Air Duct Cleaning: Know the Facts Before Making a Hire

Alexandra Frost
Written by Alexandra Frost
Updated August 23, 2021
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Cleaning air ducts can reduce allergies and improve air quality overall. Here's what you need to know before hiring a professional.

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Maybe you’ve noticed a decrease in air quality. Maybe you looked at your air ducts and saw more dirt than you realized you had. Air duct cleanings can greatly improve the air quality in your home, but it can be hard to identify when you need a cleaning and how bad the buildup in the ducts really is. Using the following facts and research, you can confidently hire a professional air duct cleaner with the assurance that your money will be well-spent and they will do the job correctly.

Why Do I Need to Have My Air Ducts Cleaned?

According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), if your air ducts look dirty to the naked eye, they probably are. Blowing debris through your home’s ventilation system, whether it’s pet hair, dust, dirt particles, or even mold, can result in poor air quality and even illness. Several factors can increase the potential that you might need this service done, the association explains, including:

  • Homeowners who have allergies, asthma, or other breathing conditions

  • Homeowners who smoke cigarettes or cigars in the home

  • Pets living in the home

  • Home renovation, remodeling, or construction projects going on in the home

  • Water contamination or issues with the HVAC system or in other locations in the home

Children and older adults are more easily affected by poor air quality, so it’s important to consider the needs of all family members as you evaluate the necessity and frequency of air duct cleaning.

How Can Air Duct Cleaning Impact Savings?

If your HVAC system is working too hard, it can be due to a build-up of particles in the ducts. NADCA says that homes waste 25 to 40% of energy in heating or cooling, and contaminants in the system are sometimes responsible. Particles can even pass through filters, which help to some extent but don’t completely prevent air duct debris. When your system has clean ducts and doesn’t have to over-exert itself to move air properly, it can cost you less money in the long run.

How Can I Tell If I Need My Air Ducts Cleaned?

While it can be somewhat helpful to peer into your ducts, you may not be able to get an accurate picture of mold, debris, and dirt that have built up in less visible places. For this reason, it can be tricky to know if you need an air duct cleaning. To capture the extent of the dirt, you need to have a professional take pictures of the interior of your ducts. Reaching your arm in as far as it’ll go still doesn’t show what can be beyond that point, which will just get blown back out even if you clean in and around the openings.

If you are questioning the quality of your air, have seen an excess build-up of dirt on your register or filter, or otherwise suspect your ducts are dirty, have a professional consultation from a certified HVAC company, not just from any contractor.

How to Evaluate Your Contractor Before Hiring

This is one situation of “you get what you pay for.” If your professional suggests a whole-house cleaning might cost you only $70 to $100, you may need to question the extent of the cleaning they are providing. A full duct cleaning involves much more than simply sweeping out reachable dirt in the ductwork. Certified air duct cleaners also include cleanings of the plenum, blower wheel, and evaporator coils, not just the regular ductwork, as all of these parts work together to move air through your home.

In some states, a specific license is required for a contractor to apply any antimicrobial chemicals to any surfaces, which some contractors use to clean the ducts. If your contractor wants to use these chemicals, ensure they have a license to do so properly.

Professionals should also be able to explain their process for potentially replacing flex ducts, which do not inhibit mold growth. If there is mold in these types of ducts, they should be replaced, rather than cleaned. Most people will find they have sheet metal ducting, however, which means a lower likelihood that mold is building up in them.

By choosing a professional licensed contractor who is experienced with thorough duct cleaning, your family will soon be breathing the cleanest air possible.

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