Indoor air pollution is an area of great concern by many people. There are many companies promoting air duct cleaning and explaining the benefits of removing dirt, mold, pollen and more from the air duct system.
Air duct cleaning refers to the cleaning of various cooling and heating system components, including the cold and hot air supply and returns registers and air ducts, heat exchangers, condensation drain pans, fan housing, and fan motor, cooling, and heating coils, and the air handling unit housing.
Typically, cleaning services range from $100 – $1,000 per system. This depends on the type and size of the system, level of contamination and level of services.
Even when properly operated and maintained, these components can get contaminated with pollutants such as dust particles, pollen or other allergens.
The potential for microbiological growth (e.g., mold) is increased when moisture is present. Spores from such microbiological growth can get released into the home’s living space. These contaminants can cause allergic reactions in people if they are exposed to it.
It is important to understand what components will actually be cleaned and at what price when you hired a professional company. For example, a house without air conditioning does not have a cooling coil (a-coil), while another house might not have an air exchanger.
Some companies claim to clean all the air ductwork but fail to mention that they do not clean the hot and cold air returns. Most of the time, dirtiest part of your air ducts is cold air return. It is possible to re-contaminate the entire system if you don’t clean all the components.
How Air Duct Cleaning Is Done
A typical air duct cleaning company will use specialized tools and brushes to dislodge dirt and other debris in the air duct system, then vacuum them out with a high-powered, truck-mounted vacuum cleaner.
Other companies might use a portable, high powered, vacuum which is assembled by the technician while in the home. Also, some professionals suggest applying biocides inside air ductwork and to other components. These chemicals biocides eliminate the microbiological contaminants by killing them.
Some in air duct cleaning, suggests sealing the inside surface or air ducts and other components using chemical treatment. It is believed that this can prevent mold growth and dirt.
While these chemicals have been approved by the FDA, they may not be your best choice when applied to your air ductwork.
Reasons for Poor Indoor Air Quality
The air duct system in a house acts as its respiratory system. Dust, dirt, debris, pollens and microbial growth which accumulate inside of air ducts, hidden from view, literally “congest” the system and make it difficult for the house to “breath” properly and function efficiently. In fact, one study concluded that maintaining system cleanliness would reduce average operating costs by 10 to 25 percent.
The HVAC system is the reason for more than 70 percent of all Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problems. Dirty air ducts are an ideal breeding ground for mold spores, bacteria, mildew, and other microbial growth.
Dirty ductwork can also result in higher energy bills, reduced air supply and premature failure of expensive HVAC components.
Here are some harmful things that could be in your air ducts:
Because of the direct relationship to fungi and bacteria in air duct systems, 1 out of 6 people who suffer from allergies
Many people suffer from allergies due to pollen. Pollen is being re-circulated from your air ducts back into your home.
Bacteria referred to as pathogens can cause a number of plant and animal diseases.
42,000 dust mites can be found in one ounce of dust. Interestingly enough, it isn’t the dust mites themselves that affect most people; it is the dust mite feces and the fungus and bacteria that feed on this decomposing organic matter.
What Are House Dust Mites and Can They Complicate Allergies?
Dust mites live in your air ducts, your carpet, and even your bed. But what are they and do they cause allergies?
Air duct dust mites are microscopic little bugs which live in common house dust. House dust is made up of skin, hair and fecal matter is perfect fodder for dust mites.
What Are House Dust Mites
Dust mites are known in North America as Dermatophagoides farinae and sometimes abbreviated by allergists to HDM. These dust mites which live in your bed, carpet and air ductwork are considered to be one of the most common causes of asthma worldwide.
Male dust mite has an average life span of 20-30 days. As for mated female dust mite, it is 2 months in which they lay eggs in the last 30 days of her life span.
In the post, larval stage dust mites have 8 legs and before that, in the larval stage, they have 6 legs
Do House Dust Mites Bite?
While the dust mites do not bite or sting. The dust mite generally lives on the dust of shredded human skin cells. Per year average person sheds around 0.3-0.45 kg of dead skin. Which means million dust mites can feed on dead skid produced by one person.
Dust mites usually obtain moisture from human perspiration, saliva and breathe when in bedding.
Why Dust Mites Are Dangerous?
The dust mite known to complicate allergic asthma, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, and rhinitis is the significant sources of allergens in the household.
DerP1, an important protein responsible for allergic reactions, is an enzyme found in dust mite feces.
Because air ducts are typically low humidity, only a small percentage of house dust mites actually live in air ducts. Air ducts, however, are a significant source of dust, hair and fecal matter.
A typical heating and cooling system use a fan to deliver hot and cold air throughout the house.
Dust is then re-circulated through the house by means of the air ducts and can produce additional food sources for the dust mite.
How to Get Rid Of Dust Mites
While there are no perfect means of completely eradicating dust mites, following the below-mentioned steps will help to reduce the number of house dust mites.
Here are a few steps you can take to control dust mites:
- Regular vacuuming of carpeted areas, ideally using a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter
- Regular dusting of surface areas
- Regular cleaning and sanitizing of carpets, upholstery, drapes, bedding and air ducts
- Replacement of carpets with vinyl flooring
- Covering of mattresses and pillows with special allergen-proof covers
- Freezing children’s plush toys
- Lowering ambient humidity below 70%
Does Air Duct Cleaning Help Allergy Sufferers
The quality of the air you breathe defines the health and well being of you and your family. According to a survey by an environmental agency, the air inside the home is much more prone to pollution as compared to the outer environment.
This sounds weird but it is a proven fact. Most people are happy as long as their home is neat and clean and the three basic systems are working well; the heating system, the ventilation system, and air conditioning system.
But the fact is, your homes heating and cooling systems are the very places which may be responsible for contaminating the air you take in while you are at home.
What can cause allergy
So what are the culprits that are causing to pollute your home environment and giving rise to many health-related issues like severe allergies?
Here are few of the leading causes to name just a few:
- Dust Mites
- Harmful bacteria
- Pet Dander
- Mold / mildew removal
- Pet odor removal: dog, cat, etc.
- Cigar/cigarette smoke
Of course, your systems are equipped with the traps and filters that are meant to get rid of these pollutants along with performing the core functions they are meant for. But whom to blame for if you still encounter allergic problems and especially when it gets worse if the home is the place you spend most of your time?
The one word answer to the thought-provoking question is ‘you’ – Yes, as a homeowner it is your duty to know all the potential hazards to your family.
Though all systems come with filters, claiming to purify air to a level of no contaminants at all, this is not the case when it comes to reality.
Why You Should Do Regular Air Duct Cleaning
Many of these allergens remain in the air with many others to accumulate at the trap and filter and clog the ducts causing the system to stop working at all at one point.
Such filters need to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to ensure the air you breathe in is free of pollution.
The phenomenon is of more important if you are living in an area that is highly polluted or where construction is going on but it holds the crucial value if some of the family members are already suffering from allergy or showing significant symptoms of allergy.
Research says dirty duct systems are the main reason behind many of the allergic reactions. It may be sneezing, runny nose, breathing difficulties, coughing, asthma or skin inflammations; intensity varying from mild to severe.
When to Have It Professionally Cleaned
It is highly recommended to clean air ducts on a regular basis. Experts advise going for a professional clean up session on an annual basis.
This will not only keep your family safe and healthy but also saves you from many potential losses like high electricity bills and elongated life span of the system.
Air Duct Cleaning & the Allergy Fight
The most effective way to eliminate air duct pollutants is the removal of contaminants from the entire air duct system.
Air duct cleaning entails using an air cleaning device to remove unwanted pollutants and other elements from the air to improve indoor air quality.
Portable Vacuum or a Truck-Mounted Vacuum
It is continuously asked whether to use a portable vacuum or a truck-mounted vacuum. Most of the time, the customer has no idea why they are even asking this question.
The only reason they asked because they read somewhere or someone told them one is better than others.
For the most part, any duct cleaning method is better than doing nothing at all. Ventilation allows the free circulation of air inside and out, thus replacing stale air with fresh air from outside, especially in areas where pollution is low.
Dirt is the main cause of heating and cooling system failures.
A clean air duct system also operates more efficiently which saves you money on both energy consumption and equipment repairs.
Some facts about health and indoor air quality
Below are some facts supported by recognized authorities
Following are FACTS that have been determined by recognized authorities in the fields of health and indoor air quality:
- Polluted indoor air can cause or aggravate 50% of all illness.
- The heating ventilation system is involved in 2 out of 3 indoor air quality problems.
- Fungi and bacteria in the air duct system can be the reason for 1 out of 6 people who suffer from allergies.
In light of these facts, you may want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you have cats, dogs, or some other pets?
- Do you notice stale or musty odors when the furnace is working?
- Does your furnace utilize a standard throwaway filter?
As the conditions are different in every home, hence it is difficult to generalize about whether or not air duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.
But, if you answered yes to any of the questions mentioned above, then it might be time to have your air ducts cleaned.
There are many tools to help people with allergies. One of the most effective is air purifiers. They can remove allergic causing contaminants and remove allergic compounds from the air.
Few things which can affect the air you breathe
If the air ducts cleaner fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, air duct cleaning can actually cause indoor air problems.
The inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dirt, dust, and other contaminants.
Combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, and wood are not only a potential fire hazard, they can also adversely affect the air you breathe.
Improve the Quality of Your Air
But wait, there are things you can do to improve the quality of your air.
The use of indoor plants aids in keeping the air clean. Working as a natural air filter, they convert stale air into fresh, oxygen-rich air.
Residents can contribute to cleaner air in their homes by making sure their homes are well ventilated.
In addition to air duct cleaning, you may want to think about filtration.
Electrostatic Air Filter will help keep heating components and A/C coils from being coated with dust particles. Instead of replacing your standard throwaway filter, consider upgrading to a new electrostatic filter.
Your new permanent electrostatic filter simply needs to be cleaned periodically to achieve the best filtration results and optimum furnace efficiency.
Best Method for Residential Air Duct Cleaning
You have just moved into your new home and you would like to have your air ducts cleaned. You make a few calls and quickly discover there are several different techniques.
Each company telling you their way is the only way to clean air ducts.
You also discover that each company has its own unique way of marketing their service. It can very quickly get very confusing.
First, because it isn’t practical to use water, there are really only 3 ways to clean your ductwork.
- Replace all your existing ductwork. (Not very practical, and very expensive)
- Brush and vacuum the inside of your air ducts.
- Blow the dust out of your air ducts into a vacuum.
Since replacing ductwork is generally not very practical for most people, the first option is most likely out of the question.
So that leaves the brush and vacuum method also known as Rotor brushing cleaning, and the blow and vacuum method.
But first, you need to understand that whichever type of air duct cleaning method you decide on it will be better than doing nothing at all.
Methods of Air Duct Cleaning
There are primarily 3 different methods used to clean the air ducts in your home and prices range from $50 to $800.
The most common methods are
- Rotary vacuum brushing, with camera
- Rotary vacuum brushing
- High-pressure air washing
The Rotor brush air duct cleaning method
Imagine a portable shop vacuum with a soft bristled brush attached to a spinning cable, which runs inside the vacuum hose.
As the duct cleaners feed the vacuum hose and brush through the air ducts, a tornado-like effect is created. The brush loosens up the dirt, hair, and microorganisms, while the vacuum removes it from your air ducts.
The brush polishes the inner walls of the duct work to “like-new” condition.
The high-pressure air-wash cleaning method
In this method, the truck-mounted industrial vacuum is connected to the furnace. With all register vents covered, highly compressed air is blown through the air ducts.
Often referred to as an “air-wand” or “air-snake”, this tool is fed through each vent, blowing the dust into the main supply line.
Once all the duct lines have been blown clear, another air-wand with a reverse nozzle, resembling a hook, is fed to the end of both the hot and cold air supply lines. The dust is then drawn back to the vacuum.
To help illustrate the two methods of air duct cleaning, think of an automated car wash. Some carwashes only use high-pressure water, while others have brushes or hanging rags.
If you have a really dirty car, you have perhaps noticed that only spraying water on your car is not very effective.
However, if your car is fairly clean, this type of carwash might suit your needs just fine. The same is true with air duct cleaning.
Which Method to Choose For Air Duct Cleaning
If your ductwork was just cleaned last year using the rotor brush technique, the high-pressure air-wash method might get your ductwork clean enough.
If it has been a while since your last air duct cleaning, or if you are uncertain how long it has been, you might want to use the Rotor brush air duct cleaning method.
The important thing to remember when it comes to air duct cleaning is YOU should make the decision. Make the choice without feeling pressured one way or the other.
While some people clean their carpets every spring and again in the fall, others clean them only when they seem dirty. You might want to consider applying the same approach to air duct cleaning.
In the rotary vacuum brushing with the camera, video feedback gives re-assurance that all dust, debris, and grime are removed.
This method is costly and also time-consuming.
Prices depend on homeowner preference and companies providing service. Also, the level of service and scope of service affects the final price of the service.