Everything You Need To Know About Cleaning and Maintaining Air Ducts

Margaret Wack
Written by Margaret Wack
Updated April 11, 2022
A living room with an air duct
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Air ducts are a vital part of your home's HVAC system because they help to circulate air

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If your home has central air, then your air ducts play an essential role in keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. When you’re enjoying wafts of cool, refreshing air in the summer or warm and cozy indoor temperatures in the winter, you have your air ducts to thank! These ducts connect with your HVAC system and help to facilitate the flow of air throughout your home. Because they can influence your home’s air quality, air ducts must be clean and functional.

How Do Air Ducts Work?

Illustration depicting how an air duct system works

Air ducts are responsible for delivering heated or cooled air to different areas in your home. If your home has an HVAC system, then air ducts are responsible for regulating the temperature. The same duct system carries air from both the AC and the furnace. They’re commonly made out of galvanized steel, aluminum, or fiberglass.

Why Air Ducts Benefit From Regular Cleaning

The Environmental Protection Agency only recommends cleaning air ducts if there’s an issue like mold, dust, or rodents. However, some HVAC companies believe that cleaning air ducts more regularly can reduce allergens and improve air quality. If you decide to clean your air ducts, get in touch with an air duct cleaning company near you to discuss your options.

The frequency of air duct cleaning isn’t an exact science. Experts recommend that you clean your air ducts approximately every two to five years, but where you live, how often you use your HVAC, and whether people in your household have sensitivities can sway this frequency. If you see signs of mold, an unfortunate vermin infestation, or visible dust coming from your air ducts, it’s a good idea to get them cleaned.

How To Spot Signs of Mold In Your Air Ducts

As unpleasant as mold growing in your home is, it’s even more unpleasant to think about your HVAC system spreading it around. If there’s mold in your air ducts, you could be breathing in tiny mold spores without even realizing it. Luckily, mold growing in your air ducts is pretty uncommon. Some tell-tale signs of mold are a musty or mildew smell, visible mold on or near HVAC components, and physical side effects such as nausea, fatigue, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.

How Much Does Air Duct Cleaning Cost?

Air duct cleaning costs about $370 on average, but can range from $270 to $1,000. This includes the cost of inspecting your HVAC system and cleaning all relevant parts. Hiring a pro for this job is definitely an expense, but many deem air duct cleaning worth the money—especially if they have severe allergies.

Looking for a more affordable DIY solution? Regularly checking and changing the filters in your HVAC system is a more effective way to improve air quality than cleaning your air ducts.

A senior man placing back an air duct
Photo: Steven Heap/ EyeEm / Getty Images

How Can I Avoid Air Duct Cleaning Scams?

If you decide to hire someone to clean your air ducts, you should know that it’s an expensive and time-consuming process requiring specialized equipment. However, some shifty companies may offer you a better deal without providing the same service. They may superficially clean your air ducts but won’t engage in the deep cleaning that would affect air quality. You can avoid these air duct scams by getting quotes from multiple competitors and reading reviews online.

Can I Add Air Ducts to My Home?

Air ducts are just one component of a centralized HVAC system that moves air throughout your home. Adding air ducts to retrofit your home for AC can cost between $7,000 and $10,000. Aside from air ducts, there are other options to heat and cool your home, like window air conditioning units or ductless AC systems.

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