Your HVAC heating and cooling system circulates all the air in your home. It does this at least five or seven times each day. Along with this air, the ordinary dust and microscopic debris from living is carried along with it. Much of this dust and debris is trapped in your furnace and air conditioner filters. But some gets through and slowly build up in the vents installed throughout your house.
Sometimes this duct work hasn’t been installed correctly or we forget to change our filters often enough. This causes a build up of dust to accumulate in our ductwork. This will also have an impact on the smooth function of your HVAC system.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not published a study to say there is a proven health problem from dirty ductwork. We don’t have any report that this will lead to more dust floating around in your house. Below is the Summary of the EPA’s article titled, “Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?”
“Knowledge about air duct cleaning is in its early stages, so a blanket recommendation cannot be offered as to whether you should have your air ducts in your home cleaned. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urges you to read this document in it entirety as it provides important information on the subject.
Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. It is important to keep in mind that dirty air ducts are only one of many possible sources of particles that are present in homes. Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving around can cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate matter in air ducts poses any risk to your health.”
Nevertheless, airborne dust, particles, pet dander do pose a problem for some people. The will have runny eyes, an itchy nose and generally feel miserable. Others may have a true allergy to these particles or dander and will truly suffer.
My Own Experience
When I had the responsibility for a 100,000 square foot building, I noticed that the number of sick days from employees in that building was twice as high as our company’s other buildings. These building were within three blocks of each other so there was no change in the weather conditions. Either we had some “goof-offs” at only one building who didn’t show up for work or we had something else going on.
We had environmental labs come and test the air and nothing significant was presented. With considerable expense, we had a company come and clean all ducts over the weekend. No small task! But over the next 2-3 months, the absenteeism dropped. While it can’t be proven, I believe cleaning these ducts improved this situation.
Check Your Ducts Yourself
Before you call a professional, you can do a little detective work of your own. Open the air register and carefully hold a small digital camera with a flash into the duct. Reach as far as you can without dropping the camera. Pointing at the four sides of the ductwork, take several pictures.
All ductwork will have some accumulation which can be cleaned by putting a vacuum cleaner hose partway into the ductwork. Removing this accumulation will increase the airflow and the efficient operation of your HVAC system. If you pictures show you a thick accumulation of dust, you may want to consider professional duct cleaning.
Professional cleaners use one of three different methods to clean your ductwork.
One is by a hand-held vacuum. A large portable vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter is manually moved around inside the ductwork. This may leave pockets of dust behind.Workers use a brush attached to a large portable vacuum equipped with the HEPA filter. However, the hand-held method isn’t completely reliable and may leave pockets of dust.
Another method is a mechanical rotating brush placed inside the ductwork. This bush and hose are attached to a truck-mounted vacuum. If you live in an older home, it is possible for this rotation to damage old ductwork.
The final method is an air sweep with compressed air fed into a hose and into the ducts. A truck-mounted vacuum pulls out dust and debris that is dislodged by the compressed air.
Duct Cleaning Costs
The EPA also says in their EPA 402-K-97-002, dated October 1997 that the average cost for a residential home of 2,000 square feet is:
“These services typically – but not always – range in cost from $450 to $1,000 per heating and cooling system, depending on the services offered, the size of the system to be cleaned, system accessibility, climatic region, and level of contamination.”
Be sure and get quotes from a few air duct cleaning service providers who follows the standards and guidelines from the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
As you get quotes from service providers, avoid putting much faith in any discussion about health claims. Most homes need duct cleaning every five years. Don’t sign up for annual cleaning. However, an annual cleaning and evaluation of your HVAC is a good idea.