In Houston, we have very gulf coast weather. High humidity, strong thunderstorms, hurricanes and all types of other weather create sticky dusty air. And, some of that air is circulated through our homes by our HVAC system. The air passing through our air ducts isn’t all that clean either.
Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, or from your shoes. All of this can be stirred up and into the air we are breathing. Some of the considerations for having your air ducts cleaned are:
- There is substantial visible mold growth inside ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:
- Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
- You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For a small fee, some microbiology laboratories will test a sample sent to them. You can just take a clear strip of sticky household tape and press onto the mold and send it to them for testing.
- If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy, it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
- If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.
- Ducts are infested with rodents or insects
- Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.
Just like anything that gets dusty, it needs to be cleaned from time to time. Most people are aware that indoor air pollution is a growing concern. When you do have your professional Abacus HVAC technician perform your annual air conditioning and heating inspections, the technician will also take a look at you air ducts. If the technician does recommend air duct cleaning, the estimate will be based on:
- the services offered
- the size of the system to be cleaned
- system accessibility
- level of contamination
Duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing. During your annual HVAC system inspection, most of these parts are examined for damage and wear, but they are not necessarily cleaned. If moisture is present, the potential for mold growth is increased and spores may be released into your home’s living space. Some of these contaminants may cause allergic reactions or other symptoms.
When you have your ducts cleaned, there are several things that should be addressed according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA):
Proper Cleaning Methods
What You Need to Know About Air Duct Cleaning
Air duct cleaning is a misnomer. In actuality, the entire HVAC system should be cleaned. Failure to clean all components of the system can result in recontamination of the entire system, thus minimizing the benefits of cleaning.
Just as you wouldn’t clean only half of your living room floor, you also would not want to clean only part of your HVAC system. NADCA recommends cleaning the entire HVAC system, including the following components:
- air ducts
- drain pan
- air plenum
- blower motor and assembly
- heat exchanger
- air filter
- air cleaner
There are two key components to HVAC cleaning: breaking contaminants loose, and collection of contaminants.
Breaking Contaminants Loose
Properly cleaning HVAC systems requires removing the sources of contamination. Source removal begins with the use of one or more agitation devices designed to loosen contaminants from the surfaces within the heating and air conditioning system. Examples of agitation devices include: brushes, air whips and compressed air nozzles or “skipper balls.” Agitation can also be achieved through hand-brushing or contact vacuuming.
Collection of Contaminants
During cleaning, the entire HVAC system is placed under continuous negative pressure (a vacuum) to prevent the spread of contaminants. Continuous negative pressure allows very fine particles to be removed from the system as they become airborne, ensuring that these particles are not released into the living space when the system is turned on after cleaning. This negative pressure also serves to extract the loosened contaminants, which are collected and removed from your home.
HVAC system cleaning is not a complex process, but each job is unique. Where possible, access to duct interiors should be made through existing openings such as supply diffusers, return grills, duct end caps and existing service openings. Cleaning technicians may need to cut access holes in the duct work in order to reach inside with various cleaning tools. Creation of these service openings, and their subsequent closure, requires craftsmanship and professional skills.
There is a wide variety of equipment available to HVAC cleaning professionals. Both truck-mounted and portable vacuums can be used to stop the spread of contaminants and get the system cleaned to the NADCA Standard.
Antimicrobial chemicals include sanitizers, disinfectants and deodorizers that can be applied to nonporous surfaces in HVAC systems to address microbial contamination and help control odors. Only chemicals registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be used. These products should only be considered after mechanical surface cleaning has been performed and if the need for such treatment has been deemed necessary. Review the NADCA White Paper on Chemical Applications in HVAC Systems for more information.
At Abacus, we want our customers to be healthy and happy. We provide complete indoor air quality assessments and offer several solutions to your indoor air quality concerns.
At Abacus, we take pride in our community. Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrical is a full service residential contractor that has been serving the greater Houston area for over 50 years. Abacus is a member of the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce and has an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau of Houston. Abacus is licensed and insured and offers 24/7 emergency service. To learn more about Abacus Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical, visit www.abacusplumbing.net or call 713-766-3605. License Numbers: ALAN O'NEILL M-20628 | TACLB82488E | TECL 30557
Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrical services the greater DFW area including, but not limited to: Houston, Humble, Baytown, Bellaire, Conroe, Katy, Spring, Sugar Land, The Woodlands and more. Check out our Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrical reviews or visit Abacus A+ BBB to confirm Abacus is a company you can trust.