The HVAC air ducts in your home are important for ensuring that your home’s ventilation is working correctly. If the air ducts become dirty, this dirty air can be circulated throughout the house, making the inhabitants sick with allergies and other health issues.

According to HVAC professionals, air ducts should be cleaned every three to five years. There may be some scenarios like mold or rodent infestations that may require that air ducts are cleaned immediately to prevent the problem from getting worse. Air duct cleaning can improve household allergies.

Depending on the condition of your air ducts, cleaning them might be a waste of time and money, or it could save your sinuses. Read on to learn more about getting an air duct cleaning and what it does for your HVAC system.

How Often Should Air Ducts Be Cleaned?

Air Ducts don’t have to be cleaned frequently. However, they do need regular maintenance over the years to maintain the efficiency of your HVAC system.

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends that HVAC air ducts be cleaned every three to five years or as needed. In some cases, cleaning may not be needed for six to eight years.

The length of time between HVAC air duct cleaners depends on the environment in which the air ducts are located. For air ducts with a strong presence of mold, dust, and other pollutants, duct cleaning may need to be performed more frequently for the safety of the household. The best way to determine whether your HVAC system needs cleaning or not is to have it inspected.

How to Know if Air Ducts Need Cleaning

Air ducts may not require very frequent cleaning, but there are signs you might run into that it’s time to think about getting an HVAC expert to inspect yours. Here are a few of the signs you should watch out for to determine if you should get your air ducts cleaned (Source: Dustless Ducts):

  • Clogging: Air duct cleaning typically doesn’t improve the force of airflow through HVAC systems unless the ducts are very clogged. However, clogging of the air duct fan system can prevent the fans from moving air through the system efficiently.
  • Changing out air filters often: If you find yourself constantly having to change out dirty air filters in your home, this can be an indication that the air ducts themselves are full of dust and other pollutants.
  • Musty smells: Unpleasant odors coming from the vents in your HVAC system can be an indicator that the ducts need cleaning. These smells can be the result of either mold build-up in the ducts or even a dead animal decomposing in the duct system.
  • Mold and mildew in the home: If you find yourself battling breakouts of mold or mildew inside your home, these spores are usually originating from your HVAC system.

If you’re having problems with your HVAC system and suspect the air ducts need cleaning, the best way to verify the issue is to have the air ducts inspected by an HVAC specialist. Household maintenance records can also give you an indication of the last time the air ducts were cleaned if you’re not sure how long it’s been.

Is Air Duct Cleaning a Waste of Time?

The EPA recommends duct cleaning for households that suffer from allergies since it can greatly reduce the use of nebulizers and other allergen controls indoors. However, duct cleaning can’t usually do much to correct an HVAC system that has poor airflow, it’s not recommended for general circulation issues.

Another aspect of duct cleaning that the EPA does not recommend is the inclusion of biocides, or chemicals designed to destroy mold and other allergens in the ductwork. Studies have not shown these biocides to be effective in preventing mold build-up over time and they haven’t been studied for human safety, so they’re generally considered an unnecessary risk.
(Source: Environmental Protection Agency)

Benefits of Air Duct Cleaning

Even though air ducts don’t have to be cleaned very often, there are still some tangible benefits of making sure that the service is performed regularly on your home’s ventilation system. Here are a few of the advantages of making sure that the air ducts in your HVAC system are inspected and cleaned:

  • Safety: If your HVAC air ducts are extremely clogged with dust, this can cause a backup of carbon monoxide into the home if you run heating units such as a wood-burning furnace or other heaters.
  • Efficiency: Air ducts that have been cleaned can pass air more efficiently than air ducts that haven’t, especially if you have your air duct fans and other pass-through valves in the system cleaned at the same time. Removing excess dust from the system can help extend the lifespan of components like cooling coils, heat exchangers, and fans.
  • Mold and dust removal: If your family suffers from seasonal allergies, cleaning the air ducts can lead to a much more comfortable home environment. This is especially true for those with pet allergies since pet allergens from a previous home’s owner can get trapped in the HVAC system even if you don’t currently have pets.
  • Air ducts don’t have to be cleaned often for you to reap the advantages of having the service performed. However, it’s worth the trouble to have them inspected to see what kind of air duct quality you’re dealing with. HVAC inspections are often the first indicator of bigger problems with the home like rodent infestations or mold build-up.

    How Much Does It Cost to Have Air Ducts Cleaned?

    Air duct cleanings are relatively inexpensive, with most cleaning services running between $250 and $500. Average air duct cleaning costs in America run at $373 per session. (Source: Bob Vila)

    It’s recommended that when you arrange for an air duct cleaning of your HVAC system you also have other components in the system cleaned at the same time such as fans, heat exchangers, and cooling coils. Cleaning these components can have a much more tangible effect on your home’s HVAC efficiency and longevity than cleaning the ducts themselves.

    Duct Cleaning Should Only Be Performed as Needed

    Air duct cleaning is a service that you don’t have to have done on your home very often. However, a thorough cleaning every three to five years can help extend the lifespan of your HVAC system and can help prevent more costly maintenance down the road.


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