The HVAC system in your Raleigh, NC home should be professionally inspected and serviced each year. However, when performing routine HVAC maintenance, it’s important to include your ductwork. Without clean, structurally intact, and properly functioning air ducts, you won’t get the HVAC performance or level of efficiency you deserve. But how often should air ducts be cleaned, and who should do the work? Let’s consider the answers to these and other common duct-related questions.
General Recommendations for Cleaning HVAC Air Ducts
Professional opinions on HVAC air duct cleaning go both ways. You may have been advised to clean your HVAC air ducts once every three to five years. However, some sources assert that homeowners don’t need to have their air ducts professionally cleaned at all. Despite differing opinions, the fact remains that air ducts harbor dust, dirt, and all other particulates that float throughout your indoor air. HVAC air ducts also experience condensation. They shouldn’t be constantly moist, but this condensation can help create the ideal conditions for mold, mildew, and other issues.
While three to five years is the most widely recommended duct cleaning schedule, there are a number of factors that may make cleaning your ducts less or more often a better choice. For instance, if you live right near a busy freeway or in a neighborhood with active construction, cleaning your air ducts every two to three years could be the best schedule for your indoor air quality (IAQ) and the health of residents. If you have loose dirt or a backyard that isn’t landscaped, or if there are people living in your home who suffer from chronic respiratory ailments, cleaning your ducts every two years will limit the amount of allergens and contaminants being circulated throughout your indoor environment.
Signs That Your Air Ducts Are Ready to Be Cleaned
For quite some time, the dirt that builds up in your air ducts could be impossible to detect. However, if you haven’t had your air ducts cleaned in more than five years, you may be able to find evidence of built-up debris by simply looking at your HVAC air vents, registers, and grilles. If these components are covered in a thick, lint-like material, this is a good indication that this same debris has also accumulated within the actual ducting.
If you have noticeably low indoor air quality, changing out your HVAC air filter and cleaning off air registers and grilles is a great way to start improving it. However, if the relief that these measures provide is only short-term, scheduling HVAC air duct cleaning will extend their benefits.
Pest Problems and Your HVAC Air Ducts
Certain problems and events make it necessary to have air ducts cleaned right away. For instance, it is not uncommon for pests to wander into these systems. If there’s an adequate point of ingress, rodents, raccoons, and other small animals can take up residence in your air ducts. Their waste, fur, and other leavings will have a marked impact on your IAQ, and on the functionality of your HVAC equipment. After your pest problem has been dealt with, scheduling duct cleaning service will ensure that all traces of your unwanted guests have been effectively removed.
There are also times when pests wander into HVAC air ducts and cannot find their way back out. As a result, these animals die and decompose in HVAC ducting while homeowners are made miserable by the resulting germs and odors. If you suspect that there’s a decomposing animal in your ductwork, you can contact a local pest control service or you can call an HVAC professional. In addition to assisting with carcass removal, they can thoroughly deodorize and disinfect all affected areas.
Cleaning HVAC Air Ducts That Have Been Affected by Mold Infestation
Another major event that warrants urgent duct cleaning is mold infestation. In fact, many mold remediation services recommend cleaning HVAC air ducts as part of their treatment processes. Professional HVAC air duct cleaning is frequently a key component of mold treatment as a tool for preventing mold issues from recurring.
Having Integrated HVAC Accessories Put In
Routine filter changes and periodic air duct cleaning are both great ways to protect and improve your IAQ. Unfortunately, in some instances, these measures simply aren’t enough on their own. This may be the case if you or anyone else in your household has asthma or allergies, if your home is especially prone to mold, or if you have multiple indoor pets. Chronic IAQ issues and ongoing IAQ concerns can be the result of excess humidity, large amounts of foot traffic, and many other environmental and household factors.
In these instances, scheduling a professional IAQ assessment will give you a customized plan for improving the health of your indoor air. More likely than not, this plan will include the use of integrated HVAC accessories that address the specific factors affecting your IAQ. For instance, you might need humidification or dehumidification equipment, an air purifier, a media filter, or an air scrubber. No matter what IAQ equipment is recommended, your technician should start the installation process by first cleaning the ductwork that will host it. Fortunately, once your new IAQ equipment has been integrated into your HVAC system, it will likely minimize the need for future duct cleaning. With an integrated media filter, air purifier, or air scrubber, more of the airborne allergens and contaminants that normally bypass your standard air filter will be captured and retained.
Annual HVAC Air Duct Maintenance and Tips for Minimizing Air Duct Debris
Even though some factors may lead to you needing to have your air ducts cleaned more often than recommended, they should still be inspected and maintained annually. Scheduling air duct inspections each year will allow technicians to identify torn or otherwise compromised ducting, and repair it. Leaky ducts are among the greatest contributors to IAQ problems, and they can leave the interior of your ductwork coated with dust or filled with debris. These visits are also an opportunity for technicians to determine whether your ducts need a comprehensive cleaning or your current duct cleaning schedule is adequate.
To further protect your HVAC ductwork from efficiency-lowering and potentially allergy-triggering debris, be sure to inspect your air filters on a monthly basis. Depending on how often you use your system, the weather in your area, and lifestyle factors like pets, smoking, and more, you’ll want to change your filter every 30-90 days. Generally speaking, if you can’t see through your air filter, it’s time for a replacement. If your HVAC air filter is covered in a thick coating of lint-like material, continuing to use your air conditioner without first replacing it could cause collected debris to break off and enter the ducting. Not only that, but it can restrict the airflow your HVAC needs to function, potentially causing other problems.
Our team at Thermo Direct has been proudly serving residents of Raleigh and the surrounding areas since 2000. We provide heating, plumbing, cooling, and indoor air quality services. We also offer integrated IAQ accessories, duct sealing, and air duct replacements. If you’re worried about the condition of your home’s air ducts, we can help. Call Thermo Direct today to get started.