Air Ducts – To Clean Or Not To Clean?

Air Ducts – To Clean Or Not To Clean?

Your home’s ductwork is a series of passageways that deliver cooled and heated air to various areas of your home. This series of connected tubes is a vital part of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Any dust, pet dander or hair, and cobwebs in your ducts can get pushed out into the air circulating in your home. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you have your air ducts cleaned every 5-7 years or as needed while the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends every 3-5 years for cleaning.

Research shows that dirty HVAC components can make the unit less efficient. In fact, the NADCA found that 25%-40% of energy is wasted by dirty or clogged air ducts. When ducts are clean, less dust is circulating through your home and the lifespan of your HVAC system is increased.


Unfortunately, there are companies who will have you believe they can deliver more than what is possible to the extent that the NADCA has an anti-fraud task force regarding duct cleaning. Know that your ducts cannot be “sanitized” or “disinfected” and there is no research to support that cleaning the vents will improve the inside air quality. In addition, any company saying they can clean your air ducts in a quick hour for an unbelievably low cost should be questioned. During a cleaning, the entire system should be addressed – the inside unit, filters, air handler, registers, grilles, fan, motors, housings and coils of the HVAC system as well as the ducts.

To avoid scams – get references and estimates and ask to see a company’s liability insurance and NADCA certificates. Reputable companies will use cameras to inspect your ducts and should offer to show you “before” and “after” pictures or live views through their camera.

Things to do Before Thinking about Duct cleaning:

  • Have your ducts checked for leaks and fixed as necessary. Leaky ducts can pull in dirty air from crawl spaces, attics, etc.
  • Regularly clean intake and output vents by vacuuming or removing and hand washing.
  • Regularly change your air filter. *see below

Signs Your Air Ducts Should be Cleaned and that Dirty Air is Being Circulated Through Your Home

  1. There is visible mold growth. This indicates a possible moisture issue and can negatively impact the breathing of you and your family.
  2. There are signs of rodents or insects such as exoskeletons or droppings. Another indicator of a pest infestation would be having a foul smell coming from the vents when the system kicks on
  3. You can see excessive dirt or debris. These can clog your system, impact the efficiency of airflow, and push pollutants into your home.
  4. If the air filter gets dirty quickly after being installed or seems more abnormally dirty than usual.
  5. If the furnace blower is coated with dust.
  6. You can see dark lines coming out of registers onto walls or carpets.
  7. There are visible particles being blown out of the vents when the system is running.
  8. You smell stale, musty odors when the HVAC system turns on.
  9. You find that you need to sweep or dust more often. *
  10. If the return vents are coated with dust. *
  11. There is visible dust or pet hair trapped inside vents. *
  12. If you observe that the airflow is not as strong as usual and nothing has fallen into or is visibly blocking the vent(s). *

*These items should first be addressed by replacing the filter. You may find there are times throughout the year when you have to change your air filter more often.

Other Times to Consider Having Air Ducts Cleaned

When you move into a new home. This prevents the transfer of contaminants and pollutants from previous owners.

  • After major renovations are done.
  • After building a new home.
  • After a house fire.

Dirt and dust restrict your HVAC’s ability to heat and cool your home. Clean HVAC systems are less likely to require emergency maintenance, will have a longer life span, and will operate more efficiently than dirty systems. You will find that preventative maintenance is best. You can request to have your ducts inspected as a part of your annual HVAC servicing. If you have questions about your HVAC system, or maintenance concerns, or are in need of services, contact GV’S Heating and Cooling today.