Have you thought about cleaning your air ducts? Think again.
Have you thought about cleaning your air ducts? Think again.
You should think about air duct cleaning your home’s heating and cooling ducts if you or a member of your family has asthma or allergies. Cleaning your ducts may still appeal to you on an instinctive level even if you don’t have any particular health issues. After all, if your ducts are clean, then the air that is escaping from your vents ought to be as well.
Actually, though, no.
Although duct cleaning businesses may assert that doing so is necessary for your health, the facts do not back up such assertions. Duct cleaning businesses frequently promote the health advantages of their services or claim that by increasing system efficiency, duct cleaning will reduce your energy costs. Even some advertisements utilize the phrase “Studies have proven,” yet there is no evidence to support these statements. Even if your ducts are unclean, cleaning them is unlikely to provide any noticeable advantages. In fact, the few independent studies on duct cleaning suggest that the procedure generates so much dust that it actually causes more issues than it resolves.
The reality is that dust that collects in your ventilation system often stays where it is and is unlikely to become airborne until disturbed, despite the fact that it seems intuitively sensible to clean your ductwork since you already dust and clean the rest of your house. Most of the time hvac replacement, the dust is innocuous and inert, and stirring it up with cleaning tools just leads to worse problems.
The results of duct cleaning have not received much investigation. Health specialists that have looked into duct cleaning and government studies from the United States and Canada do not outright advise against it, but they also do not support it as a regular practice.
Researchers from the US Environmental Protection Agency monitored dust levels and HVAC system performance in test homes over the course of a week during the cooling season and discovered that duct cleaning had little to no impact on either. The official EPA advice on duct cleaning is based on that study and further independent studies, and it states:
“There is no evidence that duct cleaning truly prevents health issues. Additionally, studies have not definitely shown that filthy air ducts create higher particle (such as dust) levels in dwellings. This is due to the fact that much of the dust in air ducts sticks to duct surfaces rather than necessarily entering the living area. Furthermore, there is no proof that breathing in air ducts with a little bit of home dust or other particle matter puts your health at danger.
In the 1990s, research was carried out by the government-sponsored Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to look into two claims: Cleaning the ducts improves air quality indoors and lowers energy expenditures by increasing airflow. The study examined 33 Montreal-area houses both before and after duct cleaning and discovered that neither the air quality nor the energy efficiency had significantly improved. In several instances, observed particle levels rose right away following cleaning. In other instances, particle levels dropped right away after cleaning but soon went back to normal.
The CMHC also came to the same conclusion that duct cleaning is not required:
“Ideally, the inside surface will be clean, shining, and brilliant. You may not want your home’s air to be pumped via a duct passage that is not as clean as the rest of the house, thus you may personally feel that duct cleaning is justified. Cleaning the ducts won’t often have a substantial impact on airflows, heating expenses, or the quality of the air you breathe.
Researchers from the EPA and CMHC employed various approaches. Several duct-cleaning services were used in the CMHC research. The businesses weren’t informed they were a part of the study, and the researchers didn’t account for the amount of time or the procedures utilized. A smaller number of households were subjected to the recommended and monitored techniques in the EPA research. The duct-cleaning business claims that both studies contain weaknesses, but no additional study has disputed the results. The air ducts in houses haven’t changed, even if the tools and procedures used by duct-cleaning businesses have since these experiments were done.
Regularly change your filter
The best approach to keep dust, allergies, and other particles out of your house is to regularly change your air filters. Check your filter every month with a newly installed system or one in a house you’ve recently moved into to see how quickly it becomes dirty over the year. The majority need to be changed every two to three months.
It also won’t conserve energy.
Many duct cleaning businesses frequently clean the heating and cooling equipment, albeit it’s not necessarily included in their standard cleaning services (heat exchangers, cooling coils, condensate drain pans, fan motors, fan blades, and fan housings).
The majority of duct-cleaning businesses and their trade association also make the dubious argument that filthy ducts and equipment cause energy waste by overloading heating and cooling systems. Again, it stands to reason that a cleaner system would function more efficiently and last longer; after all, this is the reason why we, as well as HVAC equipment manufacturers and repair services, advise that you change your filters on a regular basis. However, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) website’s “Benefits of HVAC Cleaning” page exaggerates this advantage by saying that “According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25 to 40% of the energy utilized for heating and cooling a house is wasted.”
That is deceptive.
Even while a significant amount of the energy required to operate heating and cooling equipment is lost, this loss is primarily the result of outdated technology, subpar insulation, leaks around doors and windows, and open ductwork. While cleaning and maintaining HVAC equipment has certain advantages, these advantages are minimal and there is little energy wasted as a result of filthy ducts or equipment.
Researchers from CMHC discovered a slight decrease in airborne particulates when duct cleaners also cleaned the blower-fan blades. Your system’s energy efficiency could be somewhat increased by cleaning the blower fan.
The evaporator coils in your home’s cooling system operate similarly. Condensation produced by evaporator coils helps to dry out the air before it enters your home. Dust and other debris may adhere to and accumulate on the coils as a result of condensed moisture. Additionally, by cleaning the collecting pan (and the drain spout in the pan), dirt won’t gather beneath the coils and be sucked into the system. Additionally, it stops water from building up on and below the coils, which can lead to mold issues.
Consider having your duct system checked for leaks as well because leaking ducts reduce efficiency and negatively impact air quality.
However, based on the reviews of duct-cleaning businesses we have gathered from local customers, we do not advise employing one to carry out these duties. Too many of them are inexperienced. To complete this sort of job, think about hiring a reputable heating and cooling professional or paying them to complete it during their subsequent service visit. Readers may view Checkbook’s rankings of HVAC providers by
Things that need to be cleaned
In general, only take into account duct cleaning in reaction to certain, recognizable issues. For instance, the EPA advises cleaning air ducts if there is obvious proof of:
•Substantial mold growth.
•Infestation of insects or rodents.
•Large amounts of dust or debris (if registers were not sealed during a renovation project, for example).
Consult your doctor first if anyone in your home has special health issues, such as allergies or asthma. It’s critical to pinpoint the issue so your doctor can make duct cleaning alternate suggestions. Start by determining whether your ducts are contributing to the issue (they most likely aren’t) and whether cleaning them would be beneficial (it most likely won’t).
Should you be concerned about mold
Cleaning supply vents won’t help much if the mold isn’t removed if you suspect a mold problem, whether it be due to visible growth or a persistent musty smell. It’s doubtful that the ducts themselves are the source of the moisture that leads to mold. The cooling system’s evaporator coils are the most probable offenders, and your
heating and air conditioning contractor as well as the majority of duct cleaning businesses can examine and repair these components. Moisture can also be introduced through leaking return ducts. Once more, if you think you could have a mold problem, think about hiring a service provider to check the ductwork for leaks.
If you suspect it could be mold but are unsure, you might be inclined to have it tested. The experts we spoke with, however, generally advise against it because:
•Mold is prevalent in all homes; it only becomes an issue when there is a moisture problem; and
•It’s normally not cost-effective to test for mold or to identify the many types of mold present. Finding and fixing moisture issues is preferable, whether they are in a heating and cooling system or under a sink.