Wondering What’s Involved with Air Duct Cleaning? We’ve Got the Scoop!
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. It’s definitely best to leave it to the pros!
The most effective method of cleaning an HVAC system is through source removal — the process of removing built-up dirt and debris. This requires a professional contractor to place the system under 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 debris can then travel through the air ducts and into a sophisticated vacuum system for removal.
The result? Cleaner, fresher indoor air and a more efficient HVAC system, reduced energy costs, and longer life for the entire system.
The Basics of Professional Air Duct Cleaning
In actuality, 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.
Just as you wouldn’t mop only half of your kitchen floor, you shouldn’t only clean part of your HVAC system. NADCA recommends cleaning the entire HVAC system, including all of the following components:
- air ducts
- drain pan
- air plenum
- blower motor and assembly
- heat exchanger
- air filter
- air cleaner
The overall cleaning process has two main components:
- breaking contaminants loose
- collecting all those contaminants
Properly cleaning HVAC systems requires removing all sources of contamination. Source removal begins with the use of one or more agitation devices designed to loosen contaminants from the surfaces within the heating and air conditioning system. These agitation devices might include brushes, air whips, compressed air nozzles, or “skipper balls.” Agitation can also come from hand-brushing or contact vacuuming.
During cleaning, the entire HVAC system is placed under continuous negative pressure (a vacuum) to prevent the spread of contaminants. 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. This negative pressure also serves to extract the loosened contaminants, which are then collected and removed from the home.
There is a wide variety of equipment available to HVAC cleaning professionals. Both truck-mounted and portable vacuums can be used to remove contaminants and get the system cleaned to NADCA’s professional standards.
In some cases, antimicrobial chemicals like sanitizers, disinfectants, and deodorizers can be applied to nonporous surfaces in HVAC systems to address microbial contamination and help control odors. But only chemicals registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be used. These products should only be considered after mechanical surface cleaning has been completed, and the need for such treatment has been deemed necessary. And as always, a product should not be used in any other way than it is intended, as noted on its label.
If you’re interested in the nitty gritty and learning more about NADCA’s guidance on using chemical products in HVAC systems, you can click here to read our White Paper on the topic.
Keep in mind that just as the surfaces in your home become dirty over time, so can your air ducts. Through simple, everyday life, our homes generate all sorts of contaminants and air pollutants like pet dander, dust, mold, and chemicals. And, all of those contaminants get pulled into your home’s HVAC system and recirculated an average of five to seven times per day! Dirty air ducts can contribute to all sorts of health issues — especially for folks with respiratory conditions, auto-immune disorders, asthma, or allergies. Getting your air ducts cleaned can greatly improve your indoor air quality and reduce health problems.
When you’re ready to tackle those air ducts, make sure you choose a qualified contractor to ensure the job is done right. 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.