HVAC Duct Cleaning: Does It Prevent Health Problems?

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Numerous companies advertise HVAC-duct cleaning, claiming that having your ducts cleaned prevents health problems. Before hiring one of these companies, you should ask a few questions. For instance, does having your ducts cleaned really have health benefits? If so, what are they? What signs indicate that your ducts could benefit from a cleaning? Before addressing those, it's necessary to define and describe the duct-cleaning process itself.

About HVAC-Duct Cleaning

Once air is heated by your furnace or cooled by your central air-conditioning unit, it must travel through a system of ducts before reaching the rooms of your house. Duct cleaning companies come to your home and clean dust, mold, pollutants, and debris from the components of forced-air systems. Theoretically, duct cleaning results in better indoor air quality, creating a healthier living environment.

There are several different methods for performing this operation, which often include high-powered vacuum cleaners and specialized tools. Sometimes, a company will apply a chemical-sealant coat to the inside of the ductwork after it is clean in order to keep it that way.

Issues and Considerations

Every home is different, as is every family. Although there are guidelines created by the Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA), it is difficult to generalize about whether you should have this service performed. Allergy or health issues experienced by those living in the house might justify a cleaning, as could visible accumulation of debris or mold in the air ducts, or odor emanating from them.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, remember that while HVAC-duct cleaning might temporarily relieve the problem, you still need to address the underlying issue. For example, if there is mold growing in your air ducts, it is probably all over your house, and you should call a mold-removal specialist.

Another important consideration is the biocides, or chemical treatments, that may be used to seal the inside of the air ducts. These chemicals will be part of the air inside your home and could be detrimental to your health.

Preventing Health Problems?

The EPA states that it "Does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned except on an as-needed basis, because of the continuing uncertainty about the benefits of duct cleaning under most circumstances." The agency goes on to say that claims about the health benefits of HVAC-duct cleaning are unsubstantiated.

Official statements aside, only you can decide if a duct cleaning is right for your home and your situation. If you think it is, just remember to investigate the companies you're considering and make sure they answer all your questions satisfactorily.