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Should I have my air ducts cleaned?

Should I have my air ducts cleaned?

One question we are asked quite regularly is, “Do I need to have my ducts cleaned?” or “Is it necessary to have my ducts professionally cleaned?” While the answer isn’t always straightforward, the answer is generally “No, it is not necessary to have your air ducts cleaned.”

If you’ve talked to someone in the duct cleaning business, this may surprise you. However, we’d like to explain a few facts to you and perhaps you’ll understand the concept a bit more clearly.

  • Realize that the air that moves through the supply duct system is moving at 500-600 feet per minute–that’s moving pretty quickly. This speed tends to keep things pretty clean.
  • The EPA agrees that homeowners, typically, don't need to clean their air ducts unless they have had some type of major event that introduced a significant amount of dirt or debris into the duct system.
  • Duct cleaning can be invasive and can actually damage your duct system. We constantly remind homeowners that they need to be careful that they don't have someone talk them into cleaning the ducts only to run some sort of electric equipment with brushes through the duct system that will end up damaging ducts or tearing parts of the duct system apart. Your duct system is like your arterial system when an artery is blocked or damaged… it’s a big deal.

Isn’t the dirt around the vent evidence that I need to clean my ducts?

When we tell homeowners they don’t need to clean their ducts, a common question is, “But what about the dust and dirt I see around my return grills? I see an area of discolored paint surrounding the air vent.” Most people assume that this is dirt from their duct system and it must be super dirty in there. The majority of the time, however, what is really happening is a static electric charge that is created by the high-speed air coming out of your air vent, which flows along your ceiling, creates a static electric charge on your ceiling. The static electric charge causes dust and dirt particles that are floating in the air — from carpeting, candles, cooking, pets and people — to be attracted to the ceiling and then stick to it. This dirty halo effect is most common if you have curved blade supply grills and/or you have a popcorn textured ceiling.

“If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.” — Mark Twain

Another possibility is that you have duct leakage.

If you see a lot of dirt and dust in your duct system, and your filter gets dirty very quickly, it may be that your duct system is leaky and you are sucking air in from the attic or some other space that contains a lot of dirt and dust. You could be sucking insulation or dust that is in your attic into your duct system and it is need of a good sealing. If you have a concern regarding growth in your ducts or you’re seeing a lot of dirt inside the duct system or collecting on the filter, it might be a good idea to have a professional AC contractor look into the problem.

Before you let a duct cleaning company do any work on your system, we highly recommend you call us at McCullough Heating and Air. We care about your HVAC system from top to bottom. We’d love the chance to inspect your system and make suggestions on the best way to keep everything working its best today AND in the future.

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