How often you should clean your air ducts depends on your situation. If you or someone in the home has asthma or is acutely allergic to certain airborne materials or pollen, regular duct cleaning may be helpful. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have an official position on the necessity of air duct cleaning unless the ducts have been contaminated by rodents, insects or mold, or you are aware of particles blowing out through the vents. The EPA recommends you have your air ducts cleaned on an as-needed basis. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) suggests having air ducts cleaned every three to five years.
Be cautious with companies that offer “whole house air duct cleaning,” urges the NADCA. The company may be using unscrupulous tactics to upsell you once they get started. Before any work begins, always clarify in writing what the job entails and what the cost will be. To protect yourself against fraud, read customer reviews and verify that your HVAC cleaning service has applicable licenses and certifications.
Air duct cleaning is done by heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals. The pros use industrial-strength, truck-mounted vacuums and powerful brushes and hoses to clean inside the metal ducts that make up your forced air heating and cooling system. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends duct cleaning if there is “substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface ducts, ducts that are infested with vermin such as rodents or insects, or ducts that are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.”
You should also have air ducts cleaned after recent water contamination or water damage to prevent mold; after renovations or remodeling to ensure debris and dust didn’t settle in the vents and ducts; if you are having problems with allergies or asthma; or when you are moving into a newly purchased home, especially if the previous owners smoked or had pets. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends getting your air ducts cleaned every three to five years, or every two to three years in regions where homeowners use their air conditioning and heater for many months of the year, while the EPA suggests homeowners have duct cleaning done as needed.
When starting a home remodel or new construction project, you will probably hire a general contractor. A general contractor is a professional who is qualified to take a set of building plans and construct them as outlined. The general contractor may help perform the day-to-day building, or they may just hire workers and oversee all the work activities. In either case, the job of the general contractor is to see that your project gets built.
When you have a building project, ask for bids from various contractors. The bids tell you how much each will charge and what their scope of work will be. Once you have selected a bid, you sign a contract with that general contractor outlining the specifics of the project and the milestones during the project when they will receive payment installments. Once the contract is official, the general contractor will bring in their crew to begin construction. The contractor will manage the workers and subcontractors (anyone who doesn’t work directly for their company but that they need to outsource, like a marble installation pro), order all the materials, obtain work permits, and confirm that all the workers and subcontractors are completing their projects as planned. They typically handle all the payments to the workers and subcontractors, and send you invoice. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor. If you are organized and competent to oversee construction projects, and are able to make sure everything is being built properly and meeting code, it’s possible you can be your own general contractor.
Hiring a general contractor is a good idea for many remodeling projects. Home renovation contractors have a broad range of skills to manage, coordinate and complete a project. They should help make sure your project comes in on time and within your budget as they hire and supervise all the necessary subcontractors, including electricians and plumbers. They also handle procuring all the materials required for your job. Some homeowners look to save money by acting as their own contractor, but an experienced home renovation contractor is worth the cost. They should know local building codes, be able to pull all necessary permits, and work with inspectors to make sure the construction meets local codes. Also, because they get professional discounts, they can typically buy materials at a better price than you can; better prices on materials and labor save you money, and make up for at least a percentage of the cost of the contractor.
The amount of time air duct cleaning takes can depend on how extensive your duct system is, how old your air ducts are, and whether they have ever been cleaned. On average, expect a standard size home (between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet) to take 2-5 hours for one to two technicians to clean. Here are the proper protocol and equipment you should expect from a professional duct cleaning service, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency:
- All doors and access ports opened to ensure the entire duct system is inspected and cleaned.
- Thorough system inspection prior to cleaning to identify possible asbestos-containing materials. If asbestos is present, specially trained and equipped contractors must do the removal.
- Use of approved vacuum equipment that exhausts particles outside of your house. If the vacuum exhausts inside your home, it must be HEPA equipment.
- Furnishings and carpet covered and protected.
- Soft-bristled brushes only on fiberglass duct board and sheet metal ducts internally lined with fiberglass.
- Ductwork properly protected.
- Adherence to guidelines and practices set down by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.