Indoor air quality is an essential factor in comfort and health at home. Poor indoor air quality, also called IAQ, can lead to the aggravation of allergy symptoms, impact those who have asthma, and generally degrade the overall quality of a living space. While there are many steps you can take to improve IAQ, from adding more plants to ventilating your room more frequently, your HVAC system deserves some special attention. Are you wondering how to clean air ducts yourself to keep your system in good shape?
Cleaning ducts can help reduce the spread of dust throughout the home, eliminate problematic odors that occur when the air conditioner runs, and prevent mold and mildew from creating the potential for health hazards. Typically, most homeowners think of this task as a process reserved for professionals with special cleaning equipment. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that your ducts are as clean as you can make them.
When Should You Clean Your Ducts?
First, when should you choose to put in the effort for this process? Luckily, you don’t need to add this task to your annual spring cleaning “to do” list. Ducts do not require frequent cleaning, and at most should receive your attention once every few years. If it has been five or more years since the last time you had your ducts cleaned, it’s worth considering taking steps to do so now.
Second, there are special occasions when you may want to move up your cleaning schedule. For example, if you see dust visibly exiting your vents when the air conditioner turns on, your ducts may be very dirty inside. Likewise, any sign of mold should be a cause for concern. Households with cigarette smokers who smoke indoors will also need duct cleaning more frequently.
What To Do: How To Clean Air Ducts Yourself
Now let’s look at how to clean air ducts yourself in practice. While you won’t be able to reach deep inside the vents to reach all the accumulated dust, there are plenty of things you can still accomplish.
- Use a vacuum cleaner to remove visible dust accumulations on vents, return registers, and anywhere else where the air is in motion because of the HVAC equipment.
- Use gloves, protective masking, and anti-mold formulations found at your local hardware store to clean vent covers that have mold around them. Remove the vent cover if possible and use a flashlight to inspect the interior. Contact a professional if you see more mold that you cannot reach to clean yourself.
- Turn your AC off but set your thermostat to “Fan On” to keep air blowing through the system. This procedure makes it simpler to capture dust that you loosen.
- Don’t forget to change your air filter in the process, as this will help keep additional dust from making its way back into your HVAC system. You should always change your filter once every one to three months.
Following these steps will let you clean the most accessible parts of your system. However, there are limitations to consider.
When Should You Contact a Professional For Help?
As you explore the steps above, you may come to realize the job is more involved than you expected. At other times, your efforts may not create the results you were hoping to see. Consider a few of the scenarios when you should reach out to a professional team for help instead:
- When you cannot easily reach most of the ducting in your system and you have concerns about dust or mold content deeper than your tools can reach.
- When unpleasant odors persist even after cleaning the system’s parts you can reach. Odors may be a sign of a deceased animal in the ductwork, which will require professional removal and sterilization.
- When you continue to see dust exiting vents or have issues with mold frequently re-occurring on vents. There may be other issues at work that an HVAC professional can diagnose.
In any of these cases, you’ll need help from those who can tackle the entire system at once. Knowing what to look for and how to hire a trustworthy, NADCA-certified contractor is an important asset at this stage.
Choosing an Air Duct Cleaning Contractor
When you don’t have the time or the opportunity to invest in learning how to clean air ducts yourself, a professional service provider is a perfect solution. Look for a team with a good reputation in your local area and consider asking others for personal suggestions. When contacting contractors, know what kinds of questions to ask, and don’t forget to investigate their licenses, certifications, and insurance coverage. Consider combining duct cleaning with routine air conditioner maintenance to make your system as efficient as possible. Don’t overlook the opportunity to breathe easily at home.