In the first quarter of this year, a consumer magazine warned against certain cleaning companies offering to clean air ducts. The catch was a very low price for an unneeded air duct cleaning. According to professionals, air ducts rarely get dirty that they require infrequent or do not require any cleaning at all. Only under need only circumstances should air ducts be cleaned.
These scammers usually offer a very low price for air duct cleaning that many fall victims to their dirty deals. Sometimes, these bogus cleaning companies even encourage their unsuspecting clients to sign up for other unneeded services like carpet cleaning, thereby extracting more money. Yet, they do not deliver quality cleaning services or do not deliver any services at all.
Every consumer and homemaker should beware of these scams. To avoid them, it is important that you know more about air ducts, how often should they be cleaned or should they be cleaned at all, circumstances when air duct cleaning is required and the cons when an unneeded cleaning is done.
Scammers are very good at sales talk and your only weapon against them is knowledge about air ducts. Once you are knowledgeable about air ducts, then it would be very easy to spot scams. Listen closely to what cleaning companies are proposing and do not get distracted with body gestures, bonus services or attractive price deals. Once they say anything that goes against what you believe to be true about air ducts, immediately say no to whatever they are offering.
Defining Air Ducts and Air Duct Cleaning
Air duct cleaning covers only the cleaning of your home’s heating and cooling systems. If a company offering to clean air ducts inspects areas other than these systems then it should serve as a red light for you. A heating and cooling system will include your home’s supply and return ducts, fan motor, heat exchangers, cooling/heating coils condensate drip pans or insulators.
In most cases, air ducts only become dirty or need cleaning if a certain part of the system becomes damaged and cause dirt or debris to accumulate. When a cleaning company informs you of a mold growth, do check your ducts for evidences. Usually mold growth will have caused allergic reactions or asthma attacks to you or any member of your family. If no one in your household is suffering from allergies, the mold growth theory the cleaning company is informing you about may not be true and may be a scam.
On the other hand, you should also be aware of the proper cleaning methods in case and air duct cleaning is necessary. If mold or bacteria growth is present, the whole air duct system should be cleaned otherwise recontamination will occur. Free flowing air runs through the air ducts and any contamination of a particular part usually entails contamination of the whole system. Professional cleaners usually use specialized tools to remove dirt and debris from the system as well as high powered vacuums.
Oftentimes, biocides are needed to effectively disinfect air ducts. Always check for the safety of chemicals used with EPA and other regulating agencies. Some biocides should not be used on metal and most air ducts are made from metal.
With today’s advanced technologies, some companies are also offering the use of ozone generators for cleaning air ducts. However, much has yet to be studied about the use of ozone since it raises several health issues. Ozone cannot be administered in inhabited buildings or homes. Also, there is still a question of their effectiveness in cleaning air ducts.
When Should Air Ducts be Cleaned
If you do not notice any changes in the indoor air quality of your home, then there should be no need of an air duct cleaning. Over time, air ducts will naturally become dirty and you may think that a cleaning be done. It is not really necessary but air ducts can be cleaned as long as they are done the proper way.
Aside from the natural accumulation of dirt and debris, air ducts should only be cleaned after a flood occurs, when molds are present, rodents are present or when unexplained allergies happen to any member of your family.
Typically, unexplained allergies are caused by certain fungi called mold. These fungi grow in moist places so heating and cooling ducts may be a possible environment for them to grow on. Insulated ducts are more prone to mold growth than bare metal ducts since moisture may accumulate in between insulators. Bare metal ducts on the other hand, lack the surface pores where moisture usually accumulates.
If you only suspect mold growth and is not sure if what are present on your air ducts are mold, it would help to obtain a sample and have it tested. The cost of lab tests will not be too costly and will only be a small amount compared to a cleaning contract. If the test do come back positive, it should also say what type of mold are present on your air duct: whether it’s harmless or the hazardous type. The result should serve as a guide on how you should deal with the mold growth and what type of disinfectants you should use or if you should use any at all.
When rodents or any other vermin have penetrated air ducts, it is imperative that they be totally cleaned. These pests may carry a lot of harmful diseases and bacteria that may be spread through the house via the heating/cleaning system.
When a flood occurs in your area, it is also very important that you have you air ducts cleaned especially if flood water reached them. Flood water can carry a lot of bacteria since it carries almost anything it passes, including sewage and garbage. If only certain parts of the air duct have been contaminated with flood water, it is still recommended that the whole heating/cooling system be cleaned. It is very likely that contamination have spread to the whole system.
Cons of Unneeded Air Duct Cleaning
When unneeded cleaning is done on air ducts, it is possible that the cleaning process causes more harm than good to the entire heating/cooling system. For instance, inadequate vacuum pressure may only cause more dirt build up compared to when the ducts had been left alone. Wrong cleaning brushes may also damage air duct surfaces. If you have the fiberglass coated air ducts and hard bristled brushes are used, then it is very likely that the surfaces have been damaged and scratched.
Inadequate cleaning hours may also be detrimental to the air ducts and the whole heating/cooling system. Cleaning done under the standard time will usually entail that parts were not cleaned or handled correctly and can result to damage or costly repairs. Usually, it should take between four and eight hours for a complete air duct cleaning for a mid-sized house.
Criteria for Hiring Air Duct Cleaners
If you think there is a need for cleaning your air ducts, choose a credible company - one that has a state license to operate. Ask for accreditations first or you may check with the city office for previous complaints. You may also ask for references or contact previous clients so you may have an idea about the quality of their work.
Never choose one that claims certain health problems will be avoided once air ducts are cleaned. Nor should you choose a company that claims cleaning air ducts is part of the regular maintenance of your cooling or heating systems. Air ducts do not usually get dirty over short period of time and rarely or in no way do they need cleaning. The EPA does not even recommend the cleaning of air ducts other than the above mentioned need-only criteria.
A cleaning company should also be able to explain the whole cleaning process and the methods they will be using. They should be able to identify the type of material that your air ducts are made from and recommend a specific cleaning process. Fiberglass materials require special and careful attention compared to bare metal ducts. Only soft bristled brushes should be used in addition to high power vacuum devices.
Lastly, never hire one that offers a very affordable price. In most cases, cheaper priced contracts are scams and do not result in any cleaning activity at all. In most cases, their fake cleaning activities often lead to more harm than good. Cleaning contracts always cost money especially if high-end tools are being used. Always compare prices; the contract should not be too cheap nor should is be too pricey.
To avoid air duct cleaning scams, you should be knowledgeable about how your heating/cooling system works. Always keep in mind that air ducts need to be cleaned and should only be cleaned in the need-only circumstances mentioned. It would also pay to see for yourself if dust or mold growth are present in your air ducts. And, if air duct cleaning is indeed required, be sure that you hire a credible company.