WELL, this summer when I opened them up we had black dust spewing from one of the upstairs vents. It resembled the fuzz that comes off new towels. This prompted us to look into duct cleaning. We heard from someone who had it done several times, said it was worthwhile, and knew of a firm that did a good job. Clean Air America sent a single technician for the appointment and after counting registers and ducts gave me a price of $360.00 which included “sanitizing” the system (a $99 additional fee per can used). The small size of the plenum forced him to connect the 8” round vacuum hose from the truck to the 10” square opening from our humidifier unit. In hindsight, a mistake since it reduced the “negative” pressure in the system.
I turned on the AC when he was finished and immediately saw black fuzz balls the size of marbles come out of several of the registers. He said that was expected since everything was shaken up. So much for describing the service as cleaning. I paid him and sent him on his way. I cannot imagine that this type of service is worthwhile in anything but a new house. Apparently in old houses such as mine I can expect that using a whole house humidifier in the winter followed by a great AC can loosen the soot. Maybe this is to be expected for the first few weeks of summer each year. I now have lined the inside of the registers with cheesecloth to catch the fuzz. I’ll see if it stops after a couple of weeks.
I recently replaced my 44 year old furnace. Over the years we have had several construction projects inside the home. For many years breathing the heated air from the duct work caused excessive sneezing, sinus issues, and lung irritation. . The heat smelled like dust. To maximize air quality I added a humidifier, MERV-11 filter, and UV light onto the new furnace. To further improve air quality, I had the ducts cleaned and sanitized. I took before and after pictures of the inside of each return and output duct. They were filthy before, and sparkling clean and fresh after the procedure. Now when running the system, clean sanitized air flows through my whole house. A huge difference. It will make sleeping and being indoors during the winter months far more tolerable. I use window air conditioners, and run the system in the summer to keep the house air clean and fresh on hot summer days too. It works! Great decision!
Since most states and municipalities don’t license air duct cleaners, you need to check their professional credentials instead, such as NADCA membership. EPA recommends all duct cleaners follow NADCA standards. Member companies must keep at least one technician on staff who has passed a NADCA test. “They have to pass rigorous testing to earn the certificate, and our code of ethics is very important,” Vinick says.
I am NADCA Certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialist. Over the year I have learned on simple answer to this questions: there air duct cleaners and there are pretenders. There will be no benefit at all if you use on the very cheap pretender because they will not really clean anything. On the other hand if you call a qualified air duct cleaner with a NADCA Certification you will, like 99% of my customers, report improvement with your respiratory problems, you will see less dust and the job will pay for itself with energy savings and repair prevention.
I had my ducts somewhat cleaned December 22, 2014. The hose of the machine the technitian used did not fit in some of my vents, therefore, he did not clean them. But I still paid $428.00 for the service. I will be calling the company on Monday, and kindly ask them to come back and clean the ducts they did not as they did not fullfill their part of the service.
In addition, the service provider may propose applying chemical biocides, designed to kill microbiological contaminants, to the inside of the duct work and to other system components. Some service providers may also suggest applying chemical treatments (sealants or other encapsulants) to encapsulate or cover the inside surfaces of the air ducts and equipment housings because they believe it will control mold growth or prevent the release of dirt particles or fibers from ducts. These practices have yet to be fully researched and you should be fully informed before deciding to permit the use of biocides or chemical treatments in your air ducts. They should only be applied, if at all, after the system has been properly cleaned of all visible dust or debris.
Here in Frisco, TX…just had a tech come out to clean vents. I used a 30 bucks groupon for “complete vent cleaning”. He told me I have 3 AC units and groupon covers only 1. I told him to do the unit upstairs where the kids sleep. He decided on his own to do the downstairs unit. I yelled at him why he is not doing the unit I told him to do! He said they are all connected. I will clean two for you for the price of one… Oh really?
As I type this, I am having my ducts cleaned. About 30 including returns and the furnace. $543.00. I am watching the team do it and can see the clear vacuuming tubing and how dirty it has become. I like the gentleman’s comment on “stick your head in your vacuum and breath”….I get it. The team showed me the machine and it’s filtration system…and they will show me it again after the cleaning. However, like I said before, I am actively seeing the tubing that is clear before they start and how dirty it is once they begin and continue cleaning. Reputable company and not a “fly by night” coupon service. People don’t be so cheap, that is your problem.
This is where i found where the major problem was for the dust problem in my home. I took down the sheet metal that was 16" wide down by taking the screws out that keep it attached and when i took it down i, could not beleive the amountbof dust that was up there, inhad to put on breathing nasks to actually scoop out all the cust with my hads and then i used my shop vac then bleached everything, i would say that i filled up a 5 gallon maybe more not counting all the dust that was attached to the side of the beams that was all wood , because the contractor did not actually build a 16" wide return all out of metal , butvinstead used the sheet metal plate as a short cut to make a suare box using my beams in my basement to make a suare box. I was told contractors do that often and i feel that should be outlawed because it caused my sinus and allery problems,nwhich almost caused me to die. so everyone should make sure their ductwork was made properly. Yes seal it . Cover all openings. So it was not the contractors fault that my vents still had dust, in them, he was afraid tomgetvon top of my pool table to try to get iside the short cut ductwork with the 16" wide sheet metal. To everyone, make sure you clean your vent system. And make sure you could see it visually like i did , neither i or the contractor had no clue the problem was right above my pool table because of the make shift ductwork. The contactor shoul have made a squrae duct like the rest instead of using my beams as a short cut. That could be whyba lot of people start to have major allergy problems and maybe even ashma.so coverall holes to prevent dust to be taken in and all bugs etc. then make sure you clean your ductwork as you see reasonable, they say every 5 years , but i say evry 2 to 3 years, but you can do it yoursely.. You need a good air hose and suction vacum like a shop vac, do a little research. I invented something a while back like 18 to 20 years ago , and now it is on the market to help homeowners such as ourselves with this dust problem. I cannont say anymore because i have to make sure that it was not my research and idea that solved my problem and for all the others that are using what i invented ..there was nothing on the patent search that i hired an invention company to do, back then. Once yor vents are cleaned properly younwill be very happybif you are an allery sufferer. Stop the children for throwing things into the ductwork and sweeping things into the ductwork, keeping your vent system is clean once youbclean it right the first time, just maintain it , you dhould keepmthe hvac system clean such as coils etc it truly helps,people vome into my condo and they cannont beleive how cold it igets and how my system works so well. it is because i have my whole duct system sealed outsid with the duct sealant and my coils i vleaned my self and take the time that the furnase fan is cleaned because that could have a lot of major dust attached to it, mine had a lot of caked on dust it was like hard dirt. Yxounwill save on allergy bills nasal sprays, i wish I could say more because incould say something to really keep your whole duct system clean for years once you do a first good cleaning of intake and return vents. until i email one of the major companies to see where they got my idea from. Intrulybhope it was not from the invention company i hired years ago who did the patent search for my idea. I becam
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.
Equipment used to clean ducts varies widely. The cheaper the equipment used the more you are just wasting money. This is why it's typically not worth doing. In some situations it may be beneficial, but only after determining and investigating the duct system. This should be done by a licensed HVAC contractor and not a duct cleaner that typically do not hold and HVAC license. (Duct cleaners aren't required to be licensed in HVAC in many areas.)
If your non metal ductwork is that dirty you should just have it replaced AND sealed. Also most duct systems are not very well designed. Look for proper sizing and do not go cheap with one or two intakes (return grills) You need them through-out the house. Here in Austin the duct cleaners are carpet cleaners and chimney swifts. (this is who the duct cleaning equipment mfgs call on when the hvac people do not get on board. They DO clean other types of ductwork and we (the hvac guys) have to fix them. I am not aware of any of these non hvac guys cleaning and servicing the actual equipment. Here in Texas it is against the law for them to do so. Treat the entire house as a system, not just the ductwork and /or hvac equipment. Home performance really does work to increase comfort and air quality while reducing operating costs.
If you want to get some of the dust and debris out of your ventilation system, you can mix household cleaners like bleach with water, dip a cloth in the mix and then the wipe out the system. This will remove a layer of the spores, which could increase the quality of air a bit and help with the flow of air throughout the house until a pro can come out.
I am very interested by your post. We recently had a lead inspection on our property and one thing the lead inspector suggested was to get the air ducts cleaned out. We had our ducts cleaned last year after we under went a large renovation project (since we have a toddler in the house). This year we decided to go for lead compliance and had all our lead removed (we moved out for the work). Recently, my son had a false positive lead test, which prompted us to get a lead dust inspection around the house (including having the vents dust-wiped on the inside). The levels inside the ducts weren't crazy high (but more than would be acceptable for a floor). As it turned out my son's lead levels are very low (but not zero). Is it possible however that lead dust from the inside of a vent can come out? Would this be a scenario where you think air duct cleaning would be beneficial?

I have a white gritty dust throughout my whole house. Dust and it comes right back. We have central air. In 2013 had all the air conditioning tubing in the attic replaced. Old ones were completely clean. Why?? Thought dust would be in there. Put everything in plastic containers. Furniture everything is always covered with this. Problem is always there year round. Furnace people said it is not coming from furnace. We built house in 1971. Only started with this @ 19 years ago. Thinking when air conditioning went in. We cough all the time and sneeze. I do not have friends come here because I hate how dirty my house looks.
There is a lot of good, general information in the article. As with anything, the homeowner should do their due diligence in getting enough information to make an educated decision. Should duct-work be cleaned? YES! Does it need to be cleaned annually or even every second or third year? Not necessarily. It all depends on a bunch of variables. You're right that a well designed and balanced system will deliver the right amount of air flow, but sometimes conditions outside the home/business, make it a necessity to get the ducts cleaned. As for mold? NO filter is going to address a mold issue. If you have mold, you have a moisture issue that needs to be addressed. Also, in my 38 years of experience in the HVAC and sheet metal industries, washable filters are one of the reasons ducts need to be cleaned. They are no where near efficient in cleaning/filtering the air to the level that they should.
There are many interesting comments from several informed individuals. The question that has not been answered is how do duct systems get dusty and dirty? As a RESNET Home Energy Rater, I perform pressure tests on homes and duct systems, and the one common thread is . . . most air delivery sytems have large amounts of air leakage. The solution is to seal the duct system, and pay particular attention to the return duct system and ductwork near the air handler (the 'blower'). As others have said, a captive (sealed) duct system with proper filter maintenance should be more then adequate for most occupants. For those who have allergy, asthma, or other breathing problems, a filter with a higher MERV rating (number should be listed on the package) or a HEPA filter are good choices. These filters will capture smaller particulates and should improve the indoor air quality. Again, make certain that the entire duct system is sealed, preferably with mastic, second choice UL-181 foil tape - never use cloth duct (also known as duck) tape.

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.

You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.

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