Air Duct Cleaning

Quick Summary

Conducting air duct cleaning in your home has the potential to improve airflow, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and reduce your utility bill. HVAC system cleanings ensure the removal of contaminants, dust buildup, mold growth and allergens.

What Is Air Duct Cleaning?

During air duct cleaning, professionals clean out the HVAC components of the forced air system in your home.

Maintaining the air duct system’s cleanliness may improve indoor air quality and airflow by removing dust or mold buildup. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends cleaning air systems as needed or when mold or rodent feces may be present.

When to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

Dirty air ducts affect the HVAC system in your home, which may reduce energy efficiency, having a direct effect on your utility bill. An air duct cleaning service should be hired to clean your home’s ductwork because they are trained on what to clean and how to clean them properly.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends cleaning air systems on an as-needed basis, including mold growth, rodent infestation and excessive dust buildup.

1. Mold Growth

Mold growth in a home’s HVAC system can build up slowly over time.

There are two primary reasons why mold growth can occur inside an HVAC system and air ducts:

  1. Condensation: The primary source of mold growth in an HVAC system is condensation. This can occur when the ductwork isn’t properly insulated or insulated at all.
  2. Dirty filters: HVAC system filters need to be replaced regularly. HVAC system filters are designed to remove mold spores from the air, but may no longer stop these particulates if they haven’t been maintained.

When there is visible mold growth within the ducts or other HVAC components, the system needs to be cleaned by a professional. In the case of severe mold growth, you can have the ducts inspected by a professional who will complete a mold test.

Since many ductwork components are not visible, ask the service provider to show you the mold areas they find during the inspection. If your ducts are insulated, and the insulation gets wet or moldy, the insulation should be replaced, not cleaned.

Ensure that indoor air quality and moisture conditions are remedied to stop mold from reoccurring.

2. Rodent Infestation

HVAC systems can harbor pests, and vermin feces and urine exposure may pose a health risk, requiring having a professional cleaning done on the HVAC system.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that exposure to rodent feces, saliva and urine may cause allergies and asthma attacks.

A professional will not only clean out your air ducts of feces but will also diagnose the vulnerabilities that are allowing rodents into your home.

3. Dust

Similar to mold spores, HVAC filters are meant to block dust and other particulates. Infrequent replacements and poor maintenance can clog filters, meaning dust and allergens no longer get filtered out.

When the ventilation system is clogged with enough dust that particulates are being put into the living space via air vents, the homeowner should have an HVAC duct cleaning completed.

Benefits of Air Duct Cleaning

Having a home HVAC system cleaned may improve indoor air quality and increase your home’s energy efficiency. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends air duct cleaning every 3 to 5 years and the thought process is if the ductwork looks dirty, it probably is dirty.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Air duct cleaning will help improve the indoor air quality for all living in the home. HVAC system ducts or HEPA filters clogged with dust and contaminants will affect those living in the home.

Clogged ducts and air filters may contain allergens and pollutants. Cleaning and sanitizing your HVAC system provides cleaner air in your home. 

Children, seniors and those with respiratory issues will benefit from as needed HVAC cleaning.  A homeowner can help keep their HVAC ducts clean by completing regular dusting in the home, conducting dryer vent cleaning, conducting mold inspections and opening the windows.

Increase Energy Efficiency

A home air handling unit cools, heats and circulates the air in your home. The air blows over hot or cold coils in the HVAC system before blowing air into your home. Dust, allergens and debris can accumulate on these coils reducing your HVAC systems efficiency.

According to the NADCA, HVAC systems with dirty coils may use up to 37% more energy to cool your home, driving up utility costs.

Conducting the air conditioning system’s cleaning will allow the system to work more efficiently, improving energy efficiency. Improved energy efficiency may reduce your energy bill, saving you money.

Trained professionals have the equipment to clean air ducts and use a cleaning process that ensures blowers, air conditioners and ductwork are free of dust, mold, vermin and observable hazards.

Air Duct Cleaning Process

To ensure an HVAC system is working properly, have the entire system cleaned, not just the air ducts. Recontamination of the entire system may occur with the failure to clean all HVAC system components.

When cleaning an HVAC system, the following components should be cleaned:

  • Coils
  • Drain pans
  • Air ducts
  • Air cleaner
  • Air filters
  • Registers
  • Grills
  • Blower motor
  • Heat exchanger

Proper cleaning of an HVAC system has two key components, loosening the contaminants and removing them:

  • Contaminant loosening: Properly remove sources of contamination with agitation devices such as brushes or compressed air.
  • Collecting contaminants: The HVAC system gets placed under negative pressure, like a vacuum that will help prevent the spread of contaminants being released into your home.
  • Cleaning equipment: HVAC professionals use a variety of equipment items to clean your HVAC system properly, from portable items to equipment that is mounted on trucks.
  • Sanitizing equipment: Antimicrobial chemicals should be used to sanitize the HVAC system after it has been cleaned properly and only when recommended by a professional. Rodent feces or mold present during cleaning may warrant this step. It should be applied to non-porous surfaces within the system, which will address microbial contamination as well as odor.

Access to the complete HVAC system is usually done through return vents, supply diffusers, duct end caps or existing service openings. Services openings and their closures should be taken care of by a trained professional to ensure a proper seal of the system once cleaning is completed.

Cost of Air Duct Cleaning Services

The average cost to clean a home’s HVAC system ranges from $270 to $485. The total cost will depend upon the debris and contaminants needing to be removed. If rodent feces, urine or mold are found in the system, this will cost more due to the extra step of applying an antimicrobial chemical after the cleaning process is completed.

NADCA recommends HVAC system cleaning every 3 to 5 years unless there is the concern of rodents, mold, or you have recently purchased a home.

Regular cleaning will help ensure the HVAC system does not accumulate excess dust or a rodent infestation—schedule regular cleanings as a reminder to keep your system properly maintained.

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7 References
  1. Environmental Protection Agency. (Unknown). Should you have your air ducts in your home cleaned?
  2. National Air Duct Cleaners Association. (2020). What you need to know about air duct cleaning.
  3. National Air Duct Cleaners Association. (2018). Air duct cleaning: An easy way to improve energy efficiency.
  4. NIEHS. (2004). National study shows 82% of U.S. homes have mouse allergens.
  5. The Wellness Seeker. (2014). Is Mouse Poop Dangerous?
  6. Paul Miceli. (Unknown). What are the dangers of cleaning up rat feces?
  7. National Air Duct Cleaners Association. (2020). Why clean air ducts?
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