Do you or your family members struggle with allergies caused by dust, pollen, and mold? Or does anyone in your home have other respiratory problems like asthma? Your central heating and cooling system, particularly your ductwork, could be causing unnecessary suffering for these sensitive individuals.
Many people don’t think about indoor air pollution, but it can be a serious problem based on many factors in your home. It’s true that there are lots of threats to indoor air quality. However, if you’ve never had your home’s ducts professionally cleaned, there could be harmful bacteria, mold, and other nasty pollutants hidden in places you can’t see. That hidden pollution could be circulating around your indoor environment through your heating and air conditioning system.
Today we’re taking a closer look at how ducts get dirty, what you can do about it, and why having professional cleaning performed by HVAC professionals who thoroughly understand your home’s heating and cooling equipment is the best choice.
What causes ducts to get dirty?
As with most areas and surfaces in your home, dirt and dust naturally accumulate in ductwork over time. The regular use of your heating and cooling equipment, which relies on the ductwork to distribute comfortable warmed or cooled air around your home, causes this dust and dirt to adhere to duct walls, as well as supply and return registers and grills.
Your system’s filter prevents some dust and dirt from passing into ducts, but if you’re not meticulous about replacing filters (or a previous owner of your home was not), they may not be protecting you as well as you think. Plus, while staying on top of filter changes and maintenance is extremely important, dust and dirt will continue to gather no matter what. You may be able to slow it down, but it can’t be entirely prevented.
Other causes of dirt and pollution in ducts include:
If you’ve had problems with your furnace or air conditioning system, it is possible that soot or other debris was released into your ductwork as part of a malfunction. You may have had your system professionally repaired or replaced, but unless you also had your ductwork cleaned after that problem occurred, those contaminants are likely still hanging around behind the scenes.
There are many ways that water can infiltrate ductwork. Leaks outside of the system such as a burst pipe or roof leak can cause water to seep into nearby ducts. Malfunctioning AC equipment can cause excess condensation to form. Even small amounts of water can cause big problems, like mold growth.
You can sometimes tell that mold is growing within your ducts if you notice a musty or mildew odor when your HVAC system is running.
Mold grows in locations where humidity is high and drying does not properly occur, and depending on conditions inside your ducts, this location may be a haven for mold. It has been well-documented that breathing in air that’s been exposed to mold can cause health problems, even for people that are not specifically allergic.
While it’s highly unpleasant to think about, infestations of insects and rodents happen regularly in homes. Having pets may increase your chances of a flea infestation. Cockroaches can be a problem in city homes or those close to water like rivers and lakes. Here in our home service area in South Central Pennsylvania, we have issues with brown marmorated stink bugs, which can also take up residence in ducts. Mice have also been known to find their way into ductwork, too, where they may leave an unsanitary mess behind.
As we already touched on, regularly changing filters in your heating and air conditioning system is helpful to keep dust and dirt from accumulating in your ductwork as quickly as if you neglect this basic maintenance task. However, if you’re the “set it and forget it” type with regard to your HVAC equipment – that is, you’ve never changed a filter and don’t follow a regular service and maintenance routine in partnership with a professional heating and cooling contractor, your ducts are likely very dirty.
Cleaning up dirty ducts
The answer to dirty, unhealthy conditions in your ducts is having them professionally and expertly cleaned. While it’s true that you can remove the grill and register covers and vacuum those yourself, it requires specialized duct cleaning equipment to clean and sanitize the entire system effectively.
This process does not need to be done that often – perhaps once every few years – unless extraordinary causes of dirty ductwork are not addressed. For instance, if you do have malfunctioning equipment and do not take steps to have it repaired or replaced, your ducts could continue to be polluted with unnecessarily large amounts of dirt and debris. Even if you have your ducts cleaned, without addressing the root problem, they will be filthy again in no time.
If you’ve recently moved into an older house and don’t know the service history of your HVAC equipment or whether there’s ever been an insect/rodent problem in your home, you should have your ducts cleaned before using your system very heavily. Treating your system as though it’s never been serviced in the past will help you get started on a healthy foot in your new home!
Trust the professionals
It’s true that there are many duct cleaning companies out there. Some focus only on cleaning ducts, while others, like us here at Ressler & Mateer, specialize in caring for all aspects of your heating and air conditioning systems. So, how do you choose?
First, consider choosing a service provider who fully understands your system mechanicals and how they utilize your ductwork when they’re working as they should. With HVAC professionals that also care for your ducts, you can feel confident that problems with your equipment that may be causing added dust and dirt will be addressed and corrected. Companies that just focus on cleaning may not have the expertise to educate you on why your ductwork is as dirty as it is, and they likely do not have knowledge and skills within their business to fix problems.
As with most home services, it’s always a good idea to get written estimates from any providers you’re interested in working with to ensure that there are no surprises after the work has been completed. Check customer testimonials and reviews online, as well, and ask friends and family members whether they’ve used the service you’re considering and whether they’d recommend it.
Here at Ressler & Mateer, we’re always 100% committed to getting the job done in a way that exceeds your expectations. Got dirty ducts? Get in touch with us today about cleaning your ductwork and checking up on your entire heating and cooling system to assure that it’s performing as efficiently and safely as it can.