Is duct cleaning a waste of money? Below you’ll see furnace duct cleaning advantages and disadvantages, why it needs to be cleaned, and how it helps with air flow.
Homeowners often wonder if the dust in their homes comes from their heating and cooling system ductwork. However, most dust comes from the outdoors, including outside air and soil containing contaminants. This dust, debris, hair, and dirt from indoor environments build up in the ductwork.
Not only will the dirt in ductwork re-circulate within your home, but debris will also end up in the heating and cooling equipment, causing a drop in efficiency and the system’s life. According to The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), “If your air ducts look dirty, they probably are.”
For many homeowners and office personnel with allergies, poor indoor air quality due to dirty ductwork may exasperate their condition. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system needs to remain clean to keep indoor air free of harmful particulates.
Although most of the contaminants in ducts are caught by the furnace filter, the re-circulation of the inside air five to seven times per day leaves debris behind that could cause a buildup over time.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautions, “Knowledge about the potential benefits and possible problems of air duct cleaning is limited. Since conditions in every home are different, it is impossible to generalize about whether or not air duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.”
This is an excellent point to keep in mind when deciding to have your furnace ducts cleaned. Read this informative guide to learn more about what furnace air duct cleaning does, the pros and cons of duct cleaning, and if it’s worth having your furnace ducts cleaned.
What Is Furnace Duct Cleaning?
Furnace duct cleaning refers to the removal of dirt, hair, dust and debris from the HVAC ductwork, the grilles, heating and cooling coils, drain pan, fan motor and housing, and any additional components of the forced air system.
The two primary goals of cleaning the HVAC system are to break up debris formed along the ductwork or on components of the system and remove the debris.
A technician uses brushes, air whips with compressed air nozzles or hand vacuuming to loosen debris. These techniques are used while a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum with negative pressure removes the particles and debris as they float into the air inside the ducts.
The process creates suction that forces the dirt into the large vacuum hose running through the system and out to the truck. The vacuum system may be truck-mounted or configured with a portable vacuum system. Both systems create a negative-pressure vacuum to remove the loose contaminants, leaving clean ducts behind.
The only additional cleaning that a technician may suggest is the use of antimicrobial sanitizers and disinfectants applied to the surfaces of the system to remove stubborn contamination or odors.
These cleaners must be approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and used by a professional only. Check out our whole house dehumidifier pros and cons guide for a related article.
Furnace Duct Cleaning Advantages
There are many benefits to having your furnace ducts cleaned, including improved health from clean indoor air and savings on utility bills, to name a few.
Below are the pros of furnace duct cleaning:
• Reduces dust in the home
• Reduces airborne contaminants
• Removes odors
• Cleans inside air of allergens
• Saves on energy bills
• Improves and extends equipment life
Furnace Duct Cleaning Disadvantages
There are a few cons to having your furnace ducts cleaned. The problems typically stem from hiring an unlicensed contractor without checking for references or with the Better Business Bureau. Contractors or technicians may disturb ductwork, causing it to come apart and leave a gap for air to escape.
While much ductwork is made from sheet metal, some are made of plastic linings mounted on spiral wiring for flexibility. This lining can be pierced without even knowing and cause an air leak.
Most, if not all of the cons of having furnace ductwork cleaned is related to poor workmanship.
• An inexperienced technician may not do a suitable job cleaning air ducts, and it’s difficult for a homeowner to tell the difference
• A careless technician may damage the mechanical components or the ductwork leaving air leaks or mechanical failures for the homeowner to deal with
• Improperly sealing vents and grills and not checking for leaks in ductwork could cause the dust and dirt in the system to be blown throughout the home
Read more about furnace duct cleaning pros and cons on this page.
Do Air Ducts Need To Be Cleaned?
Indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air due to tobacco smoke, dust, animal dander, chemicals, dead bugs, and household mold. There is great debate about whether air ducts need to be cleaned or not.
However, there are benefits from clean indoor air and an HVAC system that operates more efficiently. As quoted at the beginning of this guide, the NADCA states, “If your air ducts look dirty, they probably are.”
Some air duct cleaning companies may recommend your air ducts be cleaned every two years, every three years, or every five years. There is no recommended or suggested cleaning schedule by any government or environmental agency.
Furnace duct cleaning is not a part of HVAC service or maintenance. It should only be done if the ducts are visibly dirty, a major inside renovation has been done, lingering smoke damage after a fire, water seeped into the ductwork and caused mold, or vermin were found within the system.
Although ductwork may need to be cleaned to remove dirt, obstructions or debris, additional cleaning is not needed, especially if the homeowner practices preventive maintenance. This maintenance includes inspecting ductwork to be sure there are no air leaks, and all seams are properly sealed.
While the system is running, you can place your hand near the seals or hold a candle to check for air. Maintenance also includes replacing the filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendation for your HVAC system and cleaning the floor registers and vents with a vacuum every six months.
Does Cleaning Air Ducts Help With Air Flow?
Any obstruction in an air duct system will inhibit air flow, including debris or deceased vermin. Even a half an inch of dirt buildup on the inside of the ductwork can cause reduced airflow.
The dirt in the ductwork will also cause filters to clog up quicker, making it difficult for air to flow through the system. Cleaning air ducts that have any obstruction will help with air flow.
Still, there is much debate on the viability of air duct cleaning and increased air flow. To address air flow issues within a home’s duct system, a thorough inspection and testing by a professional technician is required.
Does Air Duct Cleaning Make A Mess?
When furnace air ducts are cleaned, professional technicians will be familiar with different HVAC configurations, ductwork vents and locations of grills and equipment.
Any openings will be sealed, and a proficient company will ensure their own equipment is clean and in good working order. It’s good advice to work with a NADCA certified company to be sure of professional and proper duct cleaning practices.
Your indoor air, carpeting, and furnishings should all remain clean during and after the technician is done cleaning. Depending on the company policies, technicians may be required to wear booties over their shoes, lay tarps over furniture, or place corner guards around wall corners and furniture bottoms. Corner guards protect walls and furniture from being scratched or dented by the cleaning hoses or equipment.
Is Air Duct Cleaning Worth It?
By having your furnace and air duct cleaned, any debris and dirt will be cleaned out from the ducts and the equipment. Often, HVAC system failures are due to dirt and dust buildup on the fan located inside of the air handler chamber.
The fan keeps the air exchanger cool. Once dirt and dust accumulate on the fan, the CFM (cubic feet of air per minute) is subject to being reduced by up to 50% and may cause cracks in the exchanger. This equates to a very expensive repair or replacement.
Having the furnace duct cleaned can result in energy savings. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that dust and dirt buildup in a furnace duct system can reduce energy efficiency by 25 to 40 percent.
The contaminants cause the system to work harder. A clean HVAC system doesn’t have to work harder when the temperature inside the home is raised or lowered, translating to less energy usage.
While there seems to be debates as to the benefits of furnace duct cleaning, you may benefit from a ductwork inspection. It’s imperative to do research on a furnace duct cleaning company and check their work record and reputation.
Schedule an appointment for an inspection and consult and with today’s technology, technicians can send video cameras into the ductwork to do a more thorough inspection.
Be sure to ask about this service and to see the results. If you don’t see dirt buildup, mold, or any obstructions, there may not be a need for a cleaning, and the cost may not be worth it.
Visit our page on types of home cooling systems for more related content.