Duct Cleaning Pros and Cons
Is duct cleaning a waste of money?
Well, that depends.
Duct cleaning is the process of removing dust and debris from the ductwork that circulates conditioned air throughout your home. If you think you need to clean your ducts every year as part of regular HVAC maintenance, the answer to the question of “is duct cleaning a waste of money” is a definite “yes.” Which is not to say that there aren’t situations when the answer to “is duct cleaning a waste of money” is a definite “no.”
To find out the best answer for the question “is duct cleaning a waste of money or not,” let’s look at:
- What Quacks Like a Duct?
- When Is Duct Cleaning a Waste of Money?
- When Is Duct Cleaning NOT a Waste of Money?
- Can You Do Duct Cleaning Yourself?
- What Professional Duct Cleaning Involves
- Why Use a Professional HVAC Company for Duct Cleaning?
What Quacks Like a Duct?
A duct is essentially a pipe made out of fiberglass, flexible plastic, or metal, usually round in shape except where it is bent to fit into the corners of walls and ceilings. There are two types of ducts:
- Return ducts: take air out of a room or space and back to the HVAC system
- Supply ducts: transport conditioned air from the HVAC system to a room or space
Of course, your ducts don’t actually quack like a duck (sorry for the dad joke), but if a duct cracks, that’s not so funny. A cracked or otherwise damaged duct is sucking in dust and unconditioned outside air, impairing both the efficiency of your HVAC system as well as circulating allergens and other contaminants that can affect your health. If this is the case, the answer to the question of “is duct cleaning a waste of money” is “yes,” unless you first repair the damage to the ducts. Let’s look at some other reasons when “yes” is the answer to the question, “Is duct cleaning a waste of money?”
When Is Duct Cleaning a Waste of Money?
There’s no need to clean your ductwork every year as part of your regular HVAC maintenance and check-up. In fact, regular duct cleaning can actually damage your HVAC system. In this case, not only is duct cleaning a waste of money, you may also waste money with a less efficient heating and cooling system.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there’s no evidence that air duct cleaning reduces dust levels or improves air quality. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. So you might think duct cleaning for any reason is a waste of money.
There are steps you can take to improve your indoor air quality and to control possible pollutants that will make any need for duct cleaning unlikely. These include:
- Regularly clean or replace dirty air filters
- Add additional air filtration to trap small particulate matter
- Regularly vacuum with a good quality vacuum cleaner
- Change pet bedding frequently
- Use humidifier to balance humidity between 34% to 60%
If your ductwork is properly sealed, you regularly change filters according to manufacturer recommendations, and you clean floor registers with a vacuum every six months to avoid dust build-up, duct cleaning is a waste of money.
That said, however, the EPA also states, “A blanket recommendation cannot be offered as to whether you should have your air ducts in your home cleaned.” The EPA says that there are situations for which duct cleaning is warranted.
Let’s take a look at those situations.
When Is Duct Cleaning NOT a Waste of Money?
The EPA does recommend cleaning your air ducts when:
- There is substantial visible mold growth inside ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system
- Ducts are infested with rodents or insects
- Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers
Dirt, dust, mold, pet hair, and pest infestation can accumulate inside your air ducts. While dirty ducts don’t necessarily mean there is unhealthy air in your home, dirty ducts can contribute to larger health issues by harboring contaminants that can cause serious problems for people with respiratory health conditions, autoimmune disorders, or some environmental allergies. Another consideration is if you’ve been directly affected by any of the wildfires here in California. An air duct cleaning could help clear out any smoke residue that seeped into your heating and cooling system.
Even if you aren’t experiencing sneezing or other allergy symptoms, dirty air ducts can make your HVAC system work harder by expending more energy and operating less efficiently. Which is why, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted.
Can You Do Duct Cleaning Yourself?
Is duct cleaning a waste of money if you try to do it yourself? Doing it yourself would naturally be less expensive. You could clean your ducts yourself, but you need to follow certain steps to ensure you aren’t causing more damage to your ducts than fixing any problems. Keep in mind that certified HVAC technicians employ specialized tools (see below) that the average homeowner doesn’t have, not to mention the experience in the proper operation of your HVAC system. Also, certain kinds of ductwork are easily damaged if improperly cleaned; the older the ductwork, the greater the likelihood of you doing harm by trying to clean the ductwork yourself. This is why many experts recommend you don’t clean ducts yourself.
What Professional Duct Cleaning Involves
First, before beginning any duct cleaning, a thorough inspection of your ductwork is conducted to look for damage, cracks, or anything that needs resealing or replacement. There’s no point in cleaning unsealed and damaged ductwork that allows dirty outside air in while also impairing HVAC efficiency. Since much of your ductwork system is behind your walls and ceiling, this inspection is usually accomplished by snaking a video camera throughout your ductwork.
Duct cleaning itself involves employing a high-end roto bristle brush machine with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter and vacuum. Starting at the furthest duct from the furnace, the brush is run through the ductwork multiple times to ensure all debris and dirt is removed. Following duct cleaning, a complete air filter, furnace, and indoor coil cleaning ensures that all particles are removed.
Why Use a Professional HVAC Company for Duct Cleaning?
The best way to keep a clean home environment and ensure your HVAC system is running properly is to consult a certified HVAC specialist with a demonstrated record of professional service and integrity. Ongaro and Sons helps make sure your ducts are all in a row.