Air Duct Cleaning

By Sharon Naylor

January 7, 2011 5 min read

It makes sense that cleaning the air ducts in your home is a smart way to eliminate air pollution and reduce allergens, molds and toxins, but the Environmental Protection Agency wants you to explore the ins and outs of air duct cleaning before you call about a coupon you received in the mail for a first-time cleaning or even before you schedule your annual air duct cleaning appointment.

*What's Involved in Air Duct Cleaning?

A professional air duct cleaning company -- ideally one that uses certified environmentally safe mechanisms and cleaning agents -- will assess the condition of your ducts using visual and inserted video camera technology. It will show you real-time video results of dust, mold, mildew and other buildups or blockages inside your ducts as your "before" picture. It then uses specialized cleaning equipment to dislodge all debris and coatings, and long tubes and vacuum mechanisms remove the particles and debris into a collection tank located outside, in or by the company's truck. After the initial cleaning, the company may offer to spray an anti-germ solution inside your ducts.

*The Dangers

The EPA reports several dangers associated with air duct cleaning. The first and most hazardous is a company's offer to spray the inside of your ducts with a chemical biocide to kill bacteria and fungi and to prevent future biological growth. It also may offer to spray on a sealant to prevent dust, dirt and other particles from being released into your living areas. However, the EPA says that use of chemical biocides and sealants has not been proved effective in duct purification, and research has not yet been fully conducted to prove the absence of adverse health effects. At present, no chemical biocides are registered with the EPA for use on internal air ducts.

Many companies advertise all-natural cleaning and decontaminating processes and materials, and you certainly should research and investigate the cleaning solutions that any company says that it uses. You can find the solutions' names on a company's website, and you can call the company to ask for its cleaning solutions' brand names in order to conduct your own smart research. Safe ingredients can be found at the EPA's website, http://www.epa.gov, or at http://www.naima.org.

Another danger potentially caused by air duct cleaning is damage done to the ducts, connections and the air conditioner or heating units themselves through overly vigorous cleaning actions, ill-fitting cleaning tools and the age of the duct system itself. No matter how experienced or careful a professional air duct cleaner is, a fragile system can give way, leading to expensive repair costs.

*When Is Air Duct Cleaning Recommended?

In certain situations, air duct cleaning is advised by the EPA. According to its site, you should consider professional air duct cleaning services if you see any of the following dangers:

--Visible mold inside your air ducts or on other components of your cooling and heating systems.

--Evidence of rodents or insects inside your air ducts.

--Mostly or completely clogged air ducts, filled with excessive amounts of dust and debris.

--Dust and debris released into your home through the supply registers.

These air pollution dangers certainly do need to be remedied with a professional cleaning, perhaps without the follow-up chemical sprays, and the larger issue is discovering and remedying the cause of molds and mildews. Any broken ducts where water gets in need to be replaced to eliminate the cause of molds or mildews that can make you and your family sick.

The EPA says that it is normal for return registers to get dusty, because it is pulling dust-laden air through the grates on a regular basis. Dusty registers are not always an indicator that your entire air duct system needs cleaning. Simply vacuum -- or remove and clean -- your return registers at this time of year to improve your indoor air quality, cut down on allergens and provide a better appearance on these visible facets of your rooms.

If your family members are experiencing any unusual allergic symptoms or illnesses, contact your doctor for a full checkup before self-diagnosing and then launching an expensive professional air duct cleaning.

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