Maintaining a comfortable temperature in our environment is one of the most fundamental aspects of what makes us human. No other species on the planet is able to exist in as many different climates, and much of that comes down to being able to fit the climate to our own specific needs.
This may sound melodramatic, but if you’ve ever experienced a home with a broken heating system in the depths of winter or a lack of air conditioning in the dog days of summer, you’ll know how very quickly a home can become uncomfortable. Keeping your HVAC functioning well is critical, therefore, in maintaining your home’s livability.
An important part of this is maintaining your HVAC’s vents and ducts. These can get clogged with dust and other debris, and over time this can lead to them functioning poorly.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, between:
of the energy used for heating and cooling a home can be wasted due to unclean ducts and vents.
Given this, you have a financial interest in keeping your ducts clean. This guide will discuss how and why you can clean your ducts or vents, to ensure that your home is the right temperature in the most efficient way possible.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CLEAN MY
DUCTS AND VENTS?
Although you may work hard to keep your home clean, there are parts that don’t seem worth cleaning. HVAC ducts and vents are often difficult to access, and the interiors are not visible, leading to a lack of motivation to clean them. However, as mentioned in the opening section, there are compelling financial reasons for clearing ducts and vents of obstacles.
Here are some additional reasons to keep your ducts and vents clear:
The majority of impurities in an HVAC system are dust and other very small particles. These can be blown into your home over the course of time, which can pose a major health hazard. If you don’t regularly clean your ducts and vents, mold can flourish there. Mold spores blowing into a home can cause skin and eye irritation as well as respiratory problems.
Think of it this way – anything that is in your vents and ducts can also be in your lungs (or your family’s lungs). That should be motivation enough to want to clean.
A clogged HVAC system is an inefficient HVAC system. Because the build-up of dust and impurities don’t allow your system to work as well as it might, you will need to spend more money to get your house to the desired temperature.
Effectively, you’ll be paying money to heat up or cool down dust bunnies in your vents. Clearing them out will reduce your utility bills – not to mention actually get your home to the temperature you want.
If you clean out your ducts or vents, your HVAC system will not only run more efficiently, but it won’t have to work as hard. This will help it to last longer. This is an extension of the money argument above.
However, instead of saving you money on your utility bills, it means you’ll save money by getting more years of work out of your HVAC system, potentially saving thousands.
Q: HOW OFTEN SHOULD HVAC VENTS AND DUCTS BE CLEANED?
A: You should clean your HVAC ducts and vents once every year.
This will help you minimize the money wasted on inefficient heating. That way, your HVAC system will be functioning at its absolute peak capacity, ensuring you have a comfortable and livable home in the most energy (and financially) efficient way possible.
PROFESSIONAL AIR DUCT CLEANING
In order to get the most effective clean of your HVAC vents and ducts, you should hire a professional. Some reasons to hire a professional to clean your air ducts rather than attempt DIY methods include:
AVERAGE COST OF AIR DUCT CLEANING
The average cost of HVAC vent and duct cleaning is between $350 and $550. Another way the cost of air duct cleaning could be measured is by the number of vents. The average cost for duct cleaning is around $30-40 per vent.
Things that can affect the final price include:
The size of the home
Any complicating factors with the layout of the ducts
Ease of access to the ducts
The number of ducts and vents
PRICE PER VENT
Here is an easy reference chart to help estimate the cost of HVAC vent and duct cleaning based on the number of vents in your home.
$30 - $40
$60 - $80
$150 - $200
$300 - $400
$450 - $600
POTENTIAL THINGS TO BE WARY OF WHEN HIRING AIR DUCT CLEANING PROFESSIONALS
Here are some potential red flags for paid hvac vent and duct cleaning work.
1. Prices as low as $50 - $100
If you think a price is too good to be true, this actually could be the case when it comes to HVAC air duct cleaning. Once the duct cleaners get into your home, it is possible they could invent additional issues to charge you for.
There may be additional charges with legitimate companies, but duct cleaners offering such low prices are under additional pressure to add in costs from their superiors, making it very unlikely that the final bill will remain as low as you initially expected.
Do your research and make sure it is a reputable company before bringing them into your home.
2. They tell you there's mold in your ducts
If you were already unsure if you were working with a legitimate company, this could be one of the additional charges they try to push on you. If you have a feeling this is the case and they tell you this, then say you do not want to have them clean it.
Instead, call a trusted mold inspection and removal company to properly test for mold.
Of course, there actually could be mold in your air ducts. If you are confident the team in your home is trustworthy, then proceed with their recommendations. Ultimately, you should go with your gut.
3. The whole job takes less than 30 minutes
A thorough job should take a couple of hours.
4. They only show up with drills and short vacuums
A legitimate air duct cleaning company should use outdoor venting equipment that pushes any debris outside of the home, where they then contain it.
AND DUCTS YOURSELF
If you would like to attempt to clean air ducts yourself, it is certainly possible. You may not get as thorough of a clean, but your home and the people living in it will certainly benefit from your work. Below is more information on how you can do that.
WHAT DO I NEED IN ORDER TO CLEAN THEM MYSELF?
Here are the materials you need to get started:
Much like vacuuming the floors of your home, you can vacuum the interior of your ducts and vents. You don’t require any special additional equipment, especially if your vacuum has an extendable hose to reach the tight corners.
If you do want more specialist equipment, you can upgrade your hose extension. If you want to make sure the job is as easy as possible, then borrow, rent, or buy an industrial vacuum cleaner.
A stiff-bristled brush with a long handle will help you scrub the interior of your ducts. The longer the handle, the further you will be able to reach into the ducts.
You’ll need a screwdriver to remove the coverings of the ducts. Be sure to leave the screws somewhere that you will be able to find them easily so that you can replace them when you’ve finished cleaning.
A standard white envelope taped to the wall next to the vents is the best place, as it won’t interfere with the cleaning process, nor be reachable by pets or children.
A standard cleaning cloth will be best for wiping the areas around the air ducts and vents. You will also need them to cover over the supply register while cleaning other parts of the duct (more on this in the section below).
Every time you clean your ducts or vents, you should replace your furnace filter. These filters are designed to keep your furnace free from dust and other debris. Have a store of furnace filters ready and replace them every time you clean your duct.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU START
Now you have all your equipment prepared, it’s time to take a couple of steps to get ready for the cleaning process. The preparation stage is necessary to ensure that you don’t cause any damage to your HVAC system while cleaning it, as well as making sure that the cleaning is as effective as possible.
Cover the supply registers
Before you start doing any of the cleaning, you should cover all of the supply registers with either microfiber cloths or paper towels. This will prevent any of the dust you move around from being simply pumped to other parts of your home.
In order to cover them:
Once you’re done cleaning, remember to remove the cover (and see the dust that has accumulated on there as evidence as to why this step is necessary).
Turn on your fan
Turning on the fan will help to loosen up the dirt and dust and make the cleaning process easier. However, you must ensure that the heat is turned off before you begin cleaning otherwise you will be blasting yourself with potentially dangerously hot air.
Turn off power to the HVAC system
Once you’ve let the fan run for five minutes, cut the power to the system. When you’re cleaning the main ducts, you’ll need to be sure that the power isn’t on. If you’re unsure about this step of the process, have a second person helping you who can stand near the power shutoff. That way you’ll have someone to help in case of emergency.
HOW TO CLEAN HVAC VENTS AND DUCTS
Now that you’ve done all the preparation work, it’s time to clean the ducts or vents.
Clean Air Duct Covers
Once you’ve unscrewed them, clean them with a cleaning cloth. You can use soap and water to get them even cleaner and polish if they are metallic. This is usually a good task to allocate to a child or another family member while you clean the interior of the ducts.
Vacuum the Ducts
Using the vacuum hose, reach into the ducts and simply suck up the dust. Make sure to get into the corners. Once you’ve done this, you can use the brush or the broom to get into some of the deeper parts of the ducts. After completing this process, run the fan for another five minutes to push more dust forward and then repeat.
Clean the Supply Registers
When you have cleaned the remainder of the ducts and vents, it’s time to clean the supply registers. Remove the covers you placed over them, and then use your vacuum cleaner to remove any of the dirt or dust that is in them. Once that has gone, use your brush to sweep away any remaining debris. You may need to use a broom to sweep out the hard to reach parts.
Clean Return Air Registers
Once you’ve cleaned the rest of the ducts, unscrew the return air registers, and use the brush to remove dirt from the piping system. Again, you may need a broom to help you reach deeper into the pipes.
Replace Furnace Filters
The final step of the whole process is to replace the furnace filter. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when changing it to ensure it is properly fitted. If in doubt, you can hire a professional to do this part of the process. However, don’t skip this step as it will help keep your furnace running more efficiently, and for a longer time.