If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to save money on heating and cooling costs. Having your air ducts cleaned to remove dust, pollen, or other accumulated debris might improve the air quality inside your home, but could it also lower your energy bills?
According to the EPA, cleaning heating and cooling system components (such as cooling coils, fans, and heat exchangers) may improve the efficiency of your system and extend its operating life. However, there is little evidence to suggest that cleaning your air ducts will result in measurable energy and maintenance cost savings.
While cleaning your air ducts will have little impact on your wallet, there are instances when it could be beneficial to your family’s well-being.
Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?
It’s normal to have some household dust inside your air ducts. While the EPA does not recommend you have your home’s air ducts cleaned routinely, there are some situations where you should consider having it done, including:
- when there is visible mold growth inside your ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system;
- if your ducts are infested with rodents, insects or other pests;
- or when your ducts are clogged by dust and debris.
Hire a professional to inspect your HVAC system if you suspect any of these scenarios apply to your home. After checking your home’s ductwork and heating and cooling system, your HVAC professional should be able to confirm whether a problem exists. If he or she concludes there is a problem that requires attention, ask for photographic evidence, and take some time to consider your options before committing to a remediation plan.
Is It Safe to Use Chemical Cleaning Agents Inside Air Ducts?
If you decide it’s necessary to clean your air ducts, you should also consider how you want them cleaned.
If your home’s air ducts contain mold or other biological growth, your service provider may suggest it’s necessary to apply a chemical biocide or pesticide inside your ducts to clean them effectively. But before you allow the use of chemical cleaning agents in your home’s ductwork, ask the service provider to explain why the biological growth can’t be removed by using a brush on the affected areas.
There are only a small number of biocides registered by the EPA for use inside bare sheet metal air ducts (none of these products should be applied in fiberglass ducts). So, if brushing isn’t a viable option, and a biocide can be used inside your ducts, make sure your service provider selects an appropriate cleaning product and follows the directions outlined on the label.
How to Determine if Your Ducts Were Cleaned Thoroughly
You had your air ducts cleaned, but how do you know if they were cleaned thoroughly? Well, your service provider should be willing to demonstrate that all of the components of your HVAC system are clean and free of debris. So, to confirm the conditions inside your home’s air ducts, don’t hesitate to ask for photographs.
How to Keep Your Air Ducts Clean
If you want to keep your home’s ductwork free of contaminants, you need to be vigilant about preventing dirt, debris, water, and pests from entering your HVAC system. A good preventive maintenance routine, like the one outlined below, can help:
- Make sure to use the air filters recommended by the manufacturer of your heating and cooling system and change them regularly. Air filters should be changed every three months (or earlier if they appear dirty), so check your filters at least once a month to monitor their condition.
- Vacuum regularly to limit the amount of dust inside your home.
- Act quickly to eliminate any leaks or water damage inside or near your HVAC system, as mold growth could occur and contaminate your air ducts.
- Have your drain pans and cooling coils cleaned whenever maintenance is being performed on your heating and cooling system.
Another thing to keep in mind is that any construction work occurring in your home can produce a substantial amount of dust and debris. Before having any renovation work done in your home, it’s a good idea to seal off all supply and return registers, and refrain from operating the heating and cooling system until after the dust is cleaned up.
Should you have your heating and cooling ducts sealed? If your utility bills are suspiciously high, or you’re having a hard time maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home, check your air ducts for air leaks. Sealing your home’s air ducts may improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.
How can using a ceiling fan all year round help you save energy and money? Fans help distribute and circulate conditioned air in your living space, increasing your comfort and energy savings. Just remember to adjust your fan depending on the season (make sure it rotates counterclockwise in warm months and clockwise in chilly months).
How can you get the most out of your programmable thermostat? Think about your family’s schedule, and program your thermostat to heat or cool your home during periods where you expect you or your family members will be home. This simple action can save you hundreds in annual energy costs.