Ideally, a homeowner should have his or her air ducts cleaned every two to five years. People who have pets, who smoke or who believe that their ducts have unusual amounts of dust or mold should have their ducts cleaned out even more often. Ducts should certainly be cleaned out if the homeowner believes that they harbor vermin.

Air ducts should be cleaned by an HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning professional. The professional can be the same contractor who installed the homeowner’s HVAC system, but if he’s not available, the homeowner might need to vet a short list of HVAC contractors before choosing one. The contractor needs to be licensed, bonded, insured and have experience in cleaning air ducts. This not only means the ducts themselves but heat exchangers, drip pans, heating and cooling elements, grilles, fans and registers. The contractor should also be a certified member of an organization like the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

Some contractors will want to use a biocide in the ductwork to kill mold and pathogens. Generally, this isn’t necessary unless the infestation of mold and fungi is fairly severe. The customer should have the contractor explain exactly why a biocide is necessary to clean the ducts.

Besides being licensed and certified, the contractor will need to inspect the system to make sure that the cleaning won’t disturb hazardous substances like asbestos. He should use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and protect furniture, carpets and the ductwork itself. When the job is done, he should be able to show the customer what he did to clean the ductwork. All fans, coils, fins, drain pans and blades should look clean to the customer and all should have been securely replaced. After this, the HVAC system should work properly during both the heating and the cooling seasons.


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