To many homeowners, understanding a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is a lot like trying to understand a foreign language. A few words sound familiar, but the overall system is a total mystery. Even fewer homeowners truly grasp how to properly maintain a central heating and cooling system.
While they aren’t actually part of the HVAC system itself, ducts are what actually give your system a purpose. They filter air and distribute it throughout your house, and have occasional maintenance needs that often go unnoticed. We compiled a list of questions you may have about air duct cleaning and spoke with Jack White, Vice President of Technical Services for Rainbow International.
How should I prepare to have my air ducts cleaned?
“Make sure there’s some clear space around the HVAC system and registers,” White said when asked how homeowners can make life easier for the team cleaning their ducts. “Once that’s done, the best thing you can do is stay out of the way to ensure your safety and allow the technician to complete the cleaning.”
What actually happens during a duct cleaning?
As one might guess, cleaning an expansive duct system is a bit invasive.
“The process begins by cutting an access port in the plenum, the box on top of the HVAC system that the ducts originate from,” White explained. From there, technicians insert long flexible brushes and “whips” into the ducts. The brushes and whips are powered by compressed air and usually spin and have a vacuum attachment to knock loose and suck up dust.
“You can’t just reach into the ducts and try to wipe it down,” White cautioned. “You need equipment with access to the entire duct system.”
How long should the process take?
“I’d say four hours is average,” White said. “It can be longer or shorter depending on the size of your home, of course.”
How much noise does duct cleaning cause?
“The noise levels are moderate,” White said after considering his answer for a moment. “You’ll have the vacuums and the air compressors, so it can get loud but the noise should be contained within the home. Some companies run their equipment through trucks, so that can make things a bit louder outside.”
How quickly will I notice a change in air quality?
“That all depends,” White said. “If you or your children have allergies, it can be immediate. It will also be immediate if the previous resident was a smoker.” The change in air quality may be subtler for others, but has positive health benefits.
Will duct cleaning cause the smell of the air in my house to change?
“You shouldn’t notice a drastic change in smell unless the source of an odor was in your ducts,” said White.
After my ducts are cleaned, how can I tell it was a good job?
“Part of the cleaning process is installing a new filter,” White said. “Check up on it after a few days and make sure it’s not soiling too quickly.” White chuckled as he mentioned that he’d caution homeowners against sticking their hands into registers, the output ducts found in rooms around the house.
What’s the best way to guarantee that the person cleaning my air ducts is a professional?
“There’s an organization called NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) that certifies technicians. It’s always good to see if they’re certified because that means they’re probably knowledgeable about the current technology,” White said.
How often should I get my ducts cleaned?
“About every year or year and a half if you’ve got severe allergies,” White recommended, noting that people who don’t suffer from allergies and lung conditions could probably wait longer.
One of White’s most interesting observations was the statement that Rainbow International does not only do duct cleanings at the express request of the homeowner. Typically, ducts get cleaned after a residential fire when ducts are filled with smoke residue - which is why Rainbow International offers the service and some HVAC companies do not.
Air duct cleaning may never be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing air quality, but it remains an underappreciated and necessary service that requires training and specific equipment to do properly. Rainbow International offers duct cleaning and a wide variety of other services should disaster strike, or even if you could just use an upgrade in air quality now and then.
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