Are you doing your annual spring cleaning wondering whether or not you should clean the air vent ducts? If so, you’re not alone. So the term “duct cleaning” is a general term used to cover deep cleaning of various HVAC components such as supply & return ducts, registers, heat exchangers, coils, drip pans from housing, motors, and other components.
So, why clean your vent ducts?
These HVAC components can become contaminated if they are not maintained or installed correctly. They can also house all types of allergens including dust mites, dead skin cells, pollen, hair, mold, and pet dander.
Moisture can also increase the risk of microbiological growth, such as mold, and may result in spores being released into the living spaces. If these contaminants are inhaled, they can cause allergies or other symptoms.
When cleaning ducts, HVAC service providers used tools such as various brushes, powerful suction vacuums, and chemical biocides to clear debris from the system and other components.
They might also recommend chemical treatments (sealants and other encapsulants), to cover or encapsulate the inside surfaces of the ducts or equipment housings.
Can you clean your vent ducts yourself?
Yes and no. You can definitely clean the opening of the supply duct (which is on the floor, wall, or ceiling). It is, however, difficult for the average person to clean the long length of a vent duct.
These ducts can range from 10 to 40 ft long, which is why it’s recommended to have professionals perform this job for you. And this doesn’t mean that you can’t take your vacuum and clean your clothes dryer’s vent duct.
How to tell if your vent ducts need cleaning?
The EPA recommends cleaning ducts when there is significant mold growth in your cooling and heating system components, if the ducts have been infested by rodents or insects and if the ducts become so clogged that a lot of dust is actually getting into your home.
You should contact a professional if there is visible mold or mildew in the ducts or if you’re hearing strange noises from within them (or weird smells). If you have a gut feeling there’s funny business going on with the ducts, you can start by inspecting the registers, vents, drip pans, and grills.
10 Reasons to Clean Your Vent Ducts
Let’s take a look at the most common tell-tale signs that your air ducts need to be cleaned.
1. Excessive amounts of dust
Do you find your home is always dusty, even after you clean? You should have your ducts cleaned if you notice dust on every surface of your home almost immediately after you put away your cleaning materials.
Even the cleanest homes can still have dust, dirt, pet hair, and other harmful contaminants in their air ducts. The HVAC system may also produce dust every time it turns on. Look around at the air return and supply vents in your home. Are they visible dirty or dusty around your house?
If so, remove the vent cover and filter carefully and look at the ductwork. Are the metal parts covered in dust? Your ducts will need to be cleaned if you find dirt and dust both inside and out, especially near the cool-air vents.
Keep dust from building up by making sure that your HVAC system filters are regularly replaced. An air purifier can also be used. Air purifiers and filters work together with your HVAC system to capture a variety of airborne particles such as dust, tobacco smoke, or bacteria before they reach the ductwork.
2. Dirty laundry odors
The smell of dirty laundry or dirty socks is often due to issues with mildew or mold. It can grow in your ductwork or the heating element area of your furnace. As a result, the smell will permeate the home via the vents–even with air filters.
Keep in mind that if there is a mold issue this can cause respiratory problems for you and anyone living in your home.
3. Sewage smells
These smells are also common in vents, which can be caused by a clogged sewer line, cracks in pipes, or sewer vent pipes. The smell can be spread through your home if it is near enough to your ducts. If this is the case, you may want to contact a sewage company to have them do an inspection.
4. Sulfuric-like odors (or a struck matches smell)
Two common reasons can lead to sulfur-like odors. First, Chinese Drywall. Your home may have had renovations in the period (approx. This drywall may have been used by your contractor if you had renovations in 2001 or 2009.
A “fresh-struck matches” smell could be due to a malfunctioning heater or other electronic components.
5. Rotten egg odors
Remember, natural gas is odorless. The “rotten eggs smell” we all associate with is an additive to prevent explosive problems. You may have a gas leak if you smell the odor of rotten eggs in your home, especially around vent ducts or your furnace.
If this is the case, open all of the windows immediately and leave the house. Then, call your gas company or an HVAC provider to find out the exact location and repair it.
6. Burning smells
If you suspect that there is an odor or fire, investigate it immediately. Turn off the heater before doing so. You may notice a burning sensation around the heater specifically. There are many mechanical problems that can lead to increased friction, which heats the fan quickly, causing a burning odor throughout your home.
7. Mold issues
Mold can not only cause allergies or respiratory problems but can spread quickly through your home. If you live in humid areas, condensation can cause mold growth in your heating and cooling systems.
Mold may be visible around vent covers. Unfortunately, many parts of your heating or cooling system are not easily accessible so it is difficult to spot mold in your air ducts visually. Mold can be hard to spot, but it is usually visible as a musty odor.
It can be found in your air ducts. It is important to act quickly to protect your indoor air quality. A professional air duct cleaner will identify and correct any mold problems and help prevent it from returning.
8. Ducts are infested with pests and bugs
Sometimes, rodents, squirrels, and insects can get into your air ducts. These vermin can leave behind all kinds of bacteria. Rodents can make nests in your ductwork and leave droppings. This will send tiny fecal spores along the ducts. These spores can enter your home and pollute the air quality.
Rodents love to hang out in ductwork and will chew through it or seek out unsealed entryways.
Fun fact: Rodents’ incisor teeth never stop growing.
Your home’s ductwork becomes a highway for rodents as they travel around the house. Rodents can leave a trail of droppings in your ductwork. You may also find unpleasant odors or chewed-up materials.
Remember that rodent infestations may require more than just air duct cleaning. It is important to not ignore this issue as it can cause serious structural damage and make your HVAC system less efficient, which will result in higher energy bills.
9. Your house was just built or has undergone a major renovation
Construction can be messy and dust and dirt can easily get into your HVAC system if it isn’t turned off and covered throughout construction. You don’t want to inhale construction and remodeling dust.
If you had a major remodeling job completed in your home, be sure to use a hair filter to change your current filters, and monitor the dust levels in your home to be on the safe side.
10. Energy bills increasing
Your cooling and heating costs should be predictable year after year. Dirty ductwork could be the reason for a noticeably higher bill, especially when compared to a year ago. Sometimes, ductwork can get so dirty that it makes it difficult for air to flow freely through your HVAC system.
This can cause your furnace and AC to work harder to maintain a comfortable environment. As a result, you’ll pay more for utilities every month (gas or electric-depending on your system type).
Cost of having your air ducts cleaned?
HomeAdvisor.com estimates that professional HVAC mold removal can cost anywhere from $600-$2,000. This could include the additional costs of standard HVAC cleaning fees which can range from $100- $1,000. Mold removal, on the other hand, can be complicated and require special equipment, chemicals, and extra time–so it may be more expensive.