Duct Cleaning and Air Quality

Published on: April 2, 2013

Many people are curious about the relationship between duct cleaning and air quality. You may know a homeowner who has had ductwork cleaning performed to improve the quality of their indoor air. You may wonder if cleaning the ductwork is really worth the cost and effort. The facts are that the air inside the home is two to five times more polluted than the air outside. In some homes, the pollution rate is much higher. For example, if someone smokes tobacco in the home, the quality of the air may carry up to 200 times more pollutants than fresh air.

Indoor Air Pollution

Nine out of 10 people spend the majority of their day indoors. Many people spend more than 90 percent of their time inside their home or workplace. The air inside most U.S. homes and buildings is polluted, to some extent. Indoor air pollution may be exacerbated by the fact that buildings and homes are well-sealed to keep conditioned air inside.

Indoor air pollution is caused by contaminants circulating in the air. Because the windows in many homes and buildings remain closed to retain conditioned air and conserve energy, a contaminant that enters the air continues to recirculate throughout the home or building. Contaminants and pollutants include fumes released from aerosol sprays, VOCs released from paint and solvents, dust and dust mites, mold spores, fiberglass insulation fibers, bacteria, pollen and other allergens. Once these pollutants are released into the air, the inhabitants of the home or building repeatedly inhale the particulates.

Indoor Air Pollution and Health

As contaminants circulate through the air inside the structure, particulates become trapped in the system of ductwork. As air flows through the duct system, the particulates are recirculated throughout the home or workplace. In extreme cases, the air inside a structure may become so polluted that a condition known as “Sick Building Syndrome” may develop. Sick Building Syndrome can affect the health and wellbeing of individuals who must spend extended time inside the building. In fact, lawsuits have been brought against owners of buildings diagnosed with Sick Building Syndrome.

Contaminated indoor air is believed to contribute to many health problems. Individuals with compromised immune systems and respiratory illnesses are particularly sensitive to polluted indoor air. Elderly individuals and small children are also more sensitive than healthy adults to contaminated indoor air. Polluted indoor air will aggravate symptoms of asthma and allergies, too.

Moisture may also collect inside ductwork. Where moisture is present, mold is likely to grow. As mold grows inside a ductwork system, mold spores are spread with the flow of conditioned air throughout the home or building. Mold is a known threat to the health of individuals. Mold can contribute to allergic reactions, breathing problems, infections and other health issues. Individuals with allergies and compromised immune systems may be extremely sensitive to mold and mold spores in the air. Exposure to mold can cause eye irritation and breathing problems even for healthy people.

Duct Cleaning and Air Quality

Professional ductwork cleaning eliminates the pollutants that have become trapped in the duct system. Duct cleaning companies use special equipment and chemicals to clean the pollutants and particulates from the duct system. A professional ductwork cleaning contractor is recommended to perform a thorough cleaning of the duct system. Though a homeowner or a building maintenance worker may be able to remove some of the debris from the ductwork, a professional cleaner has access to the equipment and tools necessary to perform a thorough cleaning of the entire ductwork system. Most HVAC professionals recommend that ductwork in homes and buildings be professionally cleaned every two or three years.

Is Professional Ductwork Cleaning Worth the Effort and Cost?

The National Institute of Safety and Occupational Health estimates that approximately 60 percent of those who occupy homes or buildings where the ducts have not been professionally cleaned will develop respiratory problems. A great deal of evidence is available that lends to the conclusion that professional ductwork cleaning improves indoor air quality and creates a healthier environment. Anecdotal evidence, such as testimonials from people who have had the ductwork in their homes professionally cleaned, report that allergy symptoms, breathing problems and even skin issues have been alleviated after having their ductwork professionally cleaned. The process removes many of the pollutants that may be inhaled by occupants of the home or workplace.

Additional Benefits of Professional Duct Cleaning

In addition to improving indoor air quality for health benefits, professional ductwork cleaning improves the energy efficiency of the HVAC system. As debris builds up in the ducts, air flow to and from the HVAC unit is hindered. The HVAC system is required to expend more energy to heat and cool the space. When ducts are professionally cleaned, the air flows much more efficiently. Energy is conserved since less demand is placed on the HVAC system.

Professional ductwork cleaning helps to promote optimal health by improving the quality of the indoor air. Additionally, professional cleaning improves the overall energy efficiency of the home or building. Many people agree that regular professional ductwork cleaning is definitely worth the cost and effort.