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Homes can get filthy rather quickly. No matter how hard you try, rooms, windows, and everything else needs occasional cleaning due to dust build-up. However, most people seem to inexplicably forget that their air ducts require cleaning just like any other part of the home.

Although a note from the U.S. Environmental Health Protection Agency has stated that a blanket recommendation cannot be offered, it also goes into detail about specific cases where air duct cleaning may be necessary.

Owners of brand new homes, for example, may find air duct cleaning to be a waste of money. On that same note, if you do not know the last time your air ducts were cleaned out, now may be the time to consider enlisting the help of an air duct cleaning service near you.

How Do Air Ducts Get Dirty?

That’s a great question, especially since air ducts are often out-of-sight and out-of-mind. You may not have even thought about it until you started reading this, but dirty air ducts collect everything that gets into your home’s air supply, including:

  • Pet dander
  • Smoke from cigars or cigarettes
  • Natural dust and other particulates in the air
  • Moisture from cooking, humidity, and more

Although some people may not be as sensitive to these as others, especially those with allergies, it has been shown that there are many factors that could lead to mold growth or other problematic impurities. If your air ducts show any of signs indicated below, we highly recommend hiring a vent cleaning or mold removal service near you.

Signs That You Should Get a Professional Involved

It can be difficult for an average person to determine for themselves if an air duct cleaning is absolutely necessary. After all, how can you tell the difference between irritating (yet sometimes ultimately harmless) dust and potentially dangerous mold?

As it turns out, there are a few different ways to check for yourself.

  • Many air ducts are easy to open and inspect. Even if you can’t see the entirety of the air duct (many of them run through inaccessible areas of the house), you can get a good idea of the cleanliness of the system by simply examining the area just inside the removable faceplate.
  • If the area seems damp, or if you notice a particularly musty odor, that’s a surefire sign that you’ve got mold somewhere within your system.
  • If you observe any growths or spreading discoloration, it could be another sign that impurities are being pumped into the home.
  • If you see any vermin droppings, there’s a good chance that you are being exposed to urine as well. It may seem disgusting, but since most vermin excrement is harmful to humans, it’s essential to factor in when considering air duct cleaning services.
  • The presence of insects is also problematic, since it means that there’s probably a great deal of moisture in your system.

If you’re not sure whether or not a growth you’ve found is mold, you could always try lab testing. Put on a facemask and some rubber gloves, take a strip of tape, and collect a sample, being sure to place it in a sealed container like a sandwich bag. For around fifty dollars, you can get the sample tested at a local microbiology lab. If it tests positive for mold, then you should enlist professional air duct cleaners immediately.

Although the dangers of mold are obvious, they cannot be overstated. Some mold growths contain mycotoxins and cytotoxins that can cause rashes, fever, respiratory infections, paralysis, or even death. For this reason, it’s important to be careful and wear proper safety gear when investigating potential mold growths

Even if it’s not mold, keep in mind that clumps of dust can clog filters and eventually grow to become a gigantic problem, especially if there are any allergy sufferers in the house.

Other Reasons to Clean Your Air Ducts

Remember, even though the EPA says that routine cleaning is unnecessary for most people, there are certain factors that contribute to an increased likelihood that your specific air ducts will need cleaning on a semi-regular basis.

  • Venting can be of crucial importance if you have certain appliances. If you have a fuel burning furnace, stove, or fireplace, for instance, having a professional inspect your air ducts for obstructions can limit the potential for something serious like carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If it’s unclear if your air ducts have ever been cleaned, it may be time to think about it. The EPA also suggests cleaning the air ducts if there is no previous record of it ever having been done to your house, especially if you plan on staying in it for a while. In some cases, this will be done during the home inspection, so be sure to ask plenty of questions when buying your home.
  • Constant moisture can be an immediate red flag. Living in an area with high humidity could increase the chance of moisture buildup and mold growth within your system. Those that live in a consistently humid environment may want to consider the status of their air ducts more often than someone who lives in a comparatively dry area.
  • Cleaning your air ducts can result in massive energy savings. After all, most HVAC systems will re-circulate the air an average of 5-7 times per day. If contaminants are clogging the air ducts, it can become far more difficult for most heating and cooling systems to operate. According to the United States Department of Energy, between 25-40 percent of the energy used by the population for cooling or heating a home is wasted. By keeping your air ducts clean, you can make sure your expensive appliances like your heater and air conditioner won’t have to work as hard, which will prolong their life in the long run.
  • Air duct cleaning can improve air flow. Homes that find that they can’t stay heated or cool when they need to may find that the problem lies in the air ducts. If your air ducts can’t transport air efficiently, then that means that your home won’t be properly ventilated on a hot, stuffy day.
  • Cleaning out your air ducts can improve air quality in most homes. In most mid-sized homes around the country, an annual average of 40 pounds of dust is created. Even without the threat of mold, the irritating health effects caused by dust, dander, and chemicals can be too inconvenient – and sometimes even dangerous – to ignore.

Steps to Take Once You’ve Decided to Clean Your Air Ducts

If you’ve determined that air duct cleaning is necessary, it’s important to ensure that it’s done correctly. Some companies, for instance, use unsafe chemicals to completely wipe out any potential for mold within your system. While these processes can work, they leave behind traces that could end up endangering your family more.

In other cases, companies that avoid chemicals, but which don’t follow proper duct cleaning procedures, can unsettle dormant dust and debris, and release them into your home. Even if a company is experienced, a poorly trained or inconsiderate service provider could easily accidentally damage your air duct system and make the whole process cost a lot more.

The bottom line is this: Make sure the air duct cleaning company that you choose is transparent about the steps they take to clean your air ducts, and also make sure they have the experience and reviews to prove that they know how to do the job right.