Is Duct Cleaning Worth It?


An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer asks a question that many of you are probably wondering about at this time of year: “Duct Cleaning: Worth it or Hot Air?” The question doesn’t exactly lend itself to a simple yes or no answer, since there are compelling reasons both to clean your ducts and to leave well enough alone, and times you should be calling Ace Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning for Sacramento HVAC service instead of calling a duct cleaning company. Let’s break this down.

Why Not Clean Your Ducts?

The conventional wisdom around duct cleaning falls back on two key points: air quality and system function.

Let’s address indoor air quality first. The EPA has long tagged indoor air pollution as a health hazard, so you might think they’d be onboard with duct cleaning. Think again; in an extensive article on duct cleaning, they state, “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts.”

That’s not to say that your ducts might not be filthy, but in a sense, they’re a lot like your drains; the ductwork has a tendency to trap a lot of particulate matter in place rather than recirculating it. That brings us to our second point, which is system function. Intuitively, you’d think that trapped particulate matter would hinder system performance in the same way that a lot of grease buildup in your drains makes them drain slower. However, in most cases, this simply isn’t the case.

Furthermore, there are times that duct cleaning can cause more problems than it solves. Ducting isn’t impervious to damage, and the methods used by many duct cleaning companies can actually harm your system. Furthermore, those methods can disturb pollutants and contaminants, releasing them into the air in your home and degrading air quality.

When to Consider Duct Cleaning

There are limited circumstances under which duct cleaning may be advisable, including significant mold growth (which you can and should test for), or if you’re seeing visible dust and debris being blown into your home through your registers. These, however, are the exception and not the rule.

So What’s Next?

If duct cleaning doesn’t work but indoor air quality is a concern, what should you do? Start with a high-quality filter and change it on schedule, or a bit more often if you have pets or smokers in the house. Most of the crud in your ducts is there because of poor, or poorly-maintained, filters.

And those other instances where duct cleaning would seem to make sense? Mold growth calls for HVAC service, since you want to ensure that mold and mildew aren’t being caused by a system problem. And if your issue is an infestation of rodents or insects, do you really trust a brushing and vacuuming to address the issue? Didn’t think so. Sometimes replacement is a better option than cleaning, and an HVAC checkup can help determine your best course of action.
If you’re dealing with air conditioning questions this summer — or HVAC issues at any time of year — get in touch with Ace Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning for air conditioning service.