Heating Ducts To Clean or not to Clean?

If you're a home owner, you've probably been solicited (quite likely more than a few times) to have your home heating ducts cleaned. Duct cleaning companies will usually tell you cleaning your heating ducts will result in some or all of these benefits – Improve the air quality in your home by getting rid of house dust, provide better air flow and delivery of warm air, reduce the presence of mold and allergens in your home and even reduce energy costs. Quite a list of compelling reasons to have your ducts cleaned regularly. However at a cost commonly ranging from $500 to $1,000, is regular cleaning of your heating ducts really worth it?

Does annual cleaning make a big difference?

A professional duct cleaning obviously will remove dust, debris, pet hair and any small objects that have fallen into your heating ducts leaving them shiny and clean, but does it really provide all those claimed benefits?

The reality is no studies have ever shown duct cleaning can actually prevent health problems as often claimed by duct cleaners. As well, during the 1990's the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in conjunction with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation conducted a joint study to actually test heating duct performance before and after ducts were cleaned. The results showed virtually no differences in the concentrations of airborne particles after the ducts were cleaned.

Based on this and other studies, the EPA recommends duct cleaning only be done on an 'as required' basis.

'What does 'as required' mean?

Here's some situations where duct cleaning can make a major difference -

When moving into a new house or after having a major renovation done in your home having your ducts cleaned makes great sense. Sawdust, drywall dust and fiberglass scraps may have found their way into the floor openings during construction. As well,some builders during construction have been known to use the open ducts as a handy place to throw pop cans and lunch bags. The build up of garbage in your heating will actually block air flow in your ducts as well as be a source of mold, mildew and even bugs in your home, so having your ducts cleaned in this situation makes obvious sense.

In some homes that have low furnace air flow, duct cleaning may reveal blockages in the ducts and could save you money by eliminating the need to replace or reroute existing ducting.

As well if water or moisture is getting into your heating ducts, having them professionally cleaned will get rid of any accumulation of mold or mildew. In this situation, you obviously want to be sure to deal with the water issue before cleaning the ducts or else the mold will simply come back.

A word of caution. Even though cleaning out damp heating ducts will help eliminate mold,don't allow a cleaner to fog or spray your heating ducts after cleaning supposedly to get rid of any residual mold or bacteria. At this time there are no products approved and registered as being safe for residential duct cleaning and spraying biocides into a home's air ducts is potentially dangerous.

So what's the answer – to clean or not to clean?

Outside of the specific situations, it's a matter of personal choice. While there is no hard evidence that regular duct cleaning actually provides any of the benefits claimed regarding indoor air quality, there is no doubt regular duct cleaning can remove dust in the ducts, and some people may simply want to have their ducts cleaned on the basis that they clean the rest of their home regularly and heating ducts are part of their home.