How often should you clean the air ducts in your home?

Air ducts, like any other air conditioning system, require regular cleaning to ensure maximum efficiency. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends cleaning air ducts every three to five years. However, in some environments, the need to clean commercial air ducts is more immediate. You may consider cleaning air ducts simply because it seems logical that air ducts get dirty over time and should be cleaned from time to time. As long as cleaning is done properly, there is no evidence to suggest that such cleaning is harmful.

The EPA does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned routinely, but only when necessary. However, the EPA recommends that if you have an oven, stove, or chimney that burns fuel, they be inspected to make sure they are working properly and serviced before each heating season to protect them against carbon monoxide poisoning. Some service providers may also suggest applying chemical treatments (sealants or other encapsulants) to encapsulate or cover the interior surfaces of air ducts and equipment housings, as they believe this will control mold formation or prevent the release of dirt particles or fibers from ducts. Whether or not you decide to clean your home's air ducts, preventing water and dirt from entering the system is the most effective way to prevent pollution (see How to Prevent Duct Contamination).

A negligent or properly trained service provider can damage ductwork or the heating and cooling system, potentially increasing heating and air conditioning costs or requiring difficult and costly repairs or replacements. In addition, studies on the effects of duct cleaning do not conclusively show that the presence of dust and dirt in ducts increases the levels of particles inside the house. Hiring a professional HVAC technician to repair your unit and air ducts is the best way to keep your home healthy. However, many modern residential air duct systems are built with fiberglass duct panels or sheet metal ducts lined inside with fiberglass duct lining.

In addition, there is no evidence that a small amount of household dust or other particles in air ducts poses a health risk. While many of these products can legally be used inside uncoated ducts if all instructions on the label are followed, some of the instructions on the label may not be suitable for use on ducts. In addition, the resistance of sealants to deterioration over time, which could add particles to the air in the ducts, has not yet been evaluated. To see the entire interior of the ducts, a video inspection by an air duct cleaning company is necessary.

Moisture can enter the duct system through leaks or if the system has not been improperly installed or maintained. However, in large quantities, dust and dirt can pose a danger to air quality, so it is important to check the vents regularly and clean the ducts if an excessive amount of dirt enters the house through the exhaust vents. When service providers visit your home, ask them to show you the contamination that would justify cleaning your ducts. On the other hand, if a service provider doesn't follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause problems with indoor air.

Rosalind Crapp
Rosalind Crapp

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