How messy is duct cleaning?

Cleaning air ducts can be a complicated matter. Look for a company that uses protective cloths to keep dirt away from floors and furniture. Contractors must also apply plastic protectors to protect walls and moldings. But is duct cleaning a disaster? Yes, it does. Cleaning anything creates at least a small amount of dirt.

The duct is no exception in this case. And then all the ducts are placed throughout the house. So, when you clean them with a high-suction machine, you'll see some debris and dust inside your house. If you or someone in your family has asthma or allergies, you may want to consider cleaning your home's heating and air conditioning ducts.

However, even if you don't have special health problems, cleaning your ducts may appeal to you from an intuitive point of view. After all, if the ducts are clean, all the air coming out of the vents should also come out clean, right? While duct cleaning operations may insist that duct cleaning is essential to health, the evidence doesn't support their claims. Companies that clean ducts often announce health benefits or suggest that cleaning ducts will reduce energy bills by improving system efficiency. Some ads even use phrases like: “Studies have been proven,” but there's no data to support these claims.

Even if the ducts are dirty, cleaning them probably won't provide any measurable benefit. In fact, the few independent research conducted on duct cleaning indicates that the process accumulates so much dust that it creates a greater problem than it solves. Although, after all, it makes sense to intuitively clean the ducts, dust is removed and the rest of the house is cleaned, the fact is that the dust that settles in the ventilation system usually stays where it is and is unlikely to be transmitted through the air unless disturbed. In most cases, dust is inert and harmless, and removing it with cleaning equipment actually creates major problems.

Little research has been done on the effects of duct cleaning. Studies conducted by the governments of the United States and Canada and health professionals who have researched duct cleaning go so far as to recommend its use, but neither do they support it as a routine measure. EPA and CMHC researchers used different methodologies. The CMHC study used several duct cleaning services.

Companies were not informed that they were part of a study, and researchers did not control the time spent or the methods used. The EPA study prescribed and controlled the methods used in a smaller number of homes. While the duct cleaning industry maintains that both studies are flawed, no other research has questioned the findings. And while the equipment and methods used by duct cleaning companies have changed since these studies were conducted, household air ducts haven't. Changing air filters frequently is the best way to keep dust, allergens, and other particles out of the home.

With a newly installed system or one in a house you just moved into, check the filter once a month to determine how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. Most need to be replaced every two to three months. Although not always part of their basic cleaning services, many duct cleaning companies also tend to clean heating and cooling equipment (heat exchangers, cooling coils, condensate drainage containers, fan motors, blades and fan housings). While much of the energy used to power heating and cooling equipment is wasted, that waste is due to equipment inefficiency, poor insulation, leaks around doors and windows, and unsealed ductwork.

While there are some benefits to cleaning and maintaining heating and air conditioning equipment, these benefits are relatively small and the low waste of energy is attributed to the dirt of ducts or equipment. The CMHC researchers discovered that, when duct cleaners also cleaned the fan blades, there was a small reduction in airborne particles. Cleaning the fan could also slightly improve the energy efficiency of the system. The same goes for the evaporator coils in your home cooling system.

Evaporator coils cause condensation and dehumidify the air before it circulates around the house. Condensed moisture can cause dust and other particles to adhere to and accumulate on the coils. In addition, cleaning the collector tray (and the tray's drain nozzle) located under the coils prevents dirt from accumulating and entering the system. It also prevents water from accumulating in and under the coils, which can cause mold problems.

Also consider inspecting your duct system for leaks, as leaking ducts reduce efficiency and introduce problems of air quality. If someone in your household has specific health problems, such as allergies or asthma, see your doctor first. It's important to identify the problem so your doctor can suggest alternatives to duct cleaning. Start by identifying if the ducts are part of the problem (they probably aren't) and if cleaning them will help (it probably isn't).

If you suspect that you have a mold problem, either because of visible growth or because of a musty smell that constantly comes out of the supply grilles, cleaning the ducts won't do much good if you don't eliminate the mildew. Mold starts with a moisture problem and the ducts themselves are unlikely to be the source. The culprit is most likely the refrigeration system's evaporator coils, which your heating and air conditioning contractor and most duct cleaning companies can inspect and maintain. Leaky return ducts can also introduce moisture.

Once again, if you suspect a mold problem, consider having a service company inspect the duct system for leaks. Ordering only helps to a certain extent if you're still buying too much in the first place. After analyzing 33 homes in Montreal before and after cleaning the ducts, the study found that there had been no significant improvement in air quality and that cleaning the ducts alone did not improve airflow or energy efficiency. Untrained technicians or fraudsters who lack adequate vacuuming equipment to safely clean ducts can dislodge dust that was previously attached to the inside of the ducts and expel it into the home.

If you hire professional duct cleaners from Call My Cleaners Inc., you won't see dust after the end of the duct cleaning process. Especially since duct cleaning involves the use of powerful equipment to blow and vacuum debris and dirt from inside the duct. In certain situations, duct cleaning reduces harmful contaminants in the air you breathe, but, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it may not make an appreciable difference in homes that don't have an identifiable problem with the duct system. This is because much of the dirt in the air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space.

If you don't have any mold problems in your ducts and your ducts aren't infested, the air in your home will probably be fine if you don't clean your ducts. In addition, some types of ductwork, such as insulated and flexible ductwork, can be damaged by an untrained technician, forcing you to pay for expensive duct repairs.

Ervín Ferencz
Ervín Ferencz

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