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How to Know It Is Time to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

when to duct clean

Just as you use the temperature as a gauge to tell you when to turn on your air conditioner or your heater, so too can you learn the telltale signs it is time to have your indoor air ducts cleaned.

In this post, learn what to watch for to determine when to schedule your air duct cleaning.

How Air Ducts Get Dirty

There is no one single "right time" for every home or business to have your indoor air duct system professionally cleaned.

Rather, the right time for your building will depend on how dirty your air duct system is, which can depend on any number of factors, including (but not limited) to these:

  • The age of the building itself and its composition
  • The date of the last air duct cleaning (if any)
  • How often the HVAC system (air conditioning and/or heating) is used
  • The quality of ventilation, filtration, and purification of the indoor air
  • How often and how well the HVAC system is inspected, maintained, and repaired
  • How frequently the air filters and furnace filters are changed
  • How well matched (or not) the HVAC system is with the space
  • The location and use of the building (i.e., manufacturing, distribution, etc.)
  • What types of appliances are in use inside (i.e., wood-burning stove, gas fireplace, etc.)
  • What goes on inside the building (i.e., tobacco use, use of cleaning products, etc.)

How An Indoor Air Quality Test Can Help

It goes without saying that a brand-new building with a brand-new HVAC system that uses state-of-the-art technology to keep the indoor air clean and clear will be the least likely to need an indoor air duct cleaning.

But these types of structures tend to be the exception rather than the norm. To make matters more challenging, what makes it most difficult to determine when your air ducts need to be cleaned is that you can't see them!

The air ducts are hidden inside the ceiling and/or walls of your home or business, so it is not a simple matter to evaluate how clean or dirty they may be.

In these cases, the best approach is to do an indoor air quality test to measure the contents of your indoor air. The indoor air quality test will monitor your indoor air at home or work for a 72-hour period.

At the end of this time, you will receive a detailed report listing all detected toxins, their amounts, and recommendations for actions as needed. This is a reliable way to determine whether you need to clean your air duct system now or can wait.

3 Signs Your Air Ducts Need Cleaning NOW

However, there are some cases where the signals are so crystal clear that you don't need to do an initial indoor air quality test to figure out when to do an air duct cleaning.

The U.S. EPA states that you should always have your indoor air ducts cleaned if any of these three signs is present:

Sign 1: Your indoor air ducts are visibly clogged

You may wonder how you can possibly tell if your hidden air duct system is visibly clogged. So here is what to do:

  • Take a survey of your indoor air vents. Notice if any/all are covered in a layer of dust or have debris/dust clinging to the grill.
  • Watch the vents when the HVAC cycles on. The next time the HVAC cycles on, stand near the air vents and watch to see if you can see dust or debris getting pushed out.
  • Monitor the dust level in your home overall. If you begin to notice you are having to dust more frequently, this can be a sign that more dust is getting pushed out into your space from forced air being pushed through clogged air vents.

Sign 2: Your air ducts have become home to unwelcome visitors

Your air ducts have become home to unwelcome visitorsIf you were a small-prey animal living out in the wild and you happened to discover an opening that led into an interior air duct, you might think you had scored a pretty great new home.

You might also be tempted to dig in and stay awhile, and even raise your family there. This happens more frequently than most home or business owners realize and can be the source of dangerous toxins that get recirculated in the indoor air system.

Here again, however, it can be challenging to know when you have uninvited guests living in your air ducts. So here is what to look for:

  • Notice if you hear scrabbling or scrambling sounds in the ceiling, especially at night or in the early morning.
  • Do a visual inspection of the exterior of your building and notice if shingles are missing or there are holes near entry points in the eaves, roof, or siding.
  • Look for any visible animal or bird evidence (droppings, feathers, fur, nest materials) close to your building.

Sign 3: You see or smell mould or mildew

Often, the first way you can tell there is mould or mildew is if your allergy symptoms begin to worsen when you are inside. Sometimes you can also tell because there is a damp, "grassy," or musty smell. And sometimes you can see mould in the form of black, green, or greyish spores growing in or near a damp area.

If any of these three signs is present, you can know for sure that now is a good time to schedule a professional indoor air duct cleaning!

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