A year and a half ago (fall of 2015) we replaced the furnace and air conditioner. From what we could determine this was the third forced air furnace and second air conditioner unit for the house. As part of the installation, we changed out the two 6″ ducts feeding the second floor with 8″ ducts. The idea was to get more cold air to the second floor in the summer. It worked and for the first time the second floor and first floor temperatures were the same when the air conditioner was running. Of course, to make the system work I close down upstairs duct damper doors in the winter and open them up in the summer.
I replaced all the ducts but the trunks in my 1969 home when I replaced the horizontal furnace under the house with a gas pack. I got advice from a friend who was an HVAC contractor. I was surprised to find the trunks and other ducts very clean. I replaced the individual runs with flex primarily for the insulation. I wrapped the trunks with insulation also.
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.
The amount of debris or mold present in your system could certainly ratchet up the overall price. The cost of mildew removal is around $0.07-0.08 per square foot, on top of your initial cost, according to Blue Book. Removing these elements involves added time, special equipment and even special chemicals. In fact, you may be referred to a specialist if mildew and mold is too severe.
While you consider having your air ducts cleaned, it is a good idea to take a look at your dryer vent. If your dryer vent is clogged, you could be losing energy efficiency. Worse yet, you could be increasing the risk of a house fire. Having your dryer vent professionally cared for costs about $130 on average, and could save you a bit of money and a lot of headaches in the future. For more information on the benefits and cost of having your dryer vent cleaned, take a look at our comprehensive cost guide.
A do-it-yourself approach will only scratch the surface because it is hard to reach some of the ventilation running underneath the floor or into the wall. Although it may help in clearing some of the dust and debris, you really need a professional to guarantee your system is truly spotless. The proper procedure involves the use of a powerful vacuum system with multi-brush attachments designed to loosen debris and feed into the suction. Particles are then blown outside of the house or passed through a HEPA filter inside.
You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should be occasionally cleaned. Provided that the cleaning is done properly, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental. EPA does not recommend that the air ducts be cleaned routinely, but only as needed. 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.