Get Your Ducts In a Row: Do You Need to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned?

by Team eLocal
Male technician repairing industrial air conditioner indoors

If you've ever looked inside your air ducts and recoiled at the sight of a thick layer of dust, you're not alone. Air duct cleaning is now a thriving industry serving health-conscious homeowners wanting to improve the air quality inside their homes.

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Air duct cleaning can cost anywhere between $450 and $1,000, according to data from This Old House. Therefore, it's hardly surprising that many people wonder if they can skip the cleaning and trim some money off their annual home maintenance budget. So, is cleaning your air ducts really necessary, and what could happen if you don't do it?

What Does an Air Duct Cleaning Service Include?

A professional air duct cleaning service includes three stages. First, the contractor conducts a thorough inspection of the inside of your ductwork via the access points. Appraising the condition of your air ducts can help the technician select the most suitable cleaning techniques and products. During this stage, the technician may recommend performing air duct repairs.

Next, the technician uses a vacuum machine to create negative air pressure inside your ductwork. This process removes any dirt, debris or contaminants lurking inside your system. Finally, the company performs a final inspection to ensure the ducts are completely clean.

Some air duct cleaning services include cleaning other parts of your home's climate control system. For example, many companies offer grill, fan and air conditioner cleaning.

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Do You Need to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned?

Whether you need to have your air ducts cleaned depends on their condition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn't endorse regular air duct cleaning because there is little evidence that the practice improves the efficiency of HVAC systems or prevents health concerns related to air quality.

However, the EPA also recognizes that many homeowners prefer to have their air ducts cleaned, just like they would clean any other part of their home. As there is no reason to think that routine air duct cleaning could be harmful, there's nothing wrong with cleaning your air ducts if you want to. On the other hand, there are some circumstances when booking an air duct cleaning service is necessary.

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How Often Should You Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned?

There is no specific schedule you should follow for having your air ducts cleaned. However, the EPA recommends having your air ducts professionally cleaned if you have:

  • Visible mold growing inside your air ducts or other parts of your HVAC system
  • A pest infestation inside your ductwork
  • Large amounts of dust or debris blocking your air ducts

These ductwork issues usually have an underlying cause. For example, mold inside your ductwork usually signifies a broader damp issue in your home. Therefore, it's essential to remedy the underlying cause before booking a duct cleaning service. Otherwise, the problem will keep recurring, and you'll spend a significant amount on repeated cleaning.

It's also wise to ensure that any substance identified as mold by an air duct cleaning technician is, in fact, mold. Some substances have a similar appearance, and many are relatively benign. You can hire an independent laboratory to test any substances discovered inside your ductwork for a small fee.

What Could Happen If You Don't Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned?

Not having your air ducts cleaned is highly unlikely to cause harm to your home or the people in your household. Research doesn't support the idea that dirty air ducts increase the levels of harmful particles in the air inside your home. However, it's essential to hire a professional to inspect your home if you notice any of the above signs described by the EPA. Vermin infestations, mold growth and excessive amounts of dust can all cause health problems if left unresolved.

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