DIY Air Duct Cleaning for Homeowners
Like its namesake suggests, air ducts are vital as it channels airflow throughout the entire structure of a building. The air delivered helps to ventilate, air-condition and provide heating to rooms, which means that this fixture is important not only in providing comfort but also in making sure that rooms in the building are supplied with fresh air.
Like plumbing work, air ducts are also lowly regarded as most of us are oblivious to the importance of the ductwork. It is imperative that every new homeowner understands the importance of maintaining your air ducts in good working condition in order for it to function properly as the last thing you want is to suffer from a chilled room during winter or to have to endure sweltering heat in the summer. A clogged air duct will also require plenty more energy to either heat up or keep a room cool, thereby making it much more expensive to operate as well.
Why Air Ducts Need Cleaning
Like every other fixture or furnishing at home, your air duct will also collect dust particles, mould, smoke, hair, skin, dandruff, pollens and other floating particles in the air. Overtime, these specks of dirt will create a built-up of grime in your air ducts, making it that much more difficult for air to flow freely from one piping to another. Besides learning how to flush these offending dirt out of your ductwork, every homeowner should also learn the basics of cleaning and maintaining other components of air ducts as well, including the heating and cooling coils, drip pans, heat exchangers, air handling unit housing and fan motor housing as all these components will also affect the efficiency of your ductwork.
A well maintained air duct will ensure that your household residents will enjoy a constant supply of fresh, breathable air. Besides that, keeping your air ducts clean will also extend the lifespan of your electronic equipment such as computers, radios, hand phones, stereos and television sets as dust particles such as these equipments will come in minimal contact with dust particles. A well cleaned air duct will also be able to keep mould spores away from your furniture as well, thereby protecting the integrity of your furniture as well.
When Should I Clean My Air Ducts?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air ducts should only be cleaned if the state of the air duct manages to trigger an allergic reaction or illness. An air duct is also recommended for cleaning if there are visible duct or mould deposits in the ductwork or if there is a musty odour being emitted from the ductwork.
There are also other general symptoms of an air duct in need of cleaning, such as noticeable increase of dust particles in your room even after sweeping and a sudden, frequent onset of headaches, sinus problems or nasal congestions. If there is noticeably less air flow being produced by your vents, it is also probably time to clear the ducts out before someone suffers from an allergic reaction, especially if there are asthma patients residing in the unit.
Air Duct Cleaning Tools
The good news is that anyone can clean their air ducts as the tools needed for such an operation can be easily found in any household. You will need to procure a vacuum cleaner, gloves, a brush, a hose, rag cloths, a screw driver, hot water, lubricating oil, a face mask, sponges and household cleaning liquid.
How to Clean the Grills of the Air Duct
The grills of the air duct must be cleaned periodically as it acts as a filter for your duct system. When a grill is much too dirty, it cannot trap allergens and prevent it from escaping into your rooms. As you will be in direct contact with plenty of dust and dirt, it would also be prudent to first wear a face mask before proceeding with this cleaning exercise.
The air duct is constantly sucking in and pressurizing air outwards, so do be sure to first switch the power off before beginning any cleaning expedition. Depending on your ductwork design, your air ducts may be covered with return-air grilles, vent covers or registers. Unscrew these grills or covers to get to the grills of the air duct.
The grills are porous by design so that substances that cause allergic reactions can be trapped in the sponge-like surface area. To clean the grill, you can either soak the entire construct in a pail of hot water mixed with household cleaning fluids or you could also wash the grill down while laying it on sheets of old newspaper. Once that’s done, dry your grill under natural sunlight. You might also want to run the vacuum cleaner over the grills once it’s completely dried as well.
How to Clean the Air Ducts
Air ducts are long and winding, so it is important to only use cleaning tools which have long reaches as the last thing you want is to accidentally drop a hose or a brush down your air duct. Hence, we recommend that you use a strong powered vacuum cleaner to suck all the dirt stuck in your air duct.
Once you’ve completely vacuumed the ducts, you can then choose to wash the ducts down with household cleaning liquid. Do use gloves for this exercise though as air ducts can have sharp edges and your cleaning liquid might be much too harsh for direct skin contact. Once that’s done, you can then reattach the grill.
Notes on Cleaning Other Components of the Air Duct
While you’re at it, you might also want to spring clean your furnace, air conditioning system, cleaning coils, fan motor and drip pans as well to fully enjoy your newly cleaned air duct. Do note though that the cleaning methods for these components vary according to the manufacturer so be sure to read the instruction manual before proceeding on your own.
Once you’re done cleaning everything, do give your entire household a thorough vacuum as well.
When to Seek Help
The thing about DIY air duct cleaning is that while anyone can do it on their own, it is very time consuming and in some cases, can be downright dangerous especially if you aren’t confident about what you’re doing. For instance, an air duct infested with allergens can cause illness in the household if it is not handled properly. In cases like this, we highly recommend that you contact your local microbiological laboratory to have the mould investigated. It should be noted that mould cannot be simply vacuumed away but instead should be removed with the appropriate disinfectants, depending on the type of mould growing in your air duct.
When in doubt, it is always best to hire professionals as the last thing you want is to spend an obscene amount of time and effort on air duct cleaning. Air duct cleaning experts would also be able to help you quickly identify health hazards and help you better protect your loved ones from harmful allergens as well.