Everything You Need to Know about PROPER Air Duct Cleaning

Posted on 04/12/2023

Just as all the surfaces in your home get dirty and dusty over time, the same can be said for your air ducts. With everyday life, all sorts of contaminants and air pollutants are generated in our homes, like bacteria, pet dander, dust, skin cells, mold, tobacco smoke, and even chemicals. And when all those contaminants are pulled into your home’s HVAC system, they travel through a system of air ducts, recirculating through your home an average of five to seven times per day. Over time, all that recirculation can cause a major build-up of contaminants in the ductwork.

Adding to the issue, rodents and insects might take up residence in ductwork. They can chew their way in, or find an unsealed access route, and once they move in, your home’s ductwork becomes their personal highway as they make their way all around your home. When rodents find their way into your ductwork, they make nests and leave droppings behind, as well as some other telltale signs like chewed materials, unpleasant smells, and a variety of bacteria. All those tiny fecal spores and bacteria can then make their way through the ducts and into your home, eventually contaminating the quality of the air you breathe.

Dirty air ducts can contribute to major health issues, especially for those with respiratory conditions, auto-immune disorders, asthma or allergies. In fact, according to the EPA, poor indoor air quality can aggravate conditions like asthma, and also increase a person’s risk of developing pneumonia and other upper respiratory problems. Even for someone without chronic respiratory problems, all those indoor air pollutants can lead to irritated eyes, nose, and throat, as well as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. 

And it doesn’t stop there. The contaminants in your home’s heating and cooling system also cause it to work a lot harder, and ultimately shorten the life of your furnace and/or air conditioner. Even with the proper use of filters, the heating and cooling system gets really dirty through normal, everyday use. When an HVAC system is clean, it doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the temperature you desire, and as a result, less energy is used, leading to lower electric bills. 

Having your air ducts cleaned properly can greatly improve indoor air quality, reduce the potential for health problems, save energy, and increase the life of your HVAC system. 

Seems like a no-brainer, right? 

The key for HVAC and ductwork cleaning is having the system PROPERLY cleaned. But what does that mean? Watch this short video to find out:

All About Proper Air Duct Cleaning

While many homeowners love a good DIY project, cleaning your air ducts isn’t something you should ever attempt on your own. It’s a complex process that requires advanced knowledge of HVAC systems, as well as specialized tools.

Air duct cleaning is a bit of a misnomer, since the entire HVAC system should be cleaned, and failure to clean all components of the system can result in recontamination of the entire system — which can minimize the benefits of cleaning. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommends cleaning the entire HVAC system, and making sure the contractor you choose is prepared to clean each of the following components:

  • air ducts
  • coils
  • drain pan
  • registers
  • grills
  • air plenum
  • blower motor and assembly
  • heat exchanger
  • air filter
  • air cleaner

The most effective method of cleaning an HVAC system and ductwork is through source removal — the process of removing built-up dirt and debris. This requires a professional contractor to place the entire system under continuous negative pressure using a specialized, powerful vacuum. While the vacuum draws air through the system, brushes, air whips, and compressed air nozzles are inserted into the air ducts to remove any debris that might be stuck to interior surfaces. The loosened debris can then travel through the air ducts into a sophisticated vacuum system for removal. 

Why negative pressure? The continuous negative pressure allows very fine particles to be removed from the system as they become airborne, ensuring that these particles aren’t released into the living space when the system is turned back on after it’s cleaned. 

While NADCA does not endorse one kind of equipment over another, there are two main types of vacuum collection devices, both of which will clean to ACR, the NADCA Standard: 

  • Truck- and trailer-mounted equipment
  • Portable equipment

Truck- or trailer-mounted equipment is generally more powerful than portable equipment, but portable equipment can be brought directly into a facility, allowing the vacuum source to be located closer to the ductwork. 

Regardless of type, vacuum equipment should be attached to a collection device for safe containment prior to disposal. Any vacuum collection device that exhausts indoors must be HEPA-filtered.

Have you recently built or remodeled your home? If so, you should consider duct cleaning for sure. Construction is messy, and even when contractors are diligent about cleaning up and closing off work areas to keep the rest of the site tidy, dust and debris will always find their way into the HVAC system. Even if the HVAC system is turned off and kept completely covered during the entire construction process (which isn’t typical), that dirt and dust will most certainly make its way into your ductwork. All that construction and remodeling dust can contain some pretty nasty particulate matter that you really don’t want to breathe, so it’s best to get this issue remedied quickly before respiratory problems develop.

Ready to get your HVAC system cleaned? If you want to make sure the job is done right, it’s best to trust NADCA members! NADCA members have signed a Code of Ethics stating they will do everything possible to protect the consumer and follow ACR, The NADCA Standard for Assessment, Cleaning & Restoration of HVAC Systems. Plus, NADCA members have technicians on staff with advanced training and certification in HVAC system cleaning, and they’re required to follow higher standards, ensuring that contaminants are removed at the source. 

When you’re ready to tackle those air ducts, NADCA makes it really simple for homeowners to find an air duct cleaning professional. All it takes is a zip code to search our online directory to find a NADCA member in your area. 

Click Here to Find a Certified Air Duct Cleaning Professional Near You