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.
I read your article with interest and think it is a good start. One service that is always talked about is fogging ductwork for sanitizing. Many companies offer this service for disinfecting or adding a clean smell to the ductwork. Before any chemical or disinfectant is used, please read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). You might be surprise on what you are putting into the air stream. This is a high profit service and should be explored thoroughly before purchasing,
This article was very good. It should be noted that the EPA building in Washington, DC, was cited years ago as one of the worst "sick building syndrome" buildings. Wish you had mentioned about having people's dryer vents cleaned since they can cause so many fires in homes. Most homeowners forget to check the air flow on the dryer vent. Our company, which cleans by NADCA standards, does both air ducts and dryer vents. Thanks again for keeping the public informed, especially regarding the cost of air duct cleaning...you get what you pay for...don't be fooled by the lowest cost out there. Frequently these are bait and switch companies or will keep adding on features they say a customer needs until the price is so high it's ridiculous.
Once on the scene, trained Sears professionals utilize powerful, truck-mounted equipment to clear your air ducts of dust, debris, pet dander, allergens, and grime. Our powerful air duct cleaning suction equipment vacuums out years of accumulated dust from your air ducts, leaving them clean and clear. Once finished, our technicians remove all equipment and make sure that your ducts and HVAC unit are restored to their best condition. For continued protection against dirty air ducts, your service technician may suggest a variety of air purification products.
If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.
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.
My father started in the business of home comfort back in 1968, an I around 1986. We still don't have a duct cleaning machine. I am sure there are always applications for all tools in this industry. However I missed where anyone talked about where dust even comes from..........We do not have these little dust machines sitting in a corner puffing out little clouds of dust....soooo where does it come from?

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.

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
I own a small mechanical company. My main work is service and system replacements. I have never been a believer in duct cleaning. The company I worked for before had our duct man come out and do my house. I saw no difference. Preventive maintance is what I recomend. Remove fan and clean, seal fan compartment to prevent dust from being pulled in, filters I install media filters, they are 5″ thick and pleated. I have tested them to make sure static presure was not a issue. Heat exchangers and AC coils need to be cleaned. I will tell you this to do a good cleaning I usually spent 1-2 hrs, When I’m finished I would not have a problem eating my diner on the system. Good filters, clean system and properly tuned up are my recomdation to anyone. I’ve included my email feel free to contact me with any questions. winkcfd@yahoo.com
The amount of time it takes to clean a residential HVAC system depends on many variables such as the size of the home, the number of systems, the extent of the contamination and the number of HVAC cleaners performing the job. Ask at least two contractors to inspect your system and give you a time estimate for your particular system. This will give you a general idea of how long the job should take as well as an idea of how thoroughly the contractor plans to do the job.
In addition, the black dust was found in most of the heat registers. He could rub it off on his fingers but did nothing but spray compressed air on it which didn’t make it disappear since it wasn’t loose. Also, in the register in the basement he described the black dust as being oily. The reality of that situation is that I had the AC on until the morning of the service and minutes after he snaked the hoses in my back door it started raining. The basement register had condensation from the humidity all over it. It was not oily but wet. He asked for an old towel and wiped it out. Never saw anything so black – because I never had to clean soot. That is what I have in my ducts. Soot from years of the old coal furnace.
Good article, but it fails to point out that leaky return-side ducts could be drawing dust and allergens into the duct system from the enclosed spaces in which they run, e.g. between walls, below floors, attic. So duct cleaning may only be a temporary solution. The homeowner can get a home energy audit -- free in many states -- to determine if they have significant duct leakage. An Aeroseal dealer may be able to effectively seal up the duct system without needing to tear into walls etc to get to the ducts.
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!
The original furnace was a coal fired “octopus” design which had no blower to circulate the air but relied upon warm air rising to distribute the heat. That also means that the system breathed air in from the basement and most of this type did not have a cold air return system. At some point (probably in the 1940’s) the system was upgraded to a forced air gas furnace. The upgrade included replacing the 12″ diameter air ducts exposed in the basement with 6″ ducts and a cold air return system of ducts from the two (only two) air returns on the first floor.

I guess, I will start with saying that air duct cleaning is almost never needed. It is not a scam, but it is certainly something that uneducated homeowners get suckered into. In regards to air flow, a well balanced HVAC system should be able to deliver more than enough air flow. If you are not getting good air flow, it's because your system may be out of balance. Additionally, regular cleaning/changing of the air filters will solve about 95% of your problem. Though you would be surprised how many people either a. don't have a filter or b. don't know about it and leave it there for 10+years. a washable one should be cleaned every 6 months(spring and fall) and a disposable one should be replaced every 3-4 months.

If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.
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