Prevent Dirty Ductwork and Avoid the Implications of Poor IAQ

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Prevent Dirty Ductwork and Avoid the Implications of Poor IAQ

prevent dirty ductwork

You likely take for granted the ductwork that delivers conditioned air to all the rooms in your home. However, ductwork does need to be monitored to make sure dirt and debris isn't clogging the ducts, impairing energy efficiency in your heating and cooling system, and more seriously, threatening the health of home occupants. Preventing dirty ductwork will ensure that the ducts aren't compromising your system's energy efficiency or creating health risks.

Benefits of Preventing Dirty Ductwork

While duct cleaning is an available option when ducts get dirty, the best course of action is preventing dirty ductwork in the first place.

A major benefit of preventing dirty ductwork is improved energy efficiency. When dirt and debris accumulates in the ducts, airflow through the ducts is impeded. Any forced-air HVAC system requires smooth and predictable airflow, both in the supply and return ducts. When airflow is hindered by material in the ducts, design flaws, or detached, dropped or leaking ductwork, your heating and cooling equipment will have to work harder and longer to provide conditioned air throughout your home.

Finally, tight, clean and well-designed ductwork minimizes health risks originating in the ducts. In many homes, the indoor air can get fairly dirty, containing a variety of contaminants, including mold spores, pet dander, bacteria and viruses, pollen and other materials. As the air circulates in the ductwork, especially if it's not getting filtered properly, those contaminants can accumulate inside the ducts. In addition, insects and rodents can get in the ducts, leaving behind body parts, nests and feces. Finally, your ducts may offer a welcoming environment for mold, which if left unchecked can colonize duct sections.

Now imagine your household air flowing through filthy ducts, picking up various health-threatening contaminants. It's not good for you, and it's especially not good for household members who suffer from allergies or respiratory issues.

Steps for Preventing Dirty Ductwork

Clearly, if you can keep the ductwork from getting dirty and contaminated in the first place, you're ahead of the game. The good news is that most of these steps are relatively cheap, and definitely worth the payoff of enjoying cleaner air and a more efficient HVAC system.

The U.S. Office of Research Services, a subdivision of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), offers the following six steps for preventing dirty ductwork.

  • Schedule an annual preventive maintenance check on your home's heating and cooling system. These tune-ups should include a careful cleaning of all HVAC components. A clean system is almost always a more efficient system, as well as one that doesn't allow debris to collect inside the ductwork.
  • If you're planning a home renovation project that involves carpentry and other intense work, ask your contractor to seal the ductwork so construction debris doesn't enter the system. You'd be surprised at how much sawdust and other scrap from construction activities can get sucked into the ductwork during a relatively modest renovation project.
  • If your new or existing home is getting new ductwork, the installation specialists should give the ducts a comprehensive cleaning before operating the heating or cooling system. Newly installed ductwork often contains oil and dirt that will get into sensitive mechanical components, as well as your indoor air, if the ducts aren't cleaned before use.
  • If you keep a clean home, less dust and debris will enter the ducts and continue circulating in household air or settling in the ducts.
  • Keep track of where your air registers are located, particularly those that return air to your HVAC system (as opposed to supply registers). If these vents are located close to sources of contaminants, such as damp areas where mold might be present, those hazardous materials can get sucked into your ductwork.
  • Schedule a regular ductwork inspection with a trusted local HVAC contractor. If your home is relatively clean, and you keep a clean air filter operating with your furnace or A/C, you may not need an inspection any more than every three or four years. However, if you have various household risk factors, such as multiple pets, a dusty road outside, or poor air filter maintenance, you might want to consider scheduling an inspection more often. If you can't remember your last duct inspection, there's no time like the present.

For more help preventing dirty ductwork in your Columbia area home, please contact us at Cool Care Heating & Air. Our NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified duct-cleaning service uses high-tech tools to inspect, and if necessary, clean and repair your home's ductwork.

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