HomeownerEducational: A-M

Duct Cleaning

Duct Cleaning Educational Content

Your home’s air ducts get dirty in lots of ways. Everyday activities bring dust into the house, whether you’re opening the front door or turning on the air conditioning. Other factors can speed up the process. Pet hair, cigarette smoke, water damage, and home renovation projects all cause more rapid buildup of dust and dirt in the ducts. Checking your ductwork for particulate buildup is a good idea, especially if anyone in the home has asthma or allergies.

To check the ducts, remove the registers from the wall or floor with a screwdriver. Use a small mirror and a flashlight to inspect for dust and debris. You can also take pictures of the inside of the duct. Doing this lets you see the difference before and after the air ducts have been cleaned. Your duct cleaning crew may have cameras that can probe even farther into the ducts and show the full extent of the buildup. When the crew does their inspection, they’ll check for any leaks or kinks in the ductwork. These types of issues can cause airflow problems. Some duct cleaning contractors can also repair or replace damaged or leaking ducts.

There are several duct cleaning methods that companies can use. Each cleaning method requires specialized tools to do the job right. Beware of duct cleaners who only use ordinary household tools. Household vacuum cleaners and residential-use air compressor guns won’t get good results. In fact, these types of tools will likely just scatter dust and debris from the ducts all over your house. As you might expect, duct cleaning contractors usually consider their cleaning method to be the best. Our research is designed to rate companies and not duct cleaning methods, so we do not recommend one method over another.

Make sure the contractors you talk to explain how they will clean your ducts. Check that their methods meet industry standards. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) is a great resource for current industry information. Regardless of their cleaning method, a reputable, experienced contractor will do a thorough and careful job. This ensures that your ductwork is cleaned without any damage.

Duct cleaning crews use portable or truck-mounted vacuum collection devices to suck dust and debris out of the ductwork. Reputable duct cleaning companies use source-removal techniques in their cleaning process. This means that they thoroughly clean the ducts and the rest of your HVAC system.

The crew should use brushes and compressed-air tools to dislodge dust and debris. That dirty buildup will then be collected by the vacuum system. The process is methodical, straightforward, and should deliver clear results. If your HVAC system is older, the duct cleaning crew may find mold in its components. Some duct cleaning contractors are licensed in mold removal and can take care of any mold they find. If yours isn’t, you may need to hire a professional mold removal and remediation contractor.

It’s important to remember that your HVAC system includes a supply side and a return side. The supply side sends conditioned air through the house. The return side is made up of the ducts that return air to the air handler. The cleaning process must be done on each.

Each register should be cleaned one by one. The duct cleaning crew will use rotating brushes and other specialized cleaning tools to dislodge dust and debris. That dislodged buildup will then be captured by the vacuum collection device.

Some vacuum collection devices have a large intake hose that connects directly to a duct or other access point. When the vacuum is turned on, the suction is strong enough to suck up dust and debris as it’s brushed or blown loose. There are also smaller, portable vacuum collection devices. These machines combine suction capabilities with rotating brushes. This combination prevents dust from spreading around your house as the technician works.

Many duct cleaning contractors also clean dryer vents. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers recommends having your dryer vent professionally cleaned once a year. This will not only prevent dryer fires, but it will also help your dryer operate efficiently. A thorough dryer vent cleaning is also an opportunity to clean or update other aspects of the equipment.

For example, the back of the dryer and the area behind the dryer should be cleaned. Replace plastic or foil dryer ducts with semi-rigid metal ducts. These newer metal ducts improve airflow and collect less lint.

Indoor air quality can be negatively affected by many factors. Humidity, indoor pollutants, secondhand smoke, and radon can all cause poor air quality.

As you fine-tune your home’s indoor air quality, keep the following issues in mind:

Humidity and moisture control. Add humidity to the air during the drier winter months with a whole-house humidifier. These appliances are installed in your home’s central HVAC system.
Excess moisture is also a problem that can foster mold growth and cause wood to swell. A whole-house or portable dehumidifier can help resolve the issue. A dehumidifier works by drawing humid air over cooled coils. The water in the air condenses and collects in a reservoir that must be periodically emptied. In humid climates, a dehumidifier can make your home feel more comfortable.

Air cleaning and purifying. To combat outdoor air pollutants that have come indoors, the EPA recommends regular vacuuming and dusting. Be sure to also ventilate your house with clean outdoor air. A whole-house or portable air cleaner may also be beneficial.

Certain advanced filtration systems can also help with keeping indoor air clean. Look for pleated media filters and HEPA filters. Clean or change your air filters regularly. The US ENERGY STAR program recommends changing air filters every three months.