Do-It-Yourself Duct Cleaning Tips

Many people are concerned these days about home air duct cleaning. People with allergies and other respiratory problems may be particularly interested in making sure this component of their home is not contributing to their health issues. Professional services have sprung up to do the job for you, but some homeowners wonder about doing this job themselves. For those who are ready for taking on this maintenance task, there are a few things worth knowing.

One thing is that the EPA says that cleaning of home air system ducts is not generally needed on a yearly basis. They do recommend yearly replacement of air filters, or more often if they get dirty quicker. They also recommend cleaning of the condensate pan at least once a year, as well as the heating and cooling coils inside the unit and having the system inspected.

Cleaning the inside of the ducts, cleaning of registers, grilles, fan motor and housing are optional by EPA standards. However, they do recognize that cleaning of these components may help people with respiratory or other health challenges, or be advisable for systems operating in areas with heavy pollution.

Mold inside the system is sometimes a problem. Mold that starts in one part of the system, like near, or in the condensate pan or humidifier, can get airborne and take hold in ducts, grilles, registers and other components. Reaching mold in a duct system can be hard or impossible.

Biocides are sometimes used for killing the mold. Biocides must be registered for specific use in duct work. There are a few biocides registered for metal ducts. Flexible ducts do not have any approved biocides registered with the EPA at this time.

Mold contamination in flexible ducts may mean replacing the duct work. There are risks to health in using biocides for duct cleaning. Anyone thinking about this solution should consult a professional HVAC contractor.

Beyond that, cleaning the system involves dusting and wiping the grilles and register covers inside and out. Although a damp cloth may be needed for removing sticky dust, excess water should not be used as it can lead to mold. Steam cleaning of duct work is definitely not recommended for the same reason.

While the grills are off, vacuum as far back into the ducts as possible. Before starting any cleaning work on the heating and cooling system, turn the system off at the thermostat and also flip the breaker switch for safety.

The condensate pan can be vacuumed out with a wet/dry vacuum or mopped up with a sponge mop. Don’t use any strong soaps or cleaners as they may release odor into the system. Filters should be taken out and held up to the light and inspected. If they are clogged with dust, throw them out and replace with a clean filter.

The heating and cooling coils are inside the unit and are accessed by removing one or more panels. Be certain the power is off before opening the unit. Brush the coils with a stiff, dry brush and wipe them with a clean cloth. Look for excess water on the coils that could be a sign that the system needs servicing.

Look for leaks or wet areas in insulation wherever it comes in contact with any component of the system. If there is moisture, get professional help for resolving the source of the problem. Clean the motor and blower units with a damp cloth or brush to remove dust and debris.

These steps are the basics of cleaning a forced air heating and cooling system, whether it is done by the homeowner or a professional duct cleaning service.

Can Air Duct Cleaning Help Against Allergies?

The goal of regular duct cleaning is to remove dust, mold, dirt and other irritants from the home, improving air quality and reducing the risk of a serious reaction in people with asthma or allergies. While there’s no proof that cleaning your ducts regularly will eliminate allergies, it can be an effective way to reduce irritants.

duct cleaning reduces allergies

Most people think of allergens as things that occur outside the home. Dust and air pollution aren’t the only problem substances, however. It’s easy for small particles to build up inside air conditioning ductwork. Dust, mold spores, mildew and even pet hair can then be circulated around your home by your air conditioning system’s fan. This pulls allergens into rooms that have been well-cleaned. It also increases the risk of an allergy or asthma attack in sensitive people. This is a bigger problem in humid areas where mold grows readily.

While the air ducts aren’t the only source of allergens or asthma triggers in your home, they’re one that many sensitive people often overlook. Dirty ducts could be causing your air-cleaning devices to work harder. They could also be creating a source of irritation that even regular vacuuming can’t entirely overcome. Air duct cleaning is a viable option for people who know they have allergies or asthma and who already take precautions elsewhere in their homes.

Not all dirty air ducts are a serious problem. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a thin layer of dust won’t necessarily cause problems, even for people with respiratory sensitivities. Cleaning these ducts provides little to no benefit for healthy people and those with mild allergies. Those with more severe problems may experience greater symptoms from dirty ducts, however, especially if their HVAC system is home to mold or pests.

The EPA recommends having your air ducts cleaned by a professional whenever you see substantial mold growth on metal or other hard surfaces. This may require having your ducts inspected by an experienced technician. If your service provider reports mold, ask them to show it to you so that you can make an informed decision about cleaning your ducts.

duct cleaning reduces allergies
duct cleaning reduces allergies

It’s also a good idea to have the ducts cleaned if you know that insects, rodents or other pests have been living inside, or if there is so much dust and dirt inside your ducts that they become clogged. If you see your air conditioning registers emitting dust, cleaning should be a real priority. Some people have their ducts cleaned every few years because they don’t want to worry about the risk. No matter what cleaning schedule you choose, you can feel confident that cleaning isn’t harmful, either to your health or the condition of your ducts.

You can also choose from many services designed to protect your ducts. Some HVAC companies offer chemical biocides that kill mold, bacteria and other micro-organisms. These substances are designed to prevent your ducts from being colonized in the future, but there’s not a lot of information about their effectiveness. The EPA notes that no biocides are currently approved for use in air duct systems with internal insulation, so if you have this kind of ductwork, consider biocide application carefully.

There’s no proof that cleaning your home’s ductwork will reduce your chances of an asthma or allergy attack. All authorities say it won’t do any harm, however. It could even cut down on mold spores, mildew, and irritating dust. If you’re not sure about cleaning your ducts, get advice from a trustworthy professional who will talk honestly about what duct cleaning services are right for you.