Ductwork Cleaning

Air ducts are one of the areas in the house which gets laden with dust and dirt, if not cleaned at regular intervals. The air ducts are the conduits from where the conditioned air from the HVAC travels to various parts of the house to cool the rooms. Although there is apopular notion that dirty ducts can lead to heath hazards, there is no scientific proof to ratify it. However, if the ducts release dust,mites, molds into yourlivingspace thenit can cause allergies topeople who are prone to it. It is not a bad idea to get your ducts cleaned once in three or five years. After all cleaning the ducts will boost the efficiency of the heating and cooling system. The air passing through your ductscarries a lot of dust and debris which sticks to theinner layer. After sometimes the dust forms a matted-layer in the ducts. If there is moisture leakage as well, then all these can combine to form a breeding ground for molds and other microbial beings.

How to know if yourducts need cleaning?

The best way to do so is to take alook into your ducts. Delve as deep as you can with a digital pocket camera. Remove the register and take a couple of shots. If you feel that the gunk layer has come too near the register then the ducts surelyneeds a cleaning. You may be tempted to clean up the ducts with avacuum. But the device will do the job onlypartially. A long trail of junk and a thick coat of dust will still be lingering which will be beyond what your vacuum can reach. A professional cleaning is helpful in other ways as well. It will be able to detect leaks in the ducts therefore wouldmendthem. Leaky ducts cause a huge loss of energy. Moreover, microbialgrowth cannot be controlled only through vacuuming. This needs chemical treatments to stop it.

The top symptoms of dirtyducts

• Flakes of dust, cobwebs, and debris, or noticeable particles entering your rooms through the registers

• Strange discoloration near the vents

• Molds spotted on inside surfaces of ducts. Remember any black patch is not mold growth. You will need to send a patch of it on a sticky tape to nearby microbiological laboratory to confirm if it is mold.

• Droppings and urine of rodents and vermin in your ducts

• Moreover, if you house has undergone remodelling or renovation, then a good amount of dust hasaccumulated in your ducts for sure.

• If you are buying a house it is alwaysa good idea to get the ducts cleaned before you enter it. It will prevent you from smelling someone else’s pet dander

Why should you opt for duct cleaning?

• Cleaning the ducts removes the dust that stick to the inner surface. As result thedust and debris on the ducts will not shed into your living space.

• Cleaning the ductsincreases the efficiency of HVAC almost by 40%. If you ductsare made of fiberglass you must clean them from time to time as they are prone to gather more dust than sheet metal.

Reasons to Skip Duct Cleaning

Cost: Cleaning the ducts of a 2000-square feet house can cost between $300 and $600. However, if one of your family members is sensitive to airborne dust and pet dander or if you are felling itchy nose due to aerial contamination then shelling out the amount to get a relief is worth. You never know these can lead to other complications.

Disclaimer: Although the rates quoted above are typical average rates that can be seen across USA, they can vary in certain areas depending upon city and the variables associated with each individual project.

Health benefits are not proven:According to the EPA there is no proof that dirty ducts can cause health hazards.

Repairing the Ducts

Besides cleaning,ducts may also need repairs from time to time. Sometimes the seams are ripped open after years of usage. These results in air leak as well as moisture, molds, and vermin find their way inside easily. Leaky ductsneedimmediaterepair.

How to know if the ducts need repair?

• Rooms are too hot or cold with the HVAC functioning properly.
• The power bills are skyrocketing
• There is a lack in airflow inside the rooms
• Air filters arerequiring change more thanonce a month. This showsthere are leaks in returnducts.
• Lines of dust can be spotted on the register as wellas duct joins.
• Insulation cannot be seen on ducts in the attic or crawl spaces
• Flexible ducts are tangled or kinked

Duct leakages are bestrepaired by sealing them. To sealleaky ducts youdo not have to call for professional service providers in all situations. If your ductsare accessible in your attic, basement, or crawl spaces then you can make simple repairs yourself. Begin by checking if theductshave become disconnected at the joints. If so reconnect them. Now turn on the fans of your HVAC to check for duct leaks. You can seal the leaks with mastic or foil tape. The gaps around the duct can be sealed with foamspray. The ducts should be properlyinsulated for cent percent efficiency. If you see atorn insulation or poor insulation, mend it immediately. Seal the ducts first, and then add insulation. Insulation is important to ensure that the air travelling through the duct remains at the desired temperature. Insulation material rated at least R-6 is best for household use. However in many houses the ductwork may not be accessible for a repair. In such a case a professional cleaner and repairer is required.

Who can repair your ducts?

To clean and repair your ducts you will have to get in touch with heating and cooling contractors that specialize in this job. The professionals useanalytical tools to know duct pressures, air flow, and leakage. The usually seal ducts with mastic, metal-backed tape, or aerosol sealant. Duct tapes are always avoided as they cannot withstand extremetemperatures. They conduct airflow testing after ducts are sealed. They insulate the ducts with materials of an R-value of 6. This specially helps in unconditioned spaces such as an attic or crawlspace.In the end the service provider also checks the combustion appliances to ensure they are venting out properly. If they find that the pressure is not optimum, they also add returns or "jumper ducts".

Never use air duct tapes: Why?

The use of air duct tapes can be traced back to the period even beforeWWII. The US military bought these tapes in large volumesin order to make emergency repairs in battlefields. These arealso called gaffer’s tape. They’rewidely used tobundle cables together. Even the astronauts of Apollo 13 used it to make some repairs on their way back to the Earth from the Moon. These are cloth-backedtapes with rubber adhesives.

After the Second World War these tapes startedbeing used by HVAC contactors to seal the joints in air ducts. The duct had the same fiber and texture as before only its color was changed to silver form army green. It began to be called as duct tape.

But in the subsequent period it was found that duct tapesare not as effective as sealants. This is because they have short lifespan and are not able to seal the joins effectively. They also cannot bear extreme temperature. An experiment was conducted for about three months in 1998, in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Here the researchers tested various sealants that included duct tapes too, under accelerated laboratory conditions. This was to infer how effective thesesealants are for long term use in homes. They generated high temperature soaringalmost 170°F and also chilled the air below 55°. The conditioned air was blasted through the ducts. It was found that at the baking temperature the duct tapes failed badly.

What are the benefits of duct sealing?

Health: Leaks in your ducts could be the cause of heat hazards. Thesesilver linings in your conduitmake routes for air and moisture to trickleinside. The outside air andmoisture can contain fumes from household and garden chemicals, insulation particles, pollens, molds,and, dust. If anymember of the family has problems of allergy or asthma, then these contaminants will aggravate it. So if you suspect leaky ducts repairthem immediately.

Safety: Leaky ducts can alsocompromise the safety level of our house. If there are leaks in the ducts it can causebackdrafting of the equipment. The gaseswhich are produced as result heating and cooling canflow back insidethe house instead of venting out. Ifyou have fireplaces, water heaters, wood stoves, furnaces, clothes dryers or other combustion devices in these depressurized areas, invisible toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide (CO), can backdraft into your home instead of getting out of the house through the chimney.

Comfort: A leaky and improperly sized ducts can also prevent you to get the desired comfort that you are expecting from you HVAC. Improperly sized ducts play havoc with comfort level. Therefore always contact a reputed installer when fitting your house with a HVAC system. He should carefully calculate the duct size for your house and design it accordingly. Sealed ducts will surly improve the air quality as they will prevent infiltration of pollutants inside your air system. The conditioned air will not be able to leak into the surrounding due to proper sealing. You will enjoy perfectly cooled and heated air.

Save money: As much of the air cooled or heated by the central unit will be leaking outside through the leaks, it will lead to huge waste of energy. It will reduce the efficiency of your system by 20%. Duct sealing increases efficiency and lowers your energy bills. On an average a family can save up to $150 annually by duct sealing.

Sealing your ducts will also be a go-green step on your part. You should know that the process of generating energy and using it is one of the prominent factors that contribute to air pollution. If 20% of the energy being generated to cool or heat your house is being wasted, your systems will need to generate more energy to do the same job. Sealing the ducts will bring down the energydemandsand as a result cause lesser pollution.

Some duct cleaning contractors will suggest you to use antibacterial chemical inside your ducts to stop microbial growth. Do enough research before you allow the use of these chemicals. There are possibilities of health hazards due to this. Use chemicals that are registered with EPA. Ensure that they are used according to instructions given on the label.

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