How To Tell If Your Ducts Are Clean (And Make Sure They Stay Clean)

Are you wondering how you can tell if your ducts are clean or not? There is both a simple and a more complex answer to this question. Here is the simple answer:

Use a flashlight to look inside of the return ductwork. The ducts are dirty if you see any gunk.

You might be thinking that sounds a bit too simple. If so, then you’re right! Although it is easy to visibly confirm that your ducts are dirty by just looking inside of the return or checking the blower wheel, you not only want to know whether the ducts are dirty or not. You also need to know if they need to be cleaned – and how to keep them clean.

That is a completely different conversation.

Why air duct cleaning in Austin is needed?

Before we discuss whether your ducts should be cleaned (and how), first let’s consider why you may want to do this. In some houses, the ducts stay fairly clean by themselves. These are typically well-design houses with well-sealed, properly-installed ducts and that have a well-functioning, properly sized HVAC system. A high-quality air filter is used by the homeowner. They also either do not have any pets or thoroughly clean up after them.

If you were to run your finger along the inside part of the return ducts in one of those houses, you may lift a thin dust layer. That is normal and doesn’t necessarily mean you need to clean the ducts.

However, it is necessary for air duct cleaning to be done if the ducts contain any of these:

  • Droppings from pests or insects
  • Pet dander
  • Thick layers of debris and/or caked-on dust

Those contaminants can get into the indoor air whenever you are running your HVAC system. That can aggravate your asthma or allergies and make you feel ill. They can also stink in many cases.

Once you verify there is gunk in your ducts – and the air in your home is making you sick – then duct cleaning might help. Here is how to properly clean them and ensure they stay clean as well.

Have your ducts cleaned by a professional

This is definitely not a DIY project. Cleaning your ducts properly requires specialized equipment that most consumers do not have access to. Professionals use large or truck-mounted vacuums hat have special extension attachment. Also, a HEPA filter is run throughout the cleaning process in order to prevent contaminants from getting inside your house after the equipment stirs them up.

When hiring a professional duct cleaning company, be sure to select one that:

Owns specializes duct cleaning equipment and properly maintains it
Will clean the indoor coil and blower motor if necessary
Will replace the air filter as part of their service
Offers an option to inspect the ducts for any leaks and seal them after finishing the cleaning

Duct cleaning works more effectively on hard pipe ducts compared to flex ducts. It represents the difference between scrubbing a plate that is dirty and trying to scrub a towel that is blowing around in the wind. It is more difficult. However, flex ducts still can be cleaner. It could be a better option to replace them since there are limitations for even the most highly effective duct cleaning service provider and equipment.

Seal the ducts after they are cleaned.

More than anything else you can do, this will help to prevent the ducts from becoming dirty once again later on. Not every duct cleaning company seals ducts after they clean them. However, they definitely should! Here is why.

Dirty ductwork is often caused by duct leaks.

It’s just that simple. When you have leaky return ducts, lots of air that enters into the ducts is not coming from inside your house. It gets sucked in from the crawlspace, attic, or wherever the return ductwork goes.

Consider what is inside the air in your attic: rodent and insect dross, fiberglass bits, and dust. In crawlspaces, there is also rodent and insect dross, more fiberglass bits, more dust, mildew, and mold. It is really gross in there.

When you have leaky ducts, particles that get sucked into your HVAC system will coat the inside part of the ducts and get circulated in the indoor air in your house. You will be constantly breathing it. If you have your ducts cleaned it will eliminate what is there already, but it will not prevent the leaks from causing your ducts to get dirty once again.

This is why we strongly recommend that your ducts be seal once they are cleaned. Otherwise, you will need to keep cleaning them. It is an extra service, but over the long0term, it is actually a preventative measure that is quite cost-effective.

Have a media filter installed.

Ducts can still get dirty even after they are sealed. If you have pets or children, they will get dirty even sooner. The same thing is true for houses where the return grilles are located on the floor. That is why you should make sure you have a high-quality air filter. Even when gunk starts coating the ducts, less will get into the indoor air if you have a good air filter capturing it.

Your best option is media filters. Compared to the 1-inch throwaway filters that can be purchased at big box stores, high-MERV filters filter the air better and barely restrict the airflow. You usually only need to replace them two times a year.

Consider having your ducts replaced.

If your ducts have been improperly installed, are poorly designed, or very old, it makes more sense to replace them than to clean them. Pay to clean ducts that are in bad shape doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Whenever we install new ductwork, we make sure we do it right. You will receive the right duct design for your HVAC system and house (for ductwork design we use the ACCA’s Manual D). Your ducts will be properly sized, installed, and then completely sealed.

You will benefit from having improved HVAC performance along with sealed and clean ducts.

If you planning to replace your home’s HVAC system, consider replacing the ducts as well. That can be a great way to get better-designed, cleaner ducts at the same time.

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