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Preventive Maintenance Agreements, Residential HVAC

HVAC Duct Cleaning: Do You Need It or Not?

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Is HVAC duct cleaning right for your home? Many homeowners question whether it needs to be done, how often to do it, and how to find the right company to perform the job. Some HVAC service providers also try to convince homeowners that it’s important to seal ducts and apply chemical biocides and treatments to kill bacteria and mold. True or false?

Homeowners are overwhelmed and perplexed about which HVAC services are necessary and which aren’t. Many customers have asked us if there are any guidelines or recommendations to follow, and fortunately, there are. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued guidelines and information that we’re going to share in order to help you make an educated decision about whether HVAC duct cleaning and other services are right for your home. We’ll also provide advice about how to choose a service provider should you decide you want these services performed.

Should You Hire A Company to Perform HVAC Duct Cleaning?

According to the EPA, knowledge about the potential benefits and possible problems of HVAC duct cleaning is limited. And since conditions in every home are different, it’s impossible to generalize about whether or not HVAC duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.

Here’s one simple statement of fact: The EPA says you should perform HVAC duct cleaning if your ducts are visibly contaminated with substantial mold growth, pests or vermin, or are extremely clogged with dust and debris.

What if these conditions aren’t present? Should you still get your ducts cleaned periodically?

How to Decide if Your Home Needs HVAC Duct Cleaning

According to the EPA publication, Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?, performing HVAC duct cleaning might not be needed if your family members don’t suffer from allergies or illnesses, or if your ducts don’t look particularly clogged with large amounts of debris. You’ll have to remove the registers and take a look inside the ducts to see for sure, since dust around the registers is normal and can just be easily removed by vacuuming.

The report does say, however, that if family members experience unusual symptoms or illnesses that seem to be related to indoor air quality, it would be a good idea to discuss the situation with your doctor.

The Importance of Following Proper HVAC Duct Cleaning Procedures

While the debate about the value of periodic HVAC duct cleaning continues, no evidence suggests that it is detrimental, if done properly. But it’s important to note that when a service provider fails to follow the proper HVAC duct cleaning protocols, you can experience indoor air problems as a result.

For example, an inexperienced service provider can damage your ducts or HVAC system, which could raise your heating and air conditioning costs or require costly repairs or replacements.

Similarly, a poorly functioning vacuum collection system might release more dust and dirt than if you had left the ducts alone.

It’s also important to note that if the insulation in your air ducts gets wet or moldy, it will need to be removed or replaced since it cannot be effectively cleaned. Moreover, mold growth will reappear if the moisture problems that caused the mold in the first place are not fixed.

Related article: HVAC System Maintenance, Humidity and Your Poor Indoor Air Quality.

Choosing a Qualified HVAC Duct Cleaning Service Provider

Don’t assume that all HVAC duct cleaning service providers are equally knowledgeable and responsible. It’s important to interview several providers and compare written estimates before making your decision. Don’t forget to ask the providers whether they hold any relevant state licenses.

When service providers come to your home, ask them to show you any mold or other biological contamination they say exists. You might even ask for laboratory confirmation of mold growth, or alternatively, decide to rely on your own judgment and common sense in evaluating apparent mold growth.

Related articles: Air Conditioner Mold: Can You Get Sick from Air Conditioning?.

Avoid service providers who tell you it’s imperative to your health to have your ducts cleaned, because such claims are unsubstantiated. Similarly, don’t hire duct cleaners who recommend routine duct cleaning as a routine part of a maintenance program, and be wary of any who claim to be certified by the EPA, since the EPA has never issued any duct cleaning standards, nor certified, endorsed, or approved any HVAC duct cleaning companies.

Are Sealants and Chemical Biocides Necessary?

It’s important to fully understand the pros and the cons of using sealants and chemical biocides before allowing a company to use them. The EPA suggests you avoid the use of sealants except under unusual circumstances where other alternatives are not feasible, and to similarly only allow the application of biocides in your ducts if they’re needed to control mold growth. The EPA says it’s extremely important that the product be applied strictly and according to label directions, and that, as a precaution, you and your pets should leave the premises during application.

Make sure your HVAC duct cleaning provider is experienced and has worked on systems like yours, and that it complies with NADCA’s air duct cleaning standards. If your ducts are constructed of fiberglass duct board or insulated internally with fiberglass duct liner, your service provider needs to comply with the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association’s recommendations.

Take Good Care of Your HVAC System

While HVAC duct cleaning is not part of regular maintenance services, it’s a good idea to have your system checked periodically. It can also be a valuable option for an inherited system in poor condition. If you decide to do HVAC duct cleaning, remember that it’s critical to find a company that uses the proper tools and techniques in order to avoid damage to your ductwork and property. The best thing you can do for your HVAC system is commit to a preventive maintenance program of yearly inspections of your system, one that includes regular filter changes and the implementation of steps needed to prevent moisture contamination.

Want to learn more about preventative maintenance and how to choose the right service contract for your needs? Here’s a free and informative resource: HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.

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