6 Ways to Prevent Duct Contamination

Written by Anita Alvarez
Updated September 14, 2015
Duct workers
Improve your HVAC efficiency and indoor air quality by protecting your ducts. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Ductwork can quietly and quickly contribute to poor indoor air quality and HVAC inefficiency.

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Out of sight and out of mind, ductwork can quietly and quickly contribute to poor indoor air quality, degrade health and affect HVAC system efficiency. When ducts become contaminated with dirt, mold or other pollutants, homeowners are often subjected to a series of steps required to resolve the problem.

Experts recommend that you can take certain actions to avoid contamination in the first place, a method that offers a number of benefits on the back end.

Benefits of Taking Preventive Actions

By preventing problems, you'll avoid having to pay significant amounts of money to clean up the ducts, repair certain portions and pay for the costs of removal and repair services.

Dealing with the issue requires time and research to hire a professional with the right expertise to get the job done. This is time you may not even necessarily have to spend on an extensive clean-up project.

Finally, duct problems can lead to serious health hazards, especially if mold or other biological contaminants grow within the ducts. These can significantly degrade indoor air quality, and lead to problems like allergies and asthma.

Steps to Good Ductwork Health

It pays to follow recommended practices for avoiding contamination in the ductwork. A little time, effort and money spent up front ensures a healthy air-circulation system within your home. The Office of Research Services, a federal office that supports the National Institute of Health, recommends following these six steps to prevent problems:

Schedule preventive maintenance for heating and cooling systems every year. When a professional service technician cleans the HVAC equipment regularly, dirt, mold and other biologicals are taken care of before they can access the ductwork, or your indoor air. The service also includes steps like checking refrigerant charge and cleaning the coils, along with numerous other maintenance practices designed to encourage peak efficiency from your HVAC system. Regular maintenance offers the distinct benefits of keeping your ducts and the HVAC system clean. It's a no-brainer.

When taking on a renovation project within your home, be sure your building contractor seals the ductwork to prevent contamination from construction activities like sawdust from infiltrating the system. It's important to keep the ductwork clean and to prevent the contamination from moving through the ducts and entering the HVAC system.

If you're building a new home and installing new ductwork or you're retrofitting an existing home with new ducts, the service professionals installing the system should thoroughly clean it prior to running the HVAC equipment. New ductwork will commonly contain debris and oil. If it's not removed, this oil and dirt will contaminate the HVAC equipment, and the home.

Follow effective cleaning practices within your home, and you'll positively affect the cleanliness of ducts. As the air circulates through the home, it will pick up any dust, contaminants and mold spores residing in occupied spaces and move them through the ductwork. Proper cleaning technqiues and regular cleanings help prevent contamination of the ducts.Be aware of the connection between air intakes and sources of contamination. If a bathroom is particularly susceptible to moisture buildup and mold problems and there is an air intake register located near the source of contamination, it will move mold spores through the return-air ductwork, potentially contaminating the ducts and HVAC system.

Opt for ductwork inspections. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) outlines specific recommendations in terms of how often homeowners should employ a duct contractor for inspections. Regularity generally depends on lifestyle factors, construction and maintenance, along with the items listed here.

If you have concerns about the potential for contamination in the ductwork in your home, don't hesitate to get professional advice. For more information about cleaning ductwork or preventing contamination, contact your local ductwork service provider today.

How do you protect your ductwork? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below. 

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Aug. 21, 2013. 

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