2. Did the service provider thoroughly demonstrate the cleanliness of the air duct system?

3. In your home's heating system, is the heat exchange surface visibly clean?

4. In your home's cooling system, are both sides of the cooling coil visibly clean?

5. If you shine a flashlight through the cooling coil, is light visible on the other side? (A flashlight should shine through a thoroughly clean cooling coil)

6. Are the coil fins straight and even?

7. Is the coil drain pan clean and draining properly?

8. Are the blower blades clean and free of oil and debris?

9. Is the blower compartment free of visible dust and debris?

10. Is the return air plenum free of visible dust and debris?

11. Do filters fit properly?

12. Is the supply air plenum free of moisture stains and contaminants?

13. Are interior ductwork surfaces free of debris? (Be sure to check several sites at random to ensure the entire system is clear)

14. Were all fiberglass surfaces left in good condition?

15. Were all newly installed access doors in sheet metal secured by more than duct tape?

16. Is there air leakage from any of the access doors when the heating or cooling system is running?

17. Have all registers, grilles and diffusers been firmly reattached to the walls, floors and/or ceilings?

18. Are the registers, grilles and diffusers visibly clean?

19. Does the system function properly after having been cleaned?

How To Maintain Your Air Duct System

In between cleanings, one of the easiest ways to prevent further damage and contamination is to properly maintain your air duct system.

  • Use high efficiency air filters
  • Change filters regularly
  • Replace any missing or damaged filters immediately
  • Have a service provider clean cooling coils and drain pans whenever they inspect your heating or cooling system
  • Do not operate heating or cooling systems during home construction or renovation which produces excess dust and debris
  • Remove dust and dirt from your home frequently
  • Quickly repair any damages to the air ducts
  • Make sure all ducts are properly sealed

Through basic maintenance and proper cleaning, air ducts within your home heating and cooling systems will function properly, efficiently and require less care. By following simple checklists for service providers and properly maintaining your system in between cleanings, air duct cleaning and service can remain a relatively smooth process, elongating the life of your system and saving costs on repairs.

Last Updated: July 23, 2012
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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