If you are a homeowner, chances are you've received an advertisement or coupon in the mail offering to improve the inside air quality of your home by cleaning your air ducts. Because there has been a growing awareness among the general public of the validity of indoor air pollution caused by tobacco smoke, household pesticides, mold, pollen, radon gas--and in the case of older homes certain building materials such as lead-based paint or asbestos--the claims of duct cleaning companies appear to be attractive.
According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, certain contaminants including mold, dust, bacteria and fungi can accumulate in a variety of places--including the duct work of the heating and cooling system in a home or building. The NADCA suggests that cleaning the air ducts to remove these contaminants is one part of a complete strategy for reducing indoor pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency loosely defines air duct cleaning to include the cleaning of various components of heating, cooling and forced air units. Although many consumers consider vacuuming air ducts to be the extent of the service, the EPA and NADCA suggest the cleaning of various other heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) components--such as heat exchangers, coils, drip pans, registers, fan motor and others--be included in the definition of the service. These areas can breed allergens which may cause discomfort or illness to occupants who are susceptible to them.
There are numerous methods of cleaning air ducts, depending on the preference of the homeowner and service provider. However, the NADCA and other industry associations have established certain standards that their members should adhere to. Most professional air duct cleaners utilize a special type of vacuum cleaner system that can agitate the duct work to dislodge debris, making it possible for the vacuum to extract. Industry standards require equipment that discharges exhaust inside to be high-efficiency particulate arrestance-filtered.
The cost to have air ducts cleaned can range widely, depending on such factors as how many services are being performed, the location of the establishment being serviced, and the configuration of the HVAC system being cleaned. It usually costs at least several hundred dollars.
There are numerous add-on services that many air duct cleaning companies offer, including the use of anti-microbial, anti-fungal or anti-mold agents to treat the inside of the air ducts. The EPA and the NADCA note that there has not been sufficient research to determine the health benefits of these practices. The NADCA also warns consumers to be cautious about any claims made by an air duct cleaning company regarding the health benefits of duct cleaning, because benefits are as yet unsubstantiated.
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