Ask Our Experts: Is Duct Cleaning Really Worth the Money?November 10, 2014 | 2:00 am
Question for Our Experts:
Is air duct cleaning really worth the money? Or is this something that, although helpful, you can really do without?
Our Experts’ Answer:
The Short Answer
In short – “Yes, duct cleaning is really worth the money!” While there may be some circumstances in which duct cleaning is not necessary, most customers realize HVAC efficiency gains, energy savings, and cleaner, more-breathable air after duct cleaning is performed.
The Detailed Answer
Before delving into an answer regarding the value of duct cleaning, let’s first examine what a professional duct cleaning service should cover. A basic, professional duct cleaning routine should include two main services:
- Check and clean all of the following components of your heating and air conditioning systems: supply air registers, supply air ducting, return air registers, return air ducting, turning veins, diffusers, and reheat coils (if contained in the ductwork system).
- Check and clean the components of the interior of your air handling unit(s) as listed here: fan housing, condensate drip pan, and filter racks. Additionally, filters should be replaced during a routine duct cleaning procedure.
You may ask yourself how this service differs from an HVAC preventive maintenance routine performed by a mechanical services contractor like Tuckey Mechanical Services. Keep in mind that preventive maintenance routines are designed to ensure that the mechanical components of your HVAC system are operating properly – akin to an annual tune-up for your automobile (pressures are checked, filters are replaced, lubrication is applied as necessary, fluids are topped off, etc). Preventive maintenance routines are primarily focused on the “heart” of your HVAC system – your furnace, air conditioner, heat pump, coils, etc. Duct cleaning, on the other hand, extends this maintenance to the “branches and limbs” of your HVAC system. That is, the ductwork system (and related components) that delivers air to the various rooms of your home is checked and cleaned. Since duct cleaning is a specialized cleaning service requiring specialized cleaning equipment, restoration companies (versus HVAC contractors) have traditionally offered it – though some HVAC companies are now also offering duct cleaning services.
Now that we know what duct cleaning entails, let’s contemplate the primary purpose or goal of professional duct cleaning services. In short, professional duct cleaning accomplishes two main things:
- Efficiency of HVAC system operation and air circulation throughout your building. By cleaning your duct system, you are making sure that the air from your heating and air conditioning system is circulating at the highest efficiency possible.
- Control allergens. Cleaning your duct system may help control some or all of the following: airborne bacteria, general allergies, mites, dust, dirt, mold, and mildew.
Now that we’ve covered duct cleaning’s definition and purpose, let’s consider the answer to the question at hand – is it even worthwhile to have your ducts cleaned? In short, the answer is, “Yes!” But let’s delve into the explanation by asking a few more questions:
- How does dirty ductwork affect an HVAC system’s performance? We’ve seen some pretty yucky stuff in our customers’ ductwork over the years, particularly if the system is allowed to go uncleaned for many years (sometimes 20 years or more). The issue with this is that system performance drops dramatically as debris slowly accumulates in a duct system. The concept is akin to plaque building up in your body’s veins and arteries – slowly but surely, plaque buildup affects your overall health. Likewise, the more debris that builds up inside your ductwork, the more resistant your ductwork is to air flow. Thus, over a period of time, the air flow is reduced and your system uses more energy to operate (because it must “work harder”) and suffers from unseen pressure and temperature fluctuations that, over time, will reduce the life expectancy of the system as a whole.
- How does dirty ductwork affect the air quality throughout the building? Whether you see it or not, a lot of debris (such as animal dander or common household dust) floats around in the air throughout your home or office. This same debris often gets lodged within your ductwork and builds up over time. This may start to directly affect your health if you are particularly sensitive to certain allergens. Even if you aren’t directly allergic or sensitive to the debris in your ductwork, you should be aware that it may provide “food” for some nastier things that sometimes make their way into ductwork, such as mold spores or fungi. On top of this, many older HVAC systems do not include the level of insulation that modern systems do; thus, condensation is created as very cold air is pushed through your ductwork on a hot summer day. The additional moisture that’s added to the equation makes the environment in your ductwork even riper for mold growth, etc. Good duct cleaning maintenance can and does remove this “food” source, which helps prevent further trouble.
- What kind of a “before/after” effect does duct cleaning have? Is it really that noticeable? The type of comments we’ve heard from customers after duct cleaning has taken place goes something like this:
- “Wow – we have better air everywhere!”
- “I don’t have to dust as often!”
- “It is so much more comfortable throughout my home!”
- “My electric bill went down some!”
- “I feel like I can breathe easier now!”
So we conclude that there is indeed a pronounced “before/after” effect experienced by many customers. Unfortunately, the trouble is that before air duct cleaning takes place, most people do not realize that the air flow in their building has dropped off. This is because the process of debris build-up happens so slowly that it’s difficult to notice the overall effect over long periods of time. If you were to time the cycles on comparative days as far as temperature, you would notice that the unit is running longer to satisfy the temperature demand in the home. Not very often do we see a homeowner with the kind of time or know-how it takes to become aware of this, as most do not remember how efficiently their HVAC system ran when it was brand new. Many homeowners might notice that their utility bills are increasing, but they’ll chalk it up to extreme temperatures, price increases, or someone leaving a window cracked or door open in the home. Many people install energy-efficient light bulbs, re-seal their doors or windows, and change their filters – but they never realize the true energy savings they could achieve if they’d opt for a professional duct cleaning service.
Given all this discussion, we think you’ll agree that, in most cases, duct cleaning is indeed worth the money. Now that we’ve established this, you’re probably wondering how often your ductwork needs to be cleaned? Every six months – or every ten years? We can assure you that it’s probably somewhere in between! If you’d like to read more about recommended duct cleaning frequency, check out the article about it on our blog.
The Bottom Line
Duct cleaning should be part of your home or office’s regular maintenance routine. While it’s generally not required as frequently as a regular HVAC preventive maintenance service visit, it’s a service to consider on a regular basis. We’d be happy to review and evaluate your system to help you figure out whether duct cleaning is needed at your home or office!
For professional assistance with this and other HVAC or restoration work, the Tuckey is the local expert to call. Keep our number handy – you never know when you might need us! Call (717) 524-1198 or visit www.tuckey.com for more information.
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