Know When and Why to Clean Your Home HVAC Ducts

Springtime house cleaning often brings to mind the question… should I have ductwork in my home inspected and cleaned professionally? But is it really necessary? Experts have a lot to say about whether it’s really a good idea.

When you see dust buildup around the supply vents in your home that provide heat or cooling, the natural question becomes are my vents dirty and need cleaning? Excess dust you see on glass table-tops and furniture as you do your springtime cleaning may also set you wondering. “Dust buildup can differ greatly from one home to another, explains Darren Impson, President, Paul Davis of Tampa, Florida “So, it’s impossible to generalize about whether air duct cleaning in your home is necessary. Here are some tips to help you evaluate your situation.”

“A simple visual inspection of the inside of the ducts with a flashlight can be the first step to evaluating the need for duct cleaning,” according to Impson. “If you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold, and if you don’t detect musty odors or visible mold growth, cleaning the air ducts may be unnecessary.” It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the intake registers. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust, insects, pests or debris. Simply vacuuming the air supply registers, or removing, washing and drying them, then replacing air supply filters, may be all that’s needed. On the other hand, if some family members are experiencing unusual health symptoms, or unexplained illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment, you may want to evaluate the situation more closely. 

More tips from Impson. “If your heating system includes in-duct humidification equipment, proper operation and regular maintenance of the humidifier as recommended by the manufacturer is a must. Moisture should not be present in ducts. Controlling moisture is the most effective way to prevent biological growth in air ducts.” Moisture can also enter the duct system through leaks or if the system has been improperly installed or serviced. Research suggests that condensation, which occurs when a surface temperature is lower than the dew point temperature of the surrounding air on or near cooling coils of air conditioning units, is a major factor in moisture contamination of the system. The presence of condensation or high relative humidity can contribute to mold growth on any type of duct. Controlling moisture can often be difficult and experts are your best choice to access and correct the situation. Ultraviolet light professionally installed in ductwork can also be effective in killing mold spores and protecting against future biological contamination.

“There are examples of ducts that have become badly contaminated with a variety of materials that may pose risks to your health,” explains Impson. “When our company treats a home after smoke damage or excess moisture contamination following a home flooding situation, we suggest duct cleaning. The duct system can serve to distribute excess contaminants throughout a home. In these cases, duct cleaning makes sense.” A light amount of household dust in your air ducts is normal. Duct cleaning is not considered to be a necessary part of yearly maintenance of your heating and cooling system, which consists of regular cleaning of drain pans and heating and cooling coils, regular filter changes and yearly inspections of heating equipment. Your local Paul Davis Restoration company can be a good source of expert advice when it comes to contamination involving smoke, water, mold and asbestos.