If the air ducts in your home are dirty, your family members may experience symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.
Duct cleaningcan help remove many of these contaminants and irritants. The official website of the United States Government provides important information on the subject, but knowledge about cleaning air ducts is still in its early stages. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned routinely, but only when necessary.
This is because much of the dirt in the air ducts adheres to the surfaces of the ducts and does not necessarily enter the living space. It's important to note that dirty air ducts are just one of many possible sources of particulate matter that are present in homes. Pollutants that enter the home from both outdoor and indoor activities, such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving, can cause greater exposure to pollutants than dirty air ducts. In addition, there is no evidence that a small amount of household dust or other particles in air ducts poses any health risk.
If any of the conditions identified above exist, it usually suggests one or more underlying causes. Before cleaning, reconditioning, or replacing the ducts, the cause or causes must be corrected, or else the problem is likely to reappear. Some research suggests that cleaning the components of the heating and cooling system (e.g., cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers) may improve the efficiency of your system; however, there is little evidence to indicate that simply cleaning the duct system will increase efficiency. You may want to consider duct cleaning simply because it seems logical that the air ducts will get dirty over time and should be cleaned from time to time.
As long as cleaning is done properly, there is no evidence to suggest that such cleaning is harmful. If you decide to have your air ducts cleaned, take the same consumer precautions you would normally take when evaluating the competence and reliability of the service provider. The EPA recommends that if you have a furnace, stove, or fireplace that burns fuel, they be inspected for proper functioning and maintained before each heating season to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. Some service providers may also suggest applying chemical treatments (sealants or other encapsulants) to encapsulate or cover the inner surfaces of air ducts and equipment housings because they believe they will control mold growth or prevent the release of dirt particles or fibers from the ducts.
These practices have not yet been thoroughly investigated and you should be fully informed before deciding to allow the use of biocides or chemical treatments in your air ducts. They should only be applied, if at all, after the system has been properly cleaned of all visible dust or debris. Knowledge about potential benefits and potential problems associated with duct cleaning is limited. Since conditions in every home are different, it's impossible to generalize about whether cleaning your home's air ducts would be beneficial or not.
On the other hand, if family members have unusual or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment, you should discuss the situation with your doctor. Whether you decide to clean your home's air ducts or not, preventing water and dirt from entering the system is the most effective way to avoid contamination.