Residential Air Duct Cleaning
By David Bruce
How to select an air duct cleaning company?
There are health benefits for all residents from regularly cleaning the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) System.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems collect mold, fungi, bacteria and a variety of contaminants that reduce the quality of the air residents and visitors breathe. A dirty air duct contributes to poor indoor air quality and affects the health of people in the residence.
The purpose of residential air duct cleaning is to remove these contaminants from a home's HVAC system to get the best indoor air quality.
The most effective way to clean an air duct and/or ventilation system is to use a specialized, powerful vacuum which puts the air duct / ventilation system under negative pressure. While the vacuum draws air through the system, devices are inserted into the ducts to dislodge contaminants and debris from the interior surfaces, moving the contaminants/debris from the home's air ducts and ventilation systems into the vacuum.
Vacuum collection alone does not clean the HVAC system. Brushes, air whips, "skipper balls" and other tools that agitate contaminants and debris scrub the surfaces within the air duct system and propels contaminants and debris into the vacuum collection device(s).
Anti-microbial chemical sanitizers are applied to the interior surface of the air ducts to control microbial contamination...but...before sanitizers are used, the system should be thoroughly cleaned. All anti-microbial chemicals used must be EPA registered for use in HVAC systems. Ask to see the chemical's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). If you are still concerned, call the EPA at 1-800-438-4318. There are no EPA registered anti-microbial products for use on porous system surfaces - such as fiberglass surfaces.
When sanitizing air ducts you want to make sure the air duct cleaning company uses safe; effective EPA approved products that are safe for people, pets, and the environment. An atomizer fogs the sanitizing product throughout the entire ventilation system.
Allergic people, infants and elderly are especially sensitive to the microbes that cause respiratory problems like bacteria, mildew, fungi algae and dust mites which require a highly-effective sanitizer to eliminate odor-causing microorganisms as well contaminants associated with allergies, mildew and bacterial growth. Make sure the sanitizer is rated by the EPA as a category IV product with the lowest toxicity rating. Sanitizing air ducts means toxicity and safety safeguards that establish and ensure there are no harmful dermal (skin), ocular (eyes), inhalation (breathing) or ingestion (swallowing) effects from the products.
There are two popular types of vacuum collection systems...those mounted on trucks and trailers versus portable units. Truck/trailer mounted equipment is generally more powerful than portable equipment. By contrast, portable equipment often can be brought directly into a facility, locating the vacuum closer to the ductwork. Both types of equipment clean to air duct industry standards. Vacuum units should be attached to a collection device for safe containment prior to disposal. A vacuum collection device which exhausts indoors must be HEPA (high efficiency particulate arrestance) filtered.
The frequency of air duct (HVAC) cleaning depends on several factors:
* before occupying a new home.
* afterhome renovations or remodeling.
* number of smokers in the household.
* Pets that shed hair and dander.
* Water contamination or damage to the home or HVAC system.
* Residents with allergies or asthma benefit from better indoor air quality.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency says that "duct cleaning services" typically range in cost from $450 to $1000 per heating and cooling system, depending on the services offered, the size of the system to be cleaned, system accessibility, climatic region, level of contamination" and type of duct material.
Consumers should beware of air duct cleaning companies making sweeping claims about the health benefits of duct cleaning - such claims are unsubstantiated.
Consumers should also beware of "blow-and-go" air duct cleaning companies that charge low fees and do a poor job of cleaning the heating and cooling system. These companies also try to persuade consumers into unneeded services or provide service without the consumer's permission. Contact the Better Business Bureau and local, federal, and state elected officials to report the company.
Interview at least 3 local air duct and HVAC cleaning contractors and to perform a free system inspection and to provide a price to clean the HVAC system.
Narrow your list of potential contractors:
Make sure the company is a member in good standing of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
Verify that the company is certified by NADCA to perform HVAC system cleaning.
Ask how long the company has been in business and determine if that experience is adequate.
Ask if the company has the right equipment to effectively perform cleaning, and if the company has done work in homes similar to yours. Ask for references from neighbors.
Inquire whether the company is in good standing with the local Better Business Bureau.
Get proof that the company is properly licensed and adequately insured.
Make sure that the company is going to clean and visually inspect all of the air ducts and related system components.
Avoid advertisements for "$99 whole house specials" and other sales gimmicks.
NADCA Members sign a Code of Ethics stating they will do everything possible to protect the consumer and to follow NADCA Standards for air duct cleaning. Air duct cleaning companies must meet stringent requirements. All members must have certified Air System Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) on staff, who have taken and passed the NADCA Certification Examination. Passing the exam demonstrates extensive knowledge in HVAC design and cleaning methodologies. Air System Cleaning Specialists are also required to continue their industry education by attending seminars to keep their NADCA certification status current.
Find out as much as you can about the air duct cleaning company before you hire the company.
* Ask the company to display proof of NADCA membership and certification?
* Ask how long has the contractor been in the residential HVAC system cleaning business?
* Ask the contractor provide you with evidence of the current Worker's Compensation and General Liability Insurance coverage (Ask for Certificate of Insurance)
* Ask the contractor to display the proper licenses required by your city and state to perform the work they are proposing. (Not all cities or states require licenses)
* Ask the contractor provide you with 3 to 5 customer references with phone numbers from air duct services provided in the last 30 days?
* Ask the contractor to conduct a thorough inspection of your system PRIOR to performing any work and alert you to any problems. This is required by the current NADCA Assessment, Cleaning & Restoration of HVAC Systems (ACR) Standard.
* Ask the contractor to provide you with the means to conduct a visual inspection at any time during the cleaning? (Mirror and flashlight, camera or other remote visual systems.)
* Ask the contractor if it will be cleaning the complete system, including coils and fans?
* Ask the company if it will actually do the work? (Some companies subcontract the work to independent contractors; apply the same tough guidelines for subcontractors as well.)
* Ask the contractor to give you a guaranteed price before the inspection. This could expose you to extra costs because finding mold in the system, damaged fiberglass insulation, cleaning or treating cooling coils may become add-on costs.
The amount of time it takes an air duct cleaning company to clean a residential HVAC system depends on:
* the size of the home
* the number of systems
* the extent of the contamination
* the number of HVAC cleaners performing the job
Ask the 3 HVAC contractors you trust the most to inspect your system and give you a completion time estimate for your system of how long the job should take; as well as all of the steps each contractor plans to implement during the job.
Remember, we are breathing millions of germ-carrying dust and mold particles from air ducts that cause allergies, asthma--even terminal illnesses. In all homes, the air ducts gather dust, dirt, human skin flakes and pet dander, becoming holding cells for allergens, mold spores, germs and other contaminants. The problem begins even before you move into a newly-built home, with the buildup of drywall dust, sawdust and other debris in ducts that provide a perfect environment for the growth of germs and allergens. This problem worsened in the 1970's, as new construction techniques made buildings more tightly sealed, which restricts the flow of fresh air. Every day, families breathe air that is continually circulated through contaminated ductwork by your HVAC system.
The best way to determine if the HVAC system cleaning was effective is to demand a visual inspection of the system before and after cleaning. In addition, keep a copy of this article and use it as a post-cleaning check list to help you ensure a top quality job was done. If any dust or debris can be seen during the visual inspection, the system should not be considered cleaned. A certified, professional air duct cleaning contractor should be able to give you access to inspect system components; using specialized inspection tools when necessary. You can perform your own visual inspection using a flash light and mirror.
The best air duct (HVAC) cleaning companies provide a 100% guarantee and won't make you pay for the air duct cleaning service until you see the proven results with a Duct-Camera. Now you can actually see the dust and allergens free air ducts after professionals clean the HVAC system. The guarantee promises that all visible loose particulate will be removed from every portion of the system. If the job is not performed to customer satisfaction, the affected portions of the system would be re-cleaned and or the job would be re-cleaned at no additional charge to the customer. These companies exceed customer expectations. The company must guarantee 100% customer satisfaction and happily go back and redo the work if required.
The best HVAC cleaning companies allow you can see otherwise inaccessible areas of the system are clean with the Duct Camera; before paying for the service. These air duct companies are courteous, certified technicians who strictly adhere to NADCA processes. You will know a thorough job was done which guarantees value for your money and safety for your home. A professional air duct cleaning company investigates and corrects all symptoms and causes of unhealthy indoor air; such as dirty ducts, mold, chimneys, unhealthy carpets, unsafe dryer vents, humidity and other problems.
Companies that perform the best work don't off incredible low $79 whole house prices and coupons. Companies that do are likely not to have the proper equipment, training or even the intention of providing real results. To make matters worse...improper air duct cleaning can cause health problems for your family..."so the cheapest price can be very expensive in the long run." If the price is too good to be true; that price is probably being offered by a predatory business owner looking for an easy mark.
You can hire an air duct cleaning company with confidence now that you know how to get your air ducts cleaned properly and enjoy these benefits:
Health According to the EPA, indoor air is found to be up to 70 times more polluted than outdoor air. Air duct cleaning removes airborne contaminates such as bacteria, fungus, mold spores, pet dander & pollen which may help to alleviate allergy & asthma symptoms.
Extended Equipment Life 9 out of 10 system failures are caused by dirt and dust according to the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service. One of the functions of the fan, located inside of your air handler, is to keep the heat exchanger cool. Accumulated dirt and debris can reduce the CFM (cubic feet of air per minute) as much as 50%! This is the most common cause of cracks in heat exchangers. Having your HVAC system cleaned may prevent pre-mature breakdown & aging of your heating and cooling system.
Reduce Dusting Air duct cleaning helps to reduce household dust by removing the dust where it travels most - through your air duct system.
Energy Savings According to the EPA, a buildup of only.042 inches of dirt on a heating coil can result in a decrease of efficiency of 21%. A clean air conveyance system may help to increase efficiency and therefore may help to reduce heating and cooling costs.
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