How to Know If You Should Get Your Air Ducts Cleaned

Lauren Wellbank
Written by Lauren Wellbank
Updated October 12, 2021
Woman breathing air and relaxing in her living room
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Deciding to have a pro clean your air ducts all comes down to personal preference

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Your HVAC system is constantly pushing air through your home, so you may worry about air ducts collecting rust dust, mold, and other debris. However, deciding to get a pro to clean your air ducts will come down to a few key factors. This guide explains what you need to know before deciding to have your ducts professionally serviced and what you can expect once they’ve been cleaned.

What Are Air Ducts?

Air ducts are the tubes that connect your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (also known as HVAC) system to vents. Your HVAC system relies on an intake vent that pulls air into your HVAC unit to be heated or cooled. Once the air has reached the temperature chosen by your thermostat, it’s pushed into your home using the ductwork.

What Is Air Duct Cleaning?

Worker cleaning air duct with equipment
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Air duct cleaning is a type of maintenance cleaning that covers a variety of your HVAC components. This process can include your system’s supply and return ducts, registers, and grills, as well as some of your diffusers, heating and cooling coils, fans, and more. The cost to clean your air ducts may vary depending on the size of your home, any existing problems with the ductwork, and how many vents you have.

Many professional air duct cleaning services will use an industrial-sized vacuum and specially designed brushes to reach deep into the ductwork that runs the interior of your home. They will work carefully to remove any irritants, toxins, or pollutants from your ducts without redepositing them into your home.

Should You Have Your Ducts Cleaned?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you will know that your air vents need to be cleaned if someone in your home is suffering from “allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses.” A visual inspection or a smell test can also turn something up—if you smell something musty or moldy coming from your vents, there’s likely a moisture problem that you’ll want to have identified. Otherwise, a routine cleaning may not be necessary.

The Benefits of Having Your Air Ducts Cleaned

While cleaning your air ducts may not be required, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends homeowners have their air ducts cleaned by a professional every three to five years. Adding this task to your routine home care could be beneficial because it may help you identify problems with your ductwork earlier. Additionally, keeping your ducts in tip-top shape can also help keep your HVAC unit running smoothly.

Ultimately, deciding whether or not to have a pro come out to clean your air ducts will come down to personal preference, so do some research to see if this task is right for your family.

How to Choose a Duct Cleaning Service

Hiring a local air duct cleaning professional will cost you somewhere between $270 and $490. When shopping around for a professional air duct cleaning company, you should make sure to find one that is a member of the NADCA. Having your ducts cleaned is a very specialized job and requires tools that not all HVAC companies carry, like vacuums and brushes. Hiring the wrong professional or someone who doesn’t have enough experience with cleaning air ducts can end up costing you in the long run.

Can You DIY Your Air Duct Cleaning?

It may be tempting to DIY your way to cleaner air ducts, but you probably shouldn’t take on this task yourself. Household vacuum cleaners are ill-equipped to handle the suction needed to reach deep into your ducts, and using the wrong type of brushes can damage your ductwork. Even small holes in your ductwork can create leaks in your system, allowing additional mold, dust, and debris into the ductwork, creating an expensive fix for you down the line.

Not only that, but if you fail to clean out all parts of your ductwork, you might end up recontaminating the parts you were able to clean as soon as you turn your system back on. Ductwork cleaning is a job better left to the pros who have the tools and know-how required.

However, if you want a less invasive DIY task, you can carefully vacuum or clean your registers yourself.

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