FAQ: Straight answers to your questions
Throughout the more than 20 years in the duct cleaning business, certain questions are come up repeatedly. Here are some of the more common questions I get.
Do I really need my ducts cleaned?
It’s likely that you’ll benefit from having your ducts professionally cleaned if you (or a previous homeowner) have not have not had it done before. The recommended timeline is every 5 to 7 years.
However, if no one in your family is having breathing issues or allergic symptoms and the dusting schedule is not too frequent then why wait until you have such a problem?
I’m a good housekeeper. Does that mean I don’t need my ducts professionally cleaned?
Indoor air quality is the result of many factors. It’s more that just dust and dirt. Another factor may be a high particulate count outdoors. This can be the result of pollen, a busy nearby road, or soil erosion. These can have a negative impact impact on indoor air quality.
Will I breathe better as a result of having Indoor Environmental clean my ducts?
We don’t make health care claims. But having personally cleaned thousands of homes and commercial buildings, I’ve heard from many families who say they have benefited greatly from the service. In follow up calls to customers, I have heard many say that they sleep better. Their trips to the doctor are fewer and their reliance on antihistamines and inhalers are reduced or eliminated. That’s a lot of bang for the buck.
Do you have a feeling of reduced vitality when the furnace or air conditioner is running? If so, there’s a pretty good chance your duct cleaning dollar will be well spent providing you get a quality job.
How can I be assured of a quality job?
Your best assurance of a quality job comes from checking for yourself before the job is done. I encourage my customers to do that.
Look inside all trunk lines and bang your hand on every branch run to and verify as much as possible. Listen as you do that and include every area such as the blower compartment of the HVAC system through which the air passes has been cleaned.
Although you may not want to go into crawl spaces or other harder to reach places, it only takes a minute to look in the trunk lines and tap on the flat sheet metal between the floor joists that are the branch runs of the return air side.
I’ve observed that crawl spaces are areas where cleaning efforts tend to be the shoddiest by other companies. This may be because they believe that it’s unlikely homeowners will audit this area themselves.
How long will it take to do my job?
This depends on the size and complexity of your home and how easily accessible your ducts are.
On the average a two-man crew should be able to work approximately 50% faster than a solo technician. (The second technician is most useful during setup and removal of the cleaning equipment). For example, 2 techs would require 2 hours where one tech would be more like 3 hours.
Having the right equipment and thoroughness are other factors in job duration. I use a whipping device in every rectangular enclosure, both main and branch runs. That takes a bit longer but the outcome is worth the effort.
I use a power vacuum truck that makes large volumes of vacuum and high pressure air on board. Portable equipment can compare in only rare instances where the distance from the truck (and the vacuum) is hundreds of feet to the hookup point. Most often the power vac truck prevails.
As the owner and operator of Indoor Environmental, I am 100% accountable because I since I do all the work myself. My jobs come mostly from referrals and clients often tell me they place a high value on dealing directly with the owner.
Why is there such a wide price range between the different companies?
You want it done right – and without over-paying. Quality-minded companies tend to cost substantially more. Some may charge 2 to 3 times more than guys with sub-par equipment. Be leery of companies that schedule several jobs per truck a day, day in day out, because even smaller homes can occasionally take substantially longer to clean than anticipated. The more jobs they book, the greater the difficulty of staying on schedule. That’s when quality may suffer. Disreputable companies will rush through job and cut corners so they can get to their next one.
If you see an offer for duct cleaning for only a $100 dollars, I recommend that you pass it up. That amount will not even pay the overhead costs of most bona fide companies. Some companies advertise such prices just to get you to call. There will usually be many additional charges before you get done.
I save costs in three ways and pass the savings on to the client:
- I run my business from my home and store my equipment there.
- I rely mostly on word-of-mouth advertising.
- I do carry liability insurance but I have no employees – no wages, and no workman’s comp to pay.
Another company claims they have the most powerful equipment. Doesn’t it make sense to go with them?
Even the best equipment is ineffective in the hands of an inexperienced operator. I have both the best equipment and the skills and experience to do the job thoroughly.
Few companies, if any, use low friction tubes that I use because it requires more storage room on the truck than traditional tubing. This type of tube helps retain much more of the initial suction compared to more conventional equipment. My system allows me to reach distances approaching 300 feet – more than enough for most homes. (I use alternative methods for much larger, industrial-sized duct systems.)
Another company claims they are the most experienced. Isn’t that important?
I have cleaned thousands of homes, businesses, and industrial settings for about 20 years. Other companies play with words by combining the experience of all their employees.
Some companies use a camera. Isn’t that better?
A mirror and a strong flashlight illuminate the duct system better than a camera. I encourage all clients to look inside before and after the cleaning so they can judge the clear improvement.
Some companies use video cameras as a marketing tool. They don’t actually use it in performing the cleaning throughout the duct system.
It’s easy to make a video that shows how a duct system is cleaned. Most such videos are made with lighting and effects in artificial or non-typical conditions that give an exaggerated impression of optimal results.
Do duct cleaning companies need licensing?
Yes. A mechanical license is required if the operator will be cutting into the sheet metal of the duct system. Licensing does not assure demonstration of proficiency or ethical behavior.
I have personally cut tens of thousands of holes into duct work so I’m starting to get pretty good at it. I make sure that every hole is professionally resealed to assure that the effectiveness and efficiency of your heating and cooling is not impaired.
What is NADCA?
NADCA is an acronym for National Air Duct Cleaners Association. The association sets guidelines for quality duct cleaning. I adhere to their standards.
I know there are still skeptics out there who, among other reasons may have heard of a bad experience, but at least the more science-minded like the EPA give it a thumbs up, right?
Unfortunately, the EPA is still mired in antiquated thinking that flies in the face of evidence that duct cleaning can greatly reduce the particulate count in the air of a building. Laser particle counters have proven a dramatic reduction in airborne particulate when the HVAC is running. And years of anecdotal evidence, while not objective science, is compelling too.
Isn’t it enough to use a good quality filter on my furnace to catch any airborne particles? Should my ducts be kept clean by using them?
No, the filter can only capture what is occurring in real time upstream from the filter. It can’t capture accumulated dust and debris.
Denser filters media generally means better filtration. But it also requires that the filter compartment provides a good seal for the filter. Otherwise the filter isn’t performing as designed.
Tell me about lighting inside ductwork.
Ultraviolet (UV) light is used to kill pathogenic organism in the duct system. The UV light is in the “C” band of the ultraviolet spectrum hence commonly called UVC. If just one light is installed, which is generally the case, it is located in the plenum directly above the cooling coil above the furnace. This location targets the bacteria that grows around the cooling coil and drip tray of the air conditioning (AC) coil. In less common scenarios without AC it is installed in the return side of the furnace just before the filter.
What is sanitizer?
Sanitizer is a generic description for a (biostatic/biocide) chemical that is fogged inside the air ducts after they have first been cleaned. For maximum safety, I use EnviroCon (TM), an EPA-approved agent that is safe for plants animals and humans. You don’t have to leave your home while is is being used. There is no extra charge for this and we will not use it at the request of a chemically sensitive client.
What if my air ducts are completely enclosed, can they still be cleaned?
Often I can still find a way to remove most of the dust without having to suggest cutting a hole into the drywall/plaster ceiling in order to gain access to the trunk lines. For the best possible results, I can carefully locate the trunk lines through a hole that can be covered with a trim panel later.
Another way to address high particulate air problems in homes with hard-to-reach trunk lines by the installation of a HEPA bypass system. More information is available upon request.
Are all duct systems created equal?
No. Some duct systems are designed better than others. Trunks lines that taper or reduce as they move away from the furnace do a better job of retaining the necessary air flow.
- Duct systems that have metallic branch runs are superior to flex ducts when considering retention of air flow integrity.
- Furnace systems in which the proper cycling of the fan isn’t optimally coordinated with the heat exchanger are less efficient and comfortable.
- Most duct systems are not hermetically sealed and substantial heat loss is the result.
- Collapsed conduits are often found in slab-on-grade designs or those systems that include very with very tight crawl spaces.
- Duct systems that aren’t optimally balanced also fall short of their maximum comfort and efficiency potential.
- And finally even some basement installations are just plain bad. For example, a long trunk line with one or more branch runs near its end that then take several turns before the vertical rise to a second floor room.
Isn’t mold in duct work a good reason to have the ducts cleaned?
Every year I do dozens of duct cleanings during the course of remediation companies mold cleanup project in a building. Obviously, the perceived mold threat has received enough recognition by the insurance industry to be considered protocol as part of safeguarding a building for occupancy. I don’t mind the work, thank you insurance industry, but it doesn’t always square up to the reality of whether mold in duct work is a given. Various molds need a relatively humid environment in which to thrive and mold that survives in a dormant and aerosolized state will often blow out of the dust system before it goes back from a dormant to the replicating state of the higher humidity in a breeder environment. But the logic is to err to the side of caution hence the reason insurance companies support this. For a homeowner the mold criteria is somewhat different. Just keep in mind if you have a water pipe dripping on your duct system, a damp basement or anything else that may cause a heightened ambient humidity, then mold in duct work could be a legitimate concern.
How much “dust” is really in there? Can I see what came out after the job is complete?
The “dust” extracted during a cleaning goes directly into a storage box in the truck along with the rubbish from a the jobs preceding it. Unfortunately, a client who isn’t on site before and after the cleaning won’t benefit from the before and after show-and-tell to appreciate the change. Of course one can always look inside the trunk lines after they’ve been cleaned to verify to quality of workmanship.
Is there a good or bad time to clean out the air duct system?
Duct cleaning can be performed any time throughout the year. However, I don’t recommend doing this during outdoor temperature extremes as the furnace/AC is shut off during the actual cleaning.
So why should I use Indoor Environmental instead of another company?
Three main reasons:
- High quality, high-powered equipment
- All work is performed by the owner
- Fair pricing policy
I give you a bid based on the estimated time to do the job. You will not pay more than the estimate specifies. And, if the job takes less time than estimated, you pay proportionately less. See our pricing policies.