Should Air Duct Cleaning Be Scheduled On a Regular Basis?

Air duct cleaning should be done on a routine basis. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends it every three to five years. While air ducts don’t need the annual maintenance ACs and furnaces do, contamination can affect your entire cooling and heating system. The dust and dirt you see at home may not be limited to visible surfaces. A professional air duct cleaning can eliminate contaminants to protect your health and HVAC system.

How Does Air Duct Cleaning Work?

You can remove and clean grills and covers and brush or vacuum inside vents close to them, but you can’t reach every part of your duct system. Your ductwork runs throughout your home, and much of it is in remote areas. A licensed HVAC professional can use various methods and equipment, including high-power vacuums, to perform duct cleaning. 

They may also treat duct surfaces to eliminate and prevent mold and bacterial growth. If your HVAC contractor doesn’t specify the product they’re using, ask what it is. The treatment should be a non-toxic, eco-friendly compound for a specific purpose. A type of sealant can also be sprayed into the duct system to coat and encapsulate surfaces, so fibers and other materials don’t escape and circulate in the air.

However, the primary steps an air duct cleaning service provider follows include:

  • Access Ductwork: The contractor opens panels and access ports to inspect and clean the entire system.
  • Check Ducts from the Outside: Air ducts are inspected on the outside for holes, rust, and other damage.
  • Evaluate the Interior of Ductwork: A borescope is used to inspect long ducts; a camera transmits images to a screen.
  • Vacuum Air Ducts: Depending on the duct system and how dirty it is, the technician can use a vacuum system that exhausts materials outside your home or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum equipment.
  • Brush Duct Surfaces Clean: Specialized brushes help dislodge and remove stubborn dust, particles, and other materials. If a duct is made of fiberglass or a metal duct is lined with fiberglass, soft-bristled brushes are used.

Throughout the process, carpeting, furniture, and household items are covered and protected. The contractor also seals and re-insulates any access holes they have made, so your newly cleaned ducts are airtight. In addition to air duct cleaning, they should also clean the return and supply air plenum, drain pan, coils, fans, registers, grills, and diffusers.

When Should I Have My Air Ducts Cleaned?

Some specialists say to have air ducts professionally cleaned every year or two. The NADCA says you can go up to five years between cleanings. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stresses there are many sources of indoor air pollution. Cleaning, cooking, and movement around your home can release dust and particulates. Duct cleaning hasn’t been proven to eliminate dust and pollution and the health problems they can be associated with.

The EPA recommends air duct cleaning on an as-needed basis (we’ll soon discuss the signs you should consider scheduling service). It also urges the maintenance of fuel-burning appliances to limit indoor pollution and hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore, duct cleaning alone doesn’t improve HVAC efficiency, especially if heating equipment isn’t maintained and AC coils and fans aren’t cleaned.

Primary Benefits of Cleaning Your Ductwork

Although it’s not the only way to maintain your HVAC system, air duct cleaning can have substantial benefits, including:

  • Indoor Air Quality Improvements: You spend most of your time indoors, where there are many sources of pollution. Cooking, smoking, and even cleaning (many household cleaning products have potentially harmful chemicals) contribute to indoor air quality issues. Pollutants from inside and outside can make their way into ductwork and circulate, the effects of which are most noticeable to people with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues.
  • Prevent HVAC Repairs and Early Replacement: Dirty air ducts and HVAC components can force the system to work harder, accelerating wear and tear. Therefore, it may require frequent repairs and its lifespan may be reduced, costing you more than if you schedule routine maintenance and duct cleanings. 
  • Save Money on Your Energy Bills: A lack of maintenance reduces energy efficiency. Dusty, dirty air ducts can cause your air conditioning system to run longer. Before this leads to a major repair, utility bills increase steadily, so you pay more for electricity each month, even if your utility company hasn’t increased rates. 

How Do I Know I Need an Air Duct Cleaning Service?

No official guidelines exist for determining when to have your ductwork cleaned. The best time to schedule service is in the spring or early fall. While the three- to five-year principle is fine in most cases, you should consider getting your air ducts cleaned more often if:

  • Your home was recently renovated
  • There’s nearby construction
  • You live in a high-traffic area

However, there are a few signs you should schedule a professional air duct cleaning as soon as possible. These include:

  • Excessive Dust: If air vents are covered in dust or debris, chances are the ducts are, too. Particles that don’t stick to duct walls when the system is on can blow throughout your home and recirculate in your HVAC system and rooms.
  • Mold Growth: Like dust, mold near vents or ducts can easily spread deep into the system. Mold thrives in dark, damp areas. Inefficient ducts are an ideal location where it can grow unchecked, while mold can release spores and toxins that spread throughout your home.
  • Infested Ducts: If you see, hear, or smell rodents or insects in your ductwork, call a professional. Pests will continue to proliferate if they remain undisturbed. Rodents are especially known for their ability to cause damage and may leave behind waste that spreads disease-causing germs.
  • Allergies Are Worse At Home: Seasonal allergies are common. But if your allergies are worse when you’re indoors than when you go outside, the reason may be in your air ducts. Call a professional to evaluate your ductwork and perform a thorough air duct cleaning if necessary. It can help alleviate your allergy symptoms.
  • You Have Pets: Pet hair and dander tend to go all over the place, including air ducts. More frequent duct cleaning can reduce the amount of pet dander. It can also reduce associated allergy symptoms and contribute to improved indoor air quality.
  • You Don’t Know When the Ducts Were Last Cleaned: If you can’t remember when you last had an air duct cleaning, chances are it’s been several years. Call a professional if this is the case or you’re moving into a new home, especially if the previous owners aren’t sure if or when the ductwork was cleaned.

Can I Prevent Contamination In Between Duct Cleanings?

Preventative maintenance doesn’t eliminate the need for duct cleaning, but it can minimize contamination. The following tips can prevent your ductwork from becoming contaminated:

  • Change your air filter every one to three months
  • Use the highest-efficiency filter your AC manufacturer recommends
  • Replace an air filter whenever it becomes clogged
  • Seal any gaps around the filter holder
  • Dust and vacuum your home regularly
  • Make sure a maintenance technician cleans the coils and drain pan
  • Seal off supply and return registers during a construction or renovation project
  • Do not operate your HVAC system until contractors clean up all the dust

It’s also important to keep moisture out of ducts. It can cause mold and HVAC performance issues. To prevent moisture problems, promptly repair leaks or water damage, ensure the condensate drain pan and drain line are clear, and properly seal and insulate ducts.

Are Certain Duct Materials More Prone to Contamination?

Air ducts can become contaminated whether they contain bare sheet metal or insulation materials such as fiberglass. However, bare metal is easier to treat with an EPA-registered biocide if there’s microbial growth. It’s important to keep ducts clean and dry. Insulating materials are common because they can help improve temperature control, conserve energy, and reduce condensation. They also provide noise control and meet various building materials and fire protection standards.

Is Duct Cleaning a Good Way to Protect My Family’s Health?

Some materials that contaminate ducts can pose health risks. This doesn’t mean a light amount of dust in your duct system is going to get everyone sick. It’s not known what the threshold is for how much contamination is bad. Periodic duct cleaning can help, but you should also stay on schedule with yearly HVAC maintenance tasks such as system inspections and cleaning coils, drain pans, and filters.

How Much Does Air Duct Cleaning Cost?

Based on 2024 data by Angi, the average air duct cleaning cost is $380. However, the service can range from $150 to $795 depending on the size of your home, type of ducts, number of vents, accessibility, how contaminated the system is, and labor. Mold remediation, pest removal, duct sealing, and other services cost extra.

Schedule an Air Duct Cleaning with Trio Heating & Air

We provide a range of indoor air quality services in San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area. Our licensed professionals provide thorough inspections and can employ various techniques to ensure your air ducts are clean. They also install different types and brands of whole-house air purifiers. To learn more or consult with our team about whether it’s time for an air duct cleaning in your home, call (415) 234-4728 today.

Upgrade Your Comfort

Schedule your service with Trio Heating & Air today!

Book now