Getting Your Ducts in a Row

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ November 25, 2009

Is it absolutely necessary to have your heating ducts cleaned every year? Experts seem divided on the issue. Home improvement expert Bob Villa says it's not necessarily so. He claims a great many people have them cleaned when there are no obstructions or growth in them. Villa says the time to have someone in to clean the ducts is when there's:

  • Clear-cut evidence of mold
  • You've detected insects or rodents living in them
  • You see dust or other particles flowing into your home through the ducts
The Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend routine cleaning of heating and air conditioning ducts. If you suspect mold, you can also send out samples of the substance to a microbiology lab listed online or in your telephone directory. Villa claims that there is no evidence that a small amount of household dust in the air causes severe health problems. Allergists may differ.

Cleaning Ducts on Your Own

If you or a family member suffers from dust and mold allergies, however, you may want to be more prudent in keeping the system clean. Your duct cleaning toolkit should include a ladder, heavy-duty gloves, a vacuum cleaner with a hose, a heavy brush, and a screwdriver.

Some do-it-yourselfers recommend the use of an air compressor to blast out your heating ducts. You can rent one at a home improvement or equipment supply store. Should anyone recommend the use of chemical biocide treatment, run away. You might end up creating more pollution than you began with.

If you think you have trouble, do a quick inspection by removing return-air plates and vent covers. Reach inside the ducts with a moist paper towel or clean rag and have a look. If dust, mold, and grime are more common than clean metal, you may want to bring in a specialist with a National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) certification. The following states require professional duct cleaners to hold a license specifically to perform the service: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Texas. A contractor uses tools made to dislodge compacted dust and then remove it with high-powered vacuum systems.

It's a good idea to swap out furnace and vent filters every change of season. It helps your system run more efficiently and economically. And your air definitely smells fresher. And make sure your thermostat is in sound working condition.

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