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Duct Cleaning. Fact or Fiction?

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In a world full of marketing I am willing to bet almost every day when you go to your mailbox, in the pile of flyers that most of us just throw away these days, you’ll find an ad for duct cleaning.  I have seen some of these ads say we will come and clean your ducts for $9.99 per vent, which to me is so beyond ludicrous that I can’t believe anyone would call any of these companies.

Seriously, the typical single-family home has around 12 vents so this company is going to come and clean all the ducts in my house for $120? I highly doubt a good job is going to be done at that price. Proper duct cleaning is a very labor intensive process and can take several hours to do correctly. I can’t see a company that only charges say $24 an hour for a two man crew being in business very long. Anyway, let’s start with the types of duct work and determine what can or cannot be cleaned and why.

The first type of duct work is the older form made with sheet metal tubes wrapped with batted fiberglass insulation and the seams were sealed with roof tar. Metal ducts have typically gone the way of the dinosaur due to the expense involved in fabrication. Metal ducts can easily be cleaned as long as they are not too old. If the duct system is more than 30 years old you are taking a chance that the ducts may fall apart when a proper cleaning is attempted. If you have a home built before 1990 you likely have metal ducts and I would recommend an in-depth inspection of the duct system before any attempt is made at cleaning, otherwise you might be replacing your ducts.

Next up we have duct systems that are constructed from duct or fiber board. Duct board is made of fiberglass particles that have been compressed together to form an inch and a half thick sheet. It can then be cut into various shapes to form a duct system. Again, the days where duct systems are made with all fiber board are no more as it is very labor intensive. The bad news is if you have a fiber board duct system I strongly recommend that NO attempt be made at cleaning it. All the traditional cleaning methods can damage the inner surface of the fiber board and result in fiberglass particles blowing all over your house. I promise you breathing in fiberglass will really ruin you day.

Lastly we move on to the most common form of duct work which is flexible or just flex duct for short. Flex is a plastic tube that is reinforced with wire running through it and wrapped in a one piece batted insulation sleeve. Metal collars are use to connect it to the supply grills and distribution boxes. Those connections are typically triple sealed for the best air flow and flex duct is readily cleaned. As you can see from the pictures here of a before, during and after duct cleaning we performed.

duct cleaning before and after
Before, During, and After Duct Cleaning

As for the methodology in cleaning the duct system there are a couple different ways to approach the cleaning. The most common is a Roto-Brush system which consists of several different sized brushes that spin and have a vacuum behind them. The brushes loosen the dirt and the HEPA vacuum sucks it away. We can also make use of a very powerful vacuum with a six inch hose to clean other types of ducts. When we evaluate your duct system to see if it needs and can be cleaned we will also recommend the best method to improve your indoor air quality.

Duct cleaning is not the type of service that is needed annually if you keep a good filter on your AC unit and the duct connection points are properly sealed. If connection points are not sealed (usually due to age) the filter is getting bypassed as the duct system will pull air into it from its surroundings. If the ducts are more than a couple years old they are likely leaking air, wasting money and adding to the dust and dirt in your home.

Remember please, cleaning a duct system without it being properly sealed is along the lines of taking your four-wheel drive truck, having it completely detailed, and an hour later going four wheeling in the Everglades. The dirt is just gonna come right back.

Alright friends until next time, think about this. If we added Guam, Puerto Rico & DC as states we’d have fifty-three. 53 is prime number and that would truly make us one nation, indivisible.

House Whisperer out!!


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