Do You Need Duct Cleaning?

If you have had problems in the past with your HVAC system’s airflow, you may have heard from a friend or neighbor about duct cleaning. Air ducts play a vital role in the efficiency of your HVAC system, so it’s a good idea to make sure your ducts are set up for optimal airflow. But if you are having issues with your airflow due to duct problems, how do you know if you should get them cleaned or get them replaced? To know the answer to that question, you need to be familiar with the type of system you have in your home or business building. There may be times when duct cleaning is necessary and other times when your type of system will not benefit from duct cleaning.

What is Duct Cleaning?

If service providers advertise duct cleaning, they are usually referring to the process of dislodging dirt and debris from HVAC ducts using high-powered vacuum cleaners. They may also use bio-cides or other chemicals to kill bacteria and mold if moisture is present in your ducts. If these contaminants are present in your ducts, they will be circulated throughout your home or business, causing sickness and irritating allergies.

How Do Air Ducts Get Dirty?

Improper Installation

Depending on the type of system that you have, your air ducts should rarely accumulate contaminants if your system is properly maintained. The most common problems with duct contamination begins with duct design at installation. California law requires that all new installations, whether ducts are replaced or not, must complete duct testing and commissioning to adhere to EPA standards for air leakage and system efficiency. This testing is legally mandatory to fulfill building permit and city inspection requirements. If you have a contractor install a new system without the proper permits or final inspection, there is a chance that they could have neglected to make sure that your ducts are properly sealed to meet legal and EPA requirements.

Lack of Maintenance

If your system uses air filters, make sure they are the correct size and that you change them regularly, as debris build up will affect air flow. Have a professional technician check your ducts at least once a year to make sure that no wear and tear or rodent damage has caused holes for contaminants to enter air flow.

Environment

If the area where you live has weather that causes excessive dust build up, or if you have pets that clog filters faster than average, an air purifier may help deter contaminants from entering your ducts. Although some purifiers can be pricey, they still may be a more effective and frugal option than having an extra cleaning service done to your ducts.

Know the Type of System You Have

There are plenty of ways to keep your air ducts clean so that you won’t need a duct cleaning service, but there still may be times when it is needed. If and when cleaning is needed will depend on what type of system you have and where your airflow comes from. Below is a list of some of the most common types of HVAC systems and an overview of how they work.

Commercial Package Systems

As the name implies, the heating and cooling components of a packaged system are combined into one unit. These commercial units are located on the roof of the building, where multiple units can serve different suites or areas. These commercial units are required to draw in fresh air from the outside through a component called the “economizer” or “fresh air hood”. Since air is being drawn from the outside, there is a chance that outside debris could be drawn into the ducts.

Residential Package Systems

These systems also have the heating and cooling components packaged into one unit. They are usually placed on the roofs of residential homes, but do not draw air from outside like the commercial units do. These systems draw air from inside the home through a filtered return grille located on the ceiling.

Residential Split Upflow Systems

In a split system, the heating and cooling components are split into separate units. The compressor/condenser is outside of the home, and the furnace and evaporator coil are located inside the home. Split upflow systems usually have the furnace standing upright with the evaporator coil on top. These two units are typically placed either in the garage of the home or in a closet inside the home, but will both draw air from inside the home.

  • If the furnace and coil are located in the garage, the filtered return air grille will be on the wall inside the house, closest to the garage.

  • If the indoor units are located in a closet, the return air grille will be underneath the unit in the closet.

Residential Split Horizontal Systems

Split horizontal systems have the condensing unit outside, and the furnace and evaporator coil inside the attic. You will find the filtered return air grille for these systems on or near the ceiling.

Mobile Home Split Downflow Systems

Mobile homes, or manufactured homes, also use a split system with a cooling unit outside and a furnace inside the home. The furnace is in a closet inside the home with the filters located in the furnace panels. These systems are called downflow systems because the ducts are underneath the home.

How Do I Know if My System Needs Duct Cleaning?

As far as residential systems go, the air circulating in your home should not be dirty because all residential systems draw air from inside the home. If the air coming from your vents is dirty or smells bad, there is a good chance that you are having maintenance or repair issues that are causing debris to enter your airflow. Make sure that no vermin are damaging your ducts and that your filters are properly sized and changed as needed. If there are holes or gaps in your ducts, a simple cleaning will not solve the problem. Sealing gaps or replacing damaged ducts will be more beneficial to improving airflow.

Commercial Systems

  • There are a couple instances that you may want to look into duct cleaning. For example, if you own a commercial building or unit, there is a slight chance that the air circulating can be dirty since it is coming from outside. Before making the decision, be sure to check filters and maintenance on the system to eliminate the possibility of duct damage or system neglect.

Manufactured/Mobile Homes

  • Some manufactured homes will have vents or grilles located on or very close to the floor. In homes with children or pets, they are rare occasions where objects are stuffed into these vents and block airflow. Make sure to keep these areas clean and protected. If something unreachable gets into your ducts and causes problems or smells, it may be beneficial to have ducts cleaned or cleared.

It is beneficial for to know how your HVAC system works and how to properly take care of it. Your HVAC system is a machine, like any other, that lasts longest and works best when well-taken care of. If you have questions about your HVAC system or on maintenance and service, you can contact us at www.castillohvac.com