Cleaning: that annoying task you have to do to stop visitors from judging you. We all do it, but none of us like it, we’d all much rather sit down to some cake and our favorite tv show than even think about it. Unfortunately, it has to be done. However, even when we do finally arise from the cozy butt-dent in the sofa and clean the house from top to bottom, most of us still overlook one essential aspect of home cleaning: the air ducts.

Houses with central air systems have a series of ducts that carry conditioned air throughout the building in order to help achieve your desired temperature. Over time, a lot of undesirable particles can build up in those ducts, which can have a negative effect on the overall air quality of your home. Dust, debris, mold, dog hair, smoke particles, and much more can settle in the dark recesses of your central air duct system. Of course, homes with mini-split systems, PTACS, or window air units don’t have ducts to clean, but they can still become victims of the same nasty lethargic pathogens. When too much of this gunk builds up over time, that’s when it starts to affect the air quality in the home.

Unfortunately, this can then have an effect on the health of the building’s occupants. This is especially troubling for seniors, infants, toddlers, or even just someone with a respiratory illness such as asthma. When air quality starts to decrease, health risks begin to slowly increase. It’s sort of like the mass smog effect occurring in countries such as China and India, except on a residential scale. That’s why it’s so important to have your ducts cleaned, at the very least, on a biennial basis. If it’s been more than two years since you’ve had your ducts cleaned, you may want to start thinking about it while spring is right around the corner.

A good way to know whether or not you need to have the ducts in your home cleaned is to have a professional come out to test using professional equipment. Although, if you have never had them cleaned at all and you bought your home twenty years ago, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll need to have it done.

The Process

How is it done? Well, there are a few very simple techniques that can be used to clean out your ducts. The main one is to use the brush and vacuum method. Have you ever seen someone vacuum out a pool, or done so yourself? It’s sort of like that. The grates on your vents are removed and a long plastic or rubber hose is inserted into the ducts. On the end of the hose is a circular wire or bristle brush which cleans the interior circumference of the ducts as it is pushed down. The hose then sucks out any loose dust, debris, etc, leaving a clean duct behind it. Of course, that’s not all that needs to be done.

Air returns (alternatively known as chases) can also accumulate a lot of nasty particles. All it takes is one look inside of an air return to be able to visibly see just how much junk is making it into the air of your home. These can be brushed, vacuumed, or simply wiped down if the return is accessible for the HVAC technician to get inside. It’s also a good idea to remove and clean air vent grills, which can collect dust and hair over time. If other aspects of the system are overlooked, which we’ll get to in a moment, then that can also cause vents to “sweat” and rust over time, which can then lead to mold growth. If that’s the case, then vents may need to be sanded and repainted.

A Few Alternatives

Apart from cleaning out the ducts and the air return, there are plenty of other aspects of your central air system that require attention. For instance, the blower wheel inside of the central unit, which moves conditioned air throughout the home, can gather layer upon layer of caked-on debris over a period of years. Not only can this affect the quality of air in your home but it can also cause damage to the mechanics of the HVAC system. This can cause the motor to burn out much more quickly than it is supposed to (e.g. five years instead of twenty).

Another aspect of central air systems that can affect the quality of air in your home is the evaporator coil. Evaporator coils are part of an HVAC system inside the air handler furnace which absorbs heat and moisture from the air. Unlike ducts, which mainly collect dry dust, hair, and other assorted particles, evaporator coils gather a slimy sludge-like substance. If HVAC drain lines, which get rid of excess moisture, become clogged, then this slime can build up on the coils and restrict airflow. In addition to air quality problems, this can also cause the unit to run much less efficiently, and eventually, not at all. Some coils, specifically in exterior condensers, can be cleaned with a garden hose as long as the power is turned off to the unit, but others will need a special foaming cleaner to work its way deep into the coils.

You’d be amazed at the noticeable difference before having the ducts cleaned and after. If you haven’t had your system cleaned since before Facebook existed, then you may want to consider having it done soon. Don’t wait until the health of you and your family is affected by poor indoor air quality to take action; stay on top of issues like these by being proactive. Our representatives are available to answer questions and give you a free estimate for air duct cleaning today. For all of your air duct cleaning needs in the Jacksonville area, the team at J&W Heating and Air + Plumbing are the guys for the job. We can’t wait to work with you!

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