5 Things You Need to Know About Having Your Air Ducts Cleaned

by Hannah Stephens
Residential HVAC Duct Cleaning with a Power Brush

Professional air duct cleaning could be worth considering — especially if you've ever peered inside your air ducts and been horrified by mounds of dust and debris.

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However, this service can be pricey, especially for larger systems, so it's worth knowing when you need duct cleaning, and when you don't.

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1. Who Do You Hire for Air Duct Cleaning?

You can hire a specialized air duct cleaning company to clean your ductwork. Alternatively, many HVAC companies also offer air duct cleaning services. Ensure any company you're considering has liability insurance. Otherwise, you could incur a considerable bill if the cleaning technician gets injured in your home or accidentally damages your property. It's also worth checking customer reviews to ensure the company is trustworthy — a reputable company will gladly provide references.

2. What Does Duct Cleaning Involve?

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't mandate specific cleaning methods, so techniques vary considerably between companies. However, many professional bodies issue their own guidelines. Generally, technicians use specialized tools to remove dirt from your supply and return ducts and vacuum the ductwork to remove debris. They may also clean other HVAC system components, such as the heat exchanger, fans and drip pans.

Your company may recommend applying chemicals called biocides to kill potentially harmful microbes or coating the inside of the ducts with encapsulants to prevent mold growth. However, it's unclear whether these methods are safe and effective. It's essential to research any chemical your technician suggests before allowing them to use it in your home.

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3. Can You Clean Your Air Ducts Yourself?

You can clean your air ducts yourself by unscrewing the grilles and vacuuming them using the brush attachment. However, DIY duct cleaning won't resolve more severe issues, such as mold contamination or pest infestations. Deep cleaning air ducts requires professional tools, so you won't achieve the results of an experienced technician. You also risk damaging the ductwork, so it's essential to be gentle and avoid using harsh cleaning products.

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4. How Much Does Air Duct Cleaning Cost?

According to HomeGuide, professional air duct cleaning costs between $25 and $45 (CAD 33 and CAD 60) per vent, or roughly $0.15 to $0.25 (CAD 0.20 to CAD 0.33) per square foot. Most homeowners pay between $300 and $700 (CAD 398 and CAD 929) for whole-house air duct cleaning.

How much duct cleaning costs depends on the condition of your ductwork and the size of your system. You could spend as little as $200 (CAD 266) to clean the ducts in a small house or apartment. Meanwhile, cleaning a contaminated or extra-large system costs up to $1,000 (CAD 1,329).

You may need an air duct inspection if you're concerned about pests, mold growth or contamination. Most companies charge between $80 and $180 (CAD 106 and CAD 239) for inspection services.

Air duct cleaning costs more if you need a technician to clean your entire HVAC system or apply biocides and encapsulants. For example, using anti-mold chemicals usually costs an extra $70 to $150 (CAD 93 to CAD 199), while cleaning a furnace or air conditioner increases the cost by $60 to $370 (CAD 80 to CAD 492) on average.

5. Do You Need to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned?

According to the EPA, you should have your air ducts cleaned if:

  • You notice signs of vermin infestation inside the ducts
  • Your ducts are clogged or release dust and debris into your home
  • You see signs of mold growth inside your air ducts

Mold growth inside ducts is difficult for homeowners to diagnose, and you'll usually need a professional inspection to establish whether you have a mold problem. Sometimes, increased allergy symptoms or other unexplained illnesses could signify that you need your air ducts cleaned. However, it's essential to consult your doctor to rule out other potential causes of your health problems.

Air ducts commonly become dusty, and dust inside the vents doesn't necessarily indicate contamination. However, you may be wondering if it makes sense to clean the ducts as regularly as you would the rest of your house. The EPA says the evidence for regular air duct cleaning is unclear, although it's unlikely to be harmful if you hire a knowledgeable, reputable company. However, incorrect cleaning methods could release contaminants and allergens into your home and may damage your ductwork and HVAC system.

The National Air Duct Cleaning Association recommends scheduling an air duct inspection at least once per year. Your inspector can advise you how often to clean your air ducts based on their findings.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.

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