In reading through all this about duct cleaning, THE ONE preventative measure people need to realize is that a poorly installed HVAC system that is not sealed and air tight to ensure that ALL indoor air passes through a GOOD air filtration system IS THE best means of ensuring your ducts remain clean. Duct cleaning does not now and will NEVER improve an HVAC systems efficiency. Proper maintenance and installation are the key just as improper installation practices allow for dust infiltration into the duct system. I am a state licensed contractor in Texas, and unless people have their hvac system sealed and/or properly installed, duct cleaning is an absolute waste of money. My duct system is 12 years old as is as clean today as the day I installed the system with ductwork. SO before ANYONE jumps on the bandwagon of duct cleaning, get with your hvac professional FIRST.
I believe a $3 [sic] pleated cotton filter is all that is ever needed to keep a system running top notch. A cleaning of the blower squirrel cage and of the evaporator [indoor] coil may be needed one time if fiberglass or no filters have been previously used. The return air grille [or grilles] need vacuumed off occasionally, as they are upstream from the filter. The $3 filter should be changed every 3 months [rule of thumb]....and most of them have a little white square on the cardboard frame to write install date.....and the arrow should point into the duct [if at filter grille]....or towards the furnace [if in ductwork slot]...or towards the blower [if in blower compartment]. My two cents.....
EPA does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned except on an as-needed basis because of the continuing uncertainty about the benefits of duct cleaning under most circumstances. EPA does, however, recommend that if you have a fuel burning furnace, stove, or fireplace, they be inspected for proper functioning and serviced before each heating season to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. Some research also suggests that cleaning dirty cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers can improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. However, little evidence exists to indicate that simply cleaning the duct system will increase your system's efficiency.
NADCA and EPA both have good points. Although, organizations are made to make money. Common sense and looking at NADCA and EPA pre-checklist. If you don't see it in the check list, you don't have to do it! But, if you do, look up Diamond certified co.s and the BBB. Beware of bait and switch scams, $60 vents and the like coupons which claim to help all for the measley sum of $79.00 bucks.
All these pro duct cleaners answer with "it's common sense, everything operates better when cleaner" etc. But your explanation is correct. Especially so with flex tube ducting where dust gets "stuck" between the lowest valleys (between wire coil supports) where air flow is drastically reduced -- which is more than 50 pct of the entire interior surface area of the flex ducting. That sounds like a bad thing but also has a good effect of trapping dust from escaping.

Moisture can enter the duct system through leaks or if the system has been improperly installed or serviced. Research suggests that condensation (which occurs when a surface temperature is lower than the dew point temperature of the surrounding air) on or near cooling coils of air conditioning units is a major factor in moisture contamination of the system. The presence of condensation or high relative humidity is an important indicator of the potential for mold growth on any type of duct. Controlling moisture can often be difficult, but here are some steps you can take:
#3 The ONLY time Duct cleaning is needed is when the home had a fire, Bad roof leak on to FIBERGLASS ductwork or house sat vacant for many years with out the air running. And its better to replace than to do “abrasive” duct cleaning. If the duct cleaning has a rotating brush it will remove part of the glue that is holding the Fiberglass in the ducts together, PERIOD no matter how much the say it don’t because the brush is soft.
I agree that good filtration and a sealed system will prevent the need for duct cleaning. However, when we do get called it is because the duct work has reached a noticeable state of restriction or dust or the homeowner is hyper-sensitive to these pollutants in their home. Most of the time we find that no filter or a cheap (99 cent) filter is being used or they have serious duct leaks in the system. If you are hiring a cleaner make sure they are using professional cleaning equipment which will consist of a rotating brush system and a vacuum source. Be highly skeptical of the contractor with no branded system or the guy who shows up with just chimney brushes and a shop vac. He will not be able to reach around all the corners or all the runs in your system and he will be taking your money for a superficial cleaning at best. Only trust a company that offers VIDEO inspection and more importantly.... a contractor who repairs, installs and seals ducts if a problem is discovered or heaven forbid, created. Good luck and get your ducts sealed if you do have a leak! It is one of the greatest energy losses to a home other than being poorly insulated.
#3 The ONLY time Duct cleaning is needed is when the home had a fire, Bad roof leak on to FIBERGLASS ductwork or house sat vacant for many years with out the air running. And its better to replace than to do “abrasive” duct cleaning. If the duct cleaning has a rotating brush it will remove part of the glue that is holding the Fiberglass in the ducts together, PERIOD no matter how much the say it don’t because the brush is soft.
Metal is way better than flex duct or ductboard. It gets better airflow, holds up to critters and duct cleaners. I know of no hvac company here that cleans ductwork. (there probably is one somewhere) The mfg's of duct cleaning equipment keep trying to sell us hvac people on their benefits and profit potential but most all hvac people know that unless you have metal ductwork you are NOT doing the customer any favors.
The most effective way to clean air ducts and ventilation systems is to employ Source Removal methods of cleaning. This requires a contractor to place the system under negative pressure, through the use of a specialized, powerful vacuum. While the vacuum draws air through the system, devices are inserted into the ducts to dislodge any debris that might be stuck to interior surfaces. The debris can then travel down the ducts to the vacuum, which removes it from the system and the home.
The short answer is yes, duct cleaning, done right by a reputable company will help with the smell. It is likely though the smell is coming from another source, ie the crawl space. It could also be that another rodent is dead in the duct work. A visual inspection would be in order to check for any breach in the duct system. A duct pressure test would be able to tell you how much air is leaking from the system over all. A hole large enough for an animal to enter would loses a great deal of air, over 300 CFM. It would be worth looking into having this test done and it should cost around $200. Cleaning the air handler and evaporator coil will greatly improve the performance of the air conditioner. Dirt and dust on the evaporator acts as insulation and reduces the amount of cooling done be the coil. Any quality duct cleaning should include cleaning the air handler and coil, and the tech should allow you to watch him perform the work as it is done.
I’m really not convinced that duct cleaning is of any value. My roommate wanted the ducts cleaned so he called some company. My scam senses is already tingling. They came in with a big negative pressure fan. Did some blowing and sucking in different vents. Then they tried to upsell a full system cleaning. They wanted to pull the blower and clean the heat transfer box at $700 per heater unit. I have a big house so we have two units. They also tried to sell us some “custom” $250.00 Air Lifetime air filters. At that point I pulled the BS get the hell out bell. After paying $520.00 for just the cleaning, I paid the bill and sent them on their way. I replaced the existing filter with the good old and cheap paper filters at $10.00 each. Duct cleaning… I’m not Impressed.
2. If air quality is so important and duct cleaniliness is so uncertain, why not adopt doubling filtering; that is, in addition to the existing main furnace filter, add a filter at each air outlet. I understand replacing so many filters would be a burden, but air outlets can be designed for easy filter replacement. The builders and home design engineers should bear responsibility to provide good and low maintenance homes, rather than prioritizing on fancy or costly featuers for homes.
I'd have to disagree with all of your statements. Not only are they derived from no experience in the field, you are missing keys facts. Ducts even if air tight will get dirty. If they are not getting dirty, it means they are not working. Your returns side of the duct work is always under negative pressure when the system is operational.Therefore it is always drawing air in. Seeing how dust is made up mostly from dead skin humans shed daily. Around 1.6 Pounds of skin a year per human. Living in your home anything that is air born will be drawn back towards the cold air returns. That is what they are designed for, to draw stale air back to the system to be filtered and sent back through the house.Homes with carpet will actually have cleaner duct work than home with all tile or hardwood. This is because carpets hold onto dust particles and you vacuum them up. Whereas on hardwood or tile, dust can run freely back to the returns. Even if a duct system was sealed 100%, which is next to impossible to achieve 100% would still need to be cleaned. The cleaning may only have to be every 7-10 years for example. Most homes require every 5-7 years. And that's if it was done properly the first time. If you constantly hire people that have no or minimal knowledge of duct cleaning, You home would require cleaning more often. Every 2 years. That's a trade secret, The longer they recommend before the next cleaning, the odds are they did it right. That's not to say there aren't people that lie, because there are. Just have your duct cleaner take pictures before and after cleaning. Not just an outside view. Get in there, picture entire joist liners, Whole main runs and even long round pipes. Also it helps to have a company that guarantees their work. If it's not done right, they will come back and do it until it is. Most companies that do this make sure it is right the first time. Your not getting paid to do the job twice.
Did not realize cost had gone up so much for this service. Two years ago I had furnace and ducts cleaned at my old house and it was under $400. Now the cost is $700 for this house. I will keep looking for someone to offer a lower price, check them out, and have it done. Or will find the paperwork to see who did it before. I liked this article and did learn some things. Thanks.
I forgot about a pot of sweet water I had on the stove to boil. When I finally smelled it the kitchen and dining room I=was smoke filled. I mean thick smoke. I opened doors and windows for a few hours to remove the smoke but the smell is still here and terrible. I had to use the AC and that smell started coming out of the vents. Now what do I do? I have COPD emphysema so I have to be very careful about what I inhale. I already have inhaled too much smoke from all of this which has hurt my lungs even more. I can’t afford for them to get worse over this. How can I get the right person to come out and clean the ducts and furnace or is that the only way to remove that burnt smokey smell. The pot never caught on fire but it sure did produce a lot of smoke. I already have replaced the filter on the furnace. It needed it even though it had just been replaced just last week. I need help or really my lungs need help. Who do I call here in Indpls IN.
And if you have flex duct and/or fiberglass ductboard in your home- the last thing you want is a big brush or anything abrasive running through it. Even high-pressure air can erode ductboard so I wouldn’t clean it with anything. If it becomes contaminated, get rid of it and install real ductwork. If your ductwork is accessible in the basement – the best thing to do is take it down and manually clean it if it’s full of junk. It’s not going to cost a nickel more to do that than to pay $500-1000 for a ‘duct cleaning machine” AKA big blower and vacuum – to do the job.
You may be familiar with air ducts that are constructed of sheet metal. However, many modern residential air duct systems are constructed of fiber glass duct board or sheet metal ducts that are lined on the inside with fiber glass duct liner. Since the early 1970's, a significant increase in the use of flexible duct, which generally is internally lined with plastic or some other type of material, has occurred.
One of the best ways to ensure that the air in your home is clean is to clean your air vents. The air ducts in your house contain millions of particles of dust, hair, dirt, pollen, spider webs and other allergens [source: Alpine Air Duct]. Cleaning your air vents will also save you money on heating and air conditioning. So read the tips listed below and learn about how you can clean the air vents in your house.
On the other hand, if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.
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