I have worked cleaning HVAC in my area for almost 5 years. I always do a thorough inspection and cleaning, providing before and after photos. I have completed some jobs where I felt that it was not entirely necessary, but ultimately what the customer wanted. With that being said, I have endless photos of unspeakable horrors. Hotels are usually nasty, post construction mess is certain, pets and kids create lots off debris, bugs congregate and die, then spiders set up and die, I have even had one supply that was nearly plugged with sand!
Had our ducts cleaned late April, 2016. Sodium Chlorite was sprayed into ducts after cleaning. Ever since, we have been bothered with eye and nasal passage irritation because of a “chemical” and “musty” odor. This odor is present whether or not a/c is on.) We are told the sodium chlorite (“EnviroCon, manufactured by Bio-Cide International) is used in hospital and nursing home settings and is not hazardous to health. The air duct company’s suggestion is that they come out and spray even more sodium chlorite…we absolutely don’t want this done! Have had various other recommendations about what we need to have done to remedy our problem. We will be unable to stay in our home if a resolution cannot be found. We’d be willing to replace the ductwork if necessary. (One professional suggested that the cleaning may have “knocked something loose” inside the ductwork and that is the source of the irritant.) This home was built in 1920…no idea when the present ductwork was installed. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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.
The key to the continued and efficient operation of your heating and cooling system is periodic maintenance. Cleaning the air duct vent system, and servicing you heating and cooling equipment will keep the system operating at its peak performance. Air ducts are cleaned for two reasons. One: to prevent debris from entering furnace and air conditioning components. Two: to prevent debris from cycling through the home. The air duct cleaning contractor needs to employ cleaning methods which successfully removes debris, and ensures that debris does not enter the occupied space. Most contractors can verify the results of the cleaning through video or pictures.
#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.
Despite such anecdotal experiences, there's no scientific evidence that regular residential air duct cleaning improves air quality, according to a 1997 brochure published by the Environmental Protection Agency. Laureen Burton, senior scientist in the EPA Indoor Environments Division, says that while the document is nearly two decades old, the science hasn't changed and the agency stands by its recommendations.
Some research suggests that cleaning heating and cooling system components (e.g., cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers) may improve the efficiency of your system, resulting in a longer operating life, as well as some energy and maintenance cost savings. However, little evidence exists that cleaning only the ducts will improve the efficiency of the system.