Indoor Air Quality & How To Clean HVAC Ducts
Read our easy 10 DIY steps to clean and sanitize your air ducts and HVAC vents to improve your home’s air quality.
During the hot summer months and cold winter season, we go several months without opening our windows for fresh air. The HVAC indoor air quality in our homes is very important for our health and comfort. Many people see HVAC cleaning as a hassle and end up being quite expensive. You might be wondering if there’s really any practical do-it-yourself model. Lucky for you – there are some life hacks to save money on your HVAC duct cleaning. Since the Internet is full of amateurs offering their “expert” advice, it’s important that you follow the procedure here or from another authoritative source. Be smart in your research! If you aren’t careful, you may break your system components or injure yourself. If you do decide to repair or clean it yourself, make sure you have the proper tools necessary.
Don’t attempt to apply any biocides to the inside of your ductwork. The FDA has not approved any of those products for commercial use. Many so-called “magic formulas” are just scams. By circulating these chemicals throughout your home, you open yourself to numerous health hazards.
And remember, if you need to clean a hard-to-reach area or fireplace, play it safe and call a technician. The adventures of DIY methods are not worth your life.
DIY Ductwork Cleaning
It’s not always necessary to clean a ductwork system, despite the advised yearly checkup by most HVAC companies. Many factors influence the condition of your ducts, including the initial installation, environment changes, and how often you use the heater. As long as you change out your filter every 1-3 months, your system should adequately perform.
That being said, you will need extensive ductwork cleaning if you have mold, a vermin infestation, or clogged air vents. You may find visible mold on components of your cooling and heating system. If you notice weird smells from the vents, it may be a sign of a fungus growing or rodent droppings. Also, an excessive amount of dust and debris can clog air ducts and you won’t feel any change in temperature when you adjust the thermostat.
For more telltale signs your system needs cleaning or repair, check out our other blog post “Why Is My Air Conditioning Not Working?”
It is critical that before any cleaning, retrofitting, or replacing old air ducts for new ones, that you properly identify the cause. Otherwise, the problem may likely to recur and you’ll have wasted precious time and money. Your investigating might be the most laborsome part. You’ll need to carefully remove a large section of the vent, peer through with a flashlight, and thoroughly observe to find the culprit.
Before you decide to clean inside the ducts themselves, make an effort to clean various other system components, such as cooling coils, heat exchangers, and fans. Using a process of elimination, you can be sure the ducts the real problem. Besides, your diligence will reward with longer operation life and higher efficiency of the overall system.
It is not necessary to clean air ducts yourself on a regular basis. How often should you clean your air ducts? Do it only when needed. However, if you have a furnace, burning stove, or a fireplace, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you inspect before every heating season.
Last, but not least, use common sense when operating with liquids. You don’t want to track water inside your ductwork and contaminate further the airflow. If you tend to sweat profusely, you should wear gloves and other protective gear. The EPA has a detailed guide on prevention of contamination of your duct system.
Before deciding to clean your HVAC ducts yourself, make sure you set up your work area. Cover your furniture with plastic cover sheets to prevent contamination (this will save you a cleaning disaster at the end!). Then, cover the surface under every register. That way dust and dirt pushed out of your ductwork will not end up on your floor or carpet.
AC Duct Cleaning Equipment
Here’s a quick suggested list of tools that will suffice for most types of ductwork:
- Vacuum – While you might prefer a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner, any household-type will do the job.
- Furnace Filter – At the conclusion of your cleaning, most of the clogged dirt will be pushed to through your vents and onto your filter, meaning you’ll probably have to replace it. Wondering what would be the correct filter for you? While there are countless brands and types of filters, we reviewed most in our other blog “The Best Air Conditioner Filters For Allergies”
- Brush – A stiff-bristle paintbrush or a toilet brush will work.
- Duct Tape – Before commencing duct cleaning, you will need to seal off all the registers. If you don’t have a sealant tape, use paper towels. Unless you want to do a lot of vacuuming and sweeping after you finish your work, covering registers is crucial.
- Screwdriver or Hex Driver – You will need these tools to remove registers from the wall, as they are most likely fastened to their place. Use whatever device fits your fasteners. If the screws are very tight, don’t force it with the screwdriver. Get some WD-40 to loosen them.
Step-By-Step Process for Do-It-Yourself Air Duct Cleaning and Sanitizing
Step 1: Cover the Register Vents
Ensure your supply registers are covered. Supply registers are coverings that provide heated air to the rooms. This step is essential as you don’t want dust drifting into the room while you work. Cover supply registers with sealant tape. If you don’t have a sealant tape, lift the register and wrap it in a paper towel. Afterwards, put it back in its place.
Step 2: Turn On the Fan
Set the thermostat to “fan on.” At the same time, turn off “heat/cool” mode. You will need the fan running while cleaning the duct system to carry the dust and dirt particles along the ductwork.
Step 3: Check and Secure the Filter
Check if your old furnace filter is properly in place. The strainer will intercept any debris that the fan motor would otherwise suck. If any dust or dirt got into the fan motor, it could cause damage.
Step 4: Brush Away Dust from Inside the Ductwork
Break up, dust, and wipe away any dust you can reach in ductwork. Take your stiff-bristle paint brush or toilet brush and tap on any accessible ductwork in your basement or attic. Tapping will loosen any deposits of dust or dirt stuck to the inside of the duct system. Careful not to bang too hard and dent the frame.
Step 5: Vacuum Supply Registers
Carefully remove part of the sealant tape. Then, use the vacuum cleaner to catch any dust the fan has pushed out of it. Use your vacuum cleaner hose to clean inside of the piping as you are able. Proceed to push the tube as far inside of the duct’s pipeline as possible.
Step 6: Brush Remaining Dust from the Supply Registers
Use your brush to remove any remaining buildup deposits of dust and dirt within the registers. Finally, sanitize the all the registers with a domestic sanitizer.
Step 7: Shut off the Power to the Furnace
Do this via breaker panel or service switch. Turning off the power is essential for your safety in the following step.
Step 8: Clean Blower Compartment
Remove the panels from the furnace. Now you can access the blower compartment and the return boot. Use your vacuum cleaner to clean this area. If you wish for more thorough cleaning, remove the blower and furnace fan from its compartment. Take them apart and clean each component. However, do this only if you feel confident that you can put the wiring network back together.
Step 9: Replace the filter
In the end, you should change the furnace filter for a new one. In fact, make sure to remove it on a monthly basis. A dirty filter reduces the lifespan of a blower motor.
Step 10: Remove Coverings and Test the System
Finally, clean up your work area and remove the coverings on the registry vents and your furniture. Test your system on different settings to see if you encounter any further issues.
When to Contact an HVAC Professional
Since the situation in every home is different, it is impossible to give a general answer to whether you should attempt a DIY duct cleaning option.
If someone at your home suffers from allergies or other lung conditions, you probably should not attempt a thorough cleaning yourself. By choosing to clean the system yourself, you also risk the chance of getting sick by handling fungus and other dangerous bacteria. Allergies and other health issues is a very important factor in having your HVAC air quality at a healthy and optimal level year round.
However, be careful when choosing a duct cleaning service provider. If a service provider is negligent or unqualified, they can damage your HVAC and leave it in a worse condition than they found it. Instead, trust the professionals at North Augusta Air Conditioning to provide you clean, quality AC at your convenience.
- Robbins, Dan. n.d. “How to Clean Air Ventilation Ducts Yourself.” Dengarden. Accessed October 24, 2017. https://dengarden.com/home-improvement/how-to-clean-ventilation-ducts
- US EPA, OAR. 2014. “Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?” Overviews and Factsheets. US EPA. July 28, 2014. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/should-you-have-air-ducts-your-home-cleaned
- “What Are The Main Methods Of Duct Cleaning?” 2015. Ductwork Cleaning, AHU Maintenance & Fire Damper Specialists UK (blog). June 30, 2015. https://ductbusters.co.uk/main-methods-duct-cleaning/
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