Do you run your HVAC system constantly to avoid allergens in your local exterior environment? Although you may think your home’s air is cleaner, it may not be, thanks to a buildup of dust, dirt and other microscopic particles in your HVAC system’s air ducts. If your allergy symptoms keep getting worse, getting regular, thorough cleanings of your ducts may alleviate watery eyes and stuffy noses.

How Dirty Ducts Contribute to Allergies

Nearly 25 million Americans have asthma, while another 50 million have allergic rhinitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. Dust mites, mold and other allergens in your home can trigger symptoms. Many of those substances accumulate in air ducts. Even if you keep windows closed most of the time, allergens can enter your home through doors and on clothes and shoes. Once inside, they settle inside ducts and circulate throughout your home.

Your HVAC system constantly recirculates the air inside your home. Substances on duct surfaces travel to living areas in your home as the system forces conditioned air through vents. Those particles eventually end up back inside the vents, accumulating more and more on surfaces.

Allergens frequently present in ducts that can contribute to poor quality in your home include:

  • Pollen
  • Mold and mildew spores
  • Dander and pet hair
  • Volatile organic compounds

Whether you already have allergies or asthma or if someone in your household suddenly develops problems, having professionals clean your ducts to significantly reduce or eliminate lurking allergens can help ease symptoms.

What are the Signs that My Ducts Need Cleaning?

Suddenly worsening cough and nasal symptoms are only one sign. Because of the way dirt and debris build over time, the signs can also build slowly. However, one of the most crucial signs that your ducts require cleaning is the presence of mold and mildew in your home. If you have problem areas you can see, chances are mold and mildew lurk in areas you can’t see, including air ducts. Before air duct cleaning, get an inspection to see where the problem lies and remediate it.

Other indications you may need duct cleaning include the following:

  • Ducts not cleaned for 10 years
  • Constant dust on furniture
  • Allergies flare during HVAC operation
  • Asthma uncontrolled even with meds
  • Insects, birds and other vermin inside ducts

Note that if you have critters making nests in your ducts, you’ll have to seal any entry points before cleaning ducts.

What to Expect From Duct Cleaning

Once you have addressed any underlying issues, your contractor can begin cleaning. After sealing your ducts to prevent undesirable elements from invading your home, your contractor will use high-powered vacuums and other tools to dislodge and remove debris. Depending on the state of your ducts, your contractor may need to use chemicals and pesticides to kill mold and other potentially harmful microbes. Before you agree to their usage, ask your contractor what they use for sanitizing to ensure that no one in your household is allergic to any substances used. Your duct cleaning contractor may also use degreasers, deodorizers and more. Ask for label information on anything used to explain EPA-registered uses and health risks. Any substances used, even those that are organic, may trigger headaches, asthma attacks and allergies. Some substances can dissipate quickly, so consider leaving your home during the procedure. Fully vet contractors claiming to use organic materials following duct cleaning to verify their authenticity.

Although air duct cleaner providers may tell you they must apply chemical biocides and sealants, research has not demonstrated their effectiveness in duct cleaning or their potential health effects.

Preventing Ducts From Becoming Dirty

Homeowners may not be able to prevent all undesirable particles from entering their homes, but you can take simple steps to slow the accumulation of dirt in air ducts. A sound preventive maintenance plan starts with clean air filters. Use the most efficient air filter recommended by your HVAC unit’s manufacturer. Change filters regularly, especially when the exterior environment has high pollen levels, mold and similar substances. Ensure filter holders have no gaps around which air can bypass.

When getting HVAC preventive maintenance, ask your technician to clean cooling coils, drain pans and other components where dirt and debris accumulate through regular use. Dust and vacuum your home regularly using a high-efficiency vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap dust that would otherwise fly into the air with a regular vacuum. If you have construction or renovation work, seal off supply and return registers and avoid operating your HVAC until after cleaning up the dust.

Keep other sources of contaminants in mind, too. Interior humidity higher than 50% can put your home at risk for dust mites and mold growth. Allergens can also lurk in carpets, upholstered furniture and gas and wood-burning stoves.

Other issues you should be aware of include moisture combined with dirt in ducts, which presents the potential for biological contaminants to grow and distribute throughout your home. Controlling moisture is the most effective way to prevent this problem. To that end, control any water leaks or standing water, including water under the coils of air handling units.

Properly maintain all HVAC equipment, including humidifiers and dehumidifiers, to ensure they run correctly. Remove fiberglass or insulation material that becomes wet, visibly moldy, or acquires an unacceptable odor. Replace it with materials recommended by a qualified HVAC contractor. Never use steam cleaning or similar methods involving moisture on ductwork.

What to Look for in a Duct Cleaning Contractor

If you are unsure whether you need duct cleaning, consulting the professionals who tend to your heating and cooling needs is an excellent initial source. You may also want to contact contractors who provide dedicated air vent cleaning services to compare their knowledge and answers. You’ll want to ensure that your contractor performs a pre-cleaning check and protects carpeting and furniture before beginning the work.

When interviewing contractors, ask about their duct cleaning procedures. Contractors performing air duct cleaning will open all access doors to allow proper system cleaning. Their vacuuming equipment will either self-encapsulate into the vacuum system or release particles into the environment outside your home. You’ll also want a company that uses soft-bristled brushes for fiberglass duckboard and sheet metal ducts to protect their structure. Other essential tasks to protect ducts include sealing and re-insulation of any holes needed for cleaning to ensure air tightness.

Thorough duct cleaning will take three to five hours, depending on the size of your home. In addition to cleaning and sanitizing your air ducts, your contractor should also clean the return side, supply side, blower compartment, blower wheel and return drop.

Contact Us for Duct Cleaning

Air Authority, A Riteway Service Company provides a range of HVAC services to keep your San Antonio area home clean and comfortable. Our professionals offer superior duct sealing and cleaning, along with complete heating and cooling repair, maintenance and installation services.

Contact us today to see what our technicians can do for you.

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