Should You get Your Ducts Cleaned?

hvac ducts

The short answer is no. There are very limited circumstances which would require you to have your ducts cleaned. If you do have significant cause for having your ducts cleaned, then there is a problem with your duct system and any issues would need to be diagnosed and repaired by a qualified HVAC contractor to prevent a recurring issue.

If you ask the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, or any local air duct cleaning services, they will tell you that you need regular duct cleaning. They may sell you on that idea that clear air ducts can help with respiratory problem, or energy bills through increased energy efficiency. It’s not true.

It is true the indoor air quality of your living space may have pet dander, dust mites, mold spores, and other particles that can lead to allergic reactions or health problems. Some homeowners simply feel they have excessive amounts of dust. Cleaning your air duct system likely will not help this. In fact, it can make it worse.

Ducts Generally Do not Affect the Quality of The Air in Your Home

If there is dust and dirt in your ducts, it is inert, or plated out. In simpler terms, it is not going to move. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency performed studies that showed not only did dirty air ducts not affect the indoor air quality, that frequent cleanings actually made the air quality worse. This is because the agitation inside the hvac ducts from the rotary brush cabling system that “professional cleaning” companies use cause the dust that was inert to become airborne and be distributed into the home.

If you want to improve the quality of the air in your home, choosing the right filters, and replacing them often is more effective. In addition, proper filters and prompt replacement protection the other components of your heating and air conditioner system. Dust and dirt in your system can get clogged in the blower motor, heat exchangers, and evaporator coils.

Check out our comprehensive guide for choosing the best air filters for your home.

Clean Air Ducts Do not Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your System

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association makes a dubious claim on their website:

“According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted…When an HVAC system is clean, it doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the temperature you desire. As a result, less energy is used, leading to improved cost-effectiveness”

Although this true, there are no studies, or evidence to support the claim that clean ducts would save any of that energy. Most of that energy is lost through leaks in the system, insufficient insulation on the HVAC components, and the heat being exhausted outdoors when gas, or oil are used. It is a good idea to have your entire HVAC system cleaned maximum efficiency, but more importantly to prolong the life of the system and prevent expensive repairs.

Cleaning Your Ducts Can Damage Your Ducts

A variety of materials have been used over the years to construct air ducts. Traditionally they were made of metal, then duct board, and now almost all new homes have soft plastic flexible ducts. These soft ducts connect to metal air vents where they connect to the ceiling, walls, or floors. It is absolutely possible that a service provider could damage these ducts while trying to clean them.

cleaning hvac ducts can actually damage them

When Should Ducts be Cleaned

Sometimes, your ducts do need to be cleaned. This could be when your ducts have been infested by pests, a leak or flood caused water damage or substantial visible mold growth, or the ducts were not sealed of during a large remodeling project.

Sometimes it’s just the supply registers. My registers are in the floor and I have four kids. The supply registers get nasty. Luckily, I have an 8 and 12 year old who are very capable with a shop vacuum cleaner . I have them clean the supply registers and that’s it.

If your ducts need to be cleaned, they need to be repaired. You should never have your ducts cleaned without finding out why you have dirty ducts in the first place.

supply registers may need to be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner

How to Find Professional Duct Cleaning Services

Never ever choose a company offering cheap duct cleaning services. It generally costs about $400-$1000, or more to have your ducts cleaned. If you see a deal for $79, or $119 it’s probably a scam.

“After the technician arrives, he will perform an inspection on the ducts and then approach you with the terrible news. You have BLACK MOLD in your ducts. He may even have a “test” to show you. Of course, the price you paid doesn’t include remediation of the mold, and the new price is in the ball park of $1100.

We perform mold testing, and we use a third party laboratory to analyze our samples. Not once have we ever found “black mold”. It is a term used to invoke fear, and fear sells. Some times they bring a fake mold test, and use language like “level 2 contamination.” It is just an attempt to sell you on a service you don’t need.”

Use Google Reviews, ask your friends, or give me a call. Ask them if they’re going to examine the system to see what improvements need to be made to prevent future cleanings. If they say you have a mold problem ALWAYS get a second opinion from a third party specializing only in mold or environmental testing.

Summary

Your ducts don’t need regular cleaning. There is no evidence that clean duct work results in cleaner air, or improved energy efficiency. If you do have ducts that need to be cleaned, you need to figure out what compromised the system, and have that addressed. Never hire cheap service providers.