Should Air Ducts Be Cleaned? Understanding Necessity and Benefits

Published on: August 14, 2013

In order for your heating and cooling systems to function well and provide clean air to the home, all components should be kept clean. This includes the air ducts. In forced-air HVAC systems, the ductwork ferries conditioned or heated air throughout the home. During this process, ducts can collect dust and grime. Over time, this or other conditions will necessitate cleaning.

When Should Air Ducts Be Cleaned?

Many homes can go years without requiring duct cleaning, especially if the HVAC system is kept in good repair and dirty filters are promptly replaced. However, certain situations call for prompt duct cleaning and these include the following:

  • Moisture has entered the ducts: Moisture in ducts can lead to mold and bacterial growth. Some of this material can become airborne and enter your home through the vents.
  • Rodents, other small animals or insects have made homes in the ducts: Debris from nests can block airflow, reducing the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. In addition, waste products from the animals may become airborne and enter your home.
  • Debris build-up: Over time, even dust can build up sufficiently to become a problem. It interferes with airflow and contributes to indoor air pollution. If dust is blowing out of your registers, that’s a good sign your ducts need to be cleaned.
  • Allergies: If a household member suffers respiratory allergies, which seem most severe at the height of cooling or heating season, this may be a sign of dirty ducts. While something else could be the source of the allergies, it’s nevertheless a good idea to have the ductwork checked.

Benefits of Clean Ductwork

Better indoor air quality:  Your HVAC and ventilation systems are the primary sources of air supply to your home. It is easy to see how dirty ducts could impact air quality. While you may not be able to see mold spores or tiny particles of dust coming in through your registers, their presence can adversely affect health and comfort.

Clean air ducts offer very little airflow resistance. This means your A/C or furnace can work more efficiently. This is better for the life of the system and helps keep energy costs down.

How Should Air Ducts Be Cleaned?

Every company has its own method, but most follow similar basic steps.

  • The HVAC system is turned off.
  • Air ducts are inspected.
  • Special vacuum tools are used to remove dust and other debris. Different contractors use different tools, but all are designed to remove debris from ducts. These tools will be inserted through access holes in the ductwork.

After the cleaning has been completed, some contractors add a biocide treatment to the ducts. This is not always necessary or desired, so make sure to discuss all of the cleaning steps with the contractor before the project is started. Remember that any agent introduced to the air ducts may eventually find its way into your home.

How Often Should Air Ducts Be Cleaned?

How often your air ducts should be cleaned depends on many factors. If your ducts are in poor repair, debris may gain entry through gaps or holes, for example. If you use cheap filters that have a low MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating, such as between 1 and 4, more particles of debris may enter the system and eventually wind up in your ductwork. In these cases, you may not be able to go for several years without a duct cleaning.

In addition, if someone in the home has a lung condition, such as asthma, it may be helpful to keep a closer eye on air ducts and schedule frequent cleaning.

Aside from these cases, most homes do not require yearly cleaning. Unless you notice problems with ducts at other times, you can simply have your service contractor inspect them when you have your HVAC system serviced each year.

For more answers to questions such as “should air ducts be cleaned?” and other issues related to air quality and home comfort, please contact us at AirConditioningSouthEast.com. We serve the Southeast U.S. and look forward to helping you.