Your heating and air conditioning ducts are the lungs of your home. Like your lungs, the ducts work better with clean air. However there is some dispute as to how clean your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts need to be.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the light dust found in ductwork is less hazardous than contaminants stirred up by cooking, cleaning, smoking, and even walking across the carpet. And HVAC ducts are part of a sealed system—they don’t accumulate dust like shelves and furniture. Airborne particles are prevented from entering the HVAC system by furnace and air conditioner filters. This is why your first—and best—line of defense is to replace HVAC filters on a regular basis. Filters are inexpensive insurance against costly problems in the future.
If you have mold growing on the sheet metal of your ductwork, you may need to take some additional steps. While you can’t see into the ducts, presence of mold is indicated by odors and damp filters or wall insulation. An HVAC professional can determine if you have mold in your ducts.
Ducts can also get infested with rodents, insects, and other vermin. This is a serious problem that needs immediate attention from professionals. The droppings and dander produced by vermin quickly creates an unhealthy environment in your home.
When it comes to the nitty gritty, cleaning air ducts is not a do-it-yourself job. It requires tools, such as a high-powered vacuum and rotary brushes, that you don’t have lying around in the garage. In addition, an improper cleaning job could damage the ducts, resulting in expensive repairs.
The best DIY project for your HVAC system involves the good old vacuum cleaner. Keep the floor grilles and wall duct registers clean with the vacuum brush attachment. If there’s a lot of dust, unscrew the grills and hose out the visible interior of the ducts. Also, don’t forget the cold-air returns.
If you decide to call in the professionals, be aware that there are companies out there who take advantage of people’s fear of mold and allergens. They might offer a “free inspection” and then charge a huge sum to treat (nonexistent) mold and to “seal” the entire system. Make sure your HVAC cleaners are recommended on crowd-source review websites or have positive ratings from the Better Business Bureau.