Duct cleaning is actually a controversial topic. It can be hard to know whom to trust. However, there are some red flags to watch for when considering someone to professionally clean your air ducts.
You might wonder what’s going on up there in those ducts. Does your ductwork impact your air quality? What if there’s mold in there? Mold damage covered by insurance can be tricky to navigate. Read on to find out the bottom line with duct cleaning. Can a cleaning service improve your HVAC efficiency?
First, understand the debate, then decide when duct cleaning is merited, and finally, find someone whom you can trust. Then, get the right service from the right provider for the peace of mind you deserve.
What’s the big debate over duct cleaning?
On one hand, scientists argue that duct cleaning is a manufactured sales pitch that companies invented to stay busy in the off-season. On the other hand, HVAC companies argue that regular cleaning improves efficiency and air quality.
On team “no cleaning necessary,” the main argument is that the particle buildup on the walls of your ducts is adhered to that surface, meaning that is not what contaminates your air.
They would say the only reason to get your ductwork clean, in this opinion, is if there is verifiable mold or visible loose debris. Mold is a serious threat, and you need to verify what mold damage your homeowner’s insurance will cover in the event mold is discovered.
On team “clean your ducts annually,” the argument is that clean ducts improve HVAC efficiency and air quality. Their strongest argument is that new homes and extensive remodels result in an inordinate amount of debris, and dust particles will settle into your HVAC system.
Solid Reasons to Clean Your Air Ducts
Perhaps you just moved into a new house, or perhaps you just completed your new build. You might wonder if the first step should be duct cleaning. While it is debatable how often duct cleaning is actually needed, there are some scenarios where all can agree it is needed.
Mold in your HVAC System
Evidence of mold is another reason to consider air duct cleaning, and it requires going the extra mile to find a reputable service provider. Insurance will cover mold damage, cleaning, and repair if proven to be an equipment malfunction. Also, if it is already explicitly stated in your policy, insurance will cover cleaning and repair.
Your insurance will likely not cover mold damage if it proves to be a result of homeowner neglect or flooding. Most insurance policies require specific supplemental coverage for flood damage. And if mold inhabits your ductwork due to your own negligence, it definitely won’t be covered.
In any event, the presence of mold merits a deep duct clean and an entire HVAC system evaluation. Unless the source of the problem is fixed, it will be a recurring nightmare.
Pest Infestation in your HVAC
Animal infestation merits a proper cleaning. If there is evidence of rodent activity in your vents, not only will you need a proper cleaning, but you’ll also need to evaluate their point of access into your system. You can’t fix this type of problem by just cleaning your ducts.
Sealing your system against pests can be an extensive process. You’ll want your system cleaned afterward, and you want to have confidence in your service provider.
Indeed, some contractors don’t go the extra mile to seal vents while sheetrocking. Worse, some homeowners have experienced unreliable workers using the floor vents as convenient waste receptacles for sweeping construction aftermath. So it’s worth a peek into your vents after considerable construction is done.
Sheetrock dust is notorious for creeping into every nook and cranny of a house. Even with proper precautions, your HVAC system is not immune to sheetrock dust. This is one of the most common justifications for duct cleaning.
Always Clean Your Dryer Duct and Vent
The most necessary and defensible duct cleaning available is laundry vent cleaning. Unfortunately, the leading cause of clothes dryer fires is the failure to clean the dryer vent. Of course, you can do this yourself, but professionals can perform this task quickly and efficiently.
As a typical dwelling fire policy doesn’t cover appliances and objects in your home, it is important to protect areas like the laundry room that are prone to fires and have expensive equipment.
How Duct Cleaning Works
Duct cleaning relies on negative air pressure (a vacuum to ensure no recontamination occurs) and agitation (surface cleaning). The use of chemicals is available but highly discouraged by the EPA.
The cost usually depends on the number of vents in your home. Some companies charge by square footage. Expect to pay between $250 and $800.
Here’s a list of what you should expect when talking to a competent service company:
- They should thoroughly explain the method they will use to clean your system.
- They should state which HVAC components will be cleaned (ask about the laundry vent).
- They should provide before, during, and after photos of their work.
- They should not use chemicals unless they are explicitly agreed upon and scientifically supported.
Remember that any company that claims there are no risks to cleaning your air ducts is not being honest. Every type of cleaning has the potential to alter or damage your HVAC system, so you want your provider to acknowledge that risk.
Red Flags for Companies That Offer Duct Cleaning
Anyone who advertises can claim to clean ducts. However, HVAC cleaning should only be performed by a certified technician because it can involve opening and resealing your HVAC system components. Look for National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) certification.
Ask about how much altering to your system will take place. If the company plans to open new access points to your ductwork, you need to be confident they will properly reseal. In addition, each modification will open unknown risks for your existing HVAC system’s integrity, so they should have a convincing reason to open access points.
Question them on their certification and training. If they avoid these questions or don’t provide adequate information, chances are they are not qualified. If they are not certified, they should not be touching the coil system.
If you have flexible ductwork and the company claims there is no risk of damage, be suspicious. The least risky duct cleaning is for sheet metal ductwork that can easily withstand agitation.
Have them explain what type of agitation they will use to dislodge dust and debris. The two recognized methods are rotary brush (not to be used on coil systems) and push/pull vacuum. Heavily question any other type of method.
Be upfront with the service provider and ask direct questions about whatever you decide to do. If they are not competent in answering your questions, don’t go with them.