There are benefits to having your air ducts cleaned, although it depends on several underlying conditions and the objective you hope to achieve in having the ducts cleaned.
When To Consider Duct Cleaning
First, let’s discuss why you may want to consider cleaning the ducts:
- You suffer from asthma, allergies, auto-immune deficiency, or other pulmonary-related health issues and you have reason to believe the ducts are dirty.
- You have indoor pets which shed such as dogs, cats, or rabbits.
- You had a fire or water damage loss that necessitated drywall removal.
- You replaced the HVAC equipment but did not replace the ducts.
- You remodeled/renovated the interior or replaced flooring/tile which created dust.
- You repainted the interior.
- The ducts are old, and you have no idea when/if they have been cleaned.
- You have infants and at least one other reason on this list.
- You used a wood-burning fireplace extensively over the winter months.
- You experienced a rodent infestation.
Household dust, pet/skin dander, insect parts, pollen, carbon, soot, and other fine particulates are routinely distributed throughout our home’s ventilation system. These particulates attach to the wet surface of the interior duct lining and over time, will form a layer of dust on the lining. During hot months when we use air conditioning, this dust mostly stays wet and intact but during cooler months, when we are not using air conditioning, the dust will dry and become more airborne. If you have experienced sneezing after turning on the heat for the first time, chances are this was brought on by the release of this dry dust.
While many people may suffer nothing greater than minor sneezing, some people are simply more susceptible to airborne particulates/dust and this may trigger other pulmonary responses or allergic reactions.
Mold In Air Ducts
While there are several compelling reasons to consider having the HVAC ducts cleaned, probably the least compelling reason is the one most people base their decision on – mold. In fact, there is rarely a reason to clean ducts based on a fear of mold growth.
Why would we not be overly concerned with mold in a wet/dusty HVAC duct? Simply, there is very little food source present for mold to grow, produce mycelium, or release spores that may contain mycotoxins. If we sample the dust, we likely will find mold spores but most likely will not find “growth”. If mold cannot produce spores, which may contain mycotoxins, there is no threat to anyone, regardless of the genus of the mold.
Airborne mold spores are pulled into the airstream where they may settle on wet dust. This is common and you should understand every home has some level of mold spores. Less than 1% of mold spores are viable, meaning, less than 1% are capable of growth even if they land on the best substrate for growth. Damp dust inside a synthetic HVAC duct is not the “best substrate” as, other than the minimal nutrients in the dust, there is nothing else for mold to feed upon. A mold spore may cling to life for a short timeframe, but the chance of reproduction is almost zero.
Many, mostly uninformed, mold inspectors will report dirty air handler units as having “mold”, “biofouling”, “mold-like substance” or other nonsensical terms after submitting swab samples to a lab. Yes, mold will probably be found in the sample as explained earlier; normal airborne mold spores will settle on wet dust and when analyzed under a microscope, it will be detected. However, the mere presence of mold spores does not mean there is a mold issue. If the mold cannot form mycelium and produce spores for release into the atmosphere, it is simply settled spores on a surface that requires simple cleaning. This is true for mold found on the inside as well as the outside of an air handler unit. Air handler units should be cleaned periodically as part of a normal service.
Testing Your Air Quality
The main reason you may want to consider having the HVAC ducts cleaned is to remove fine particulates like dust, fibers, and other microscopic particles from the ventilation system. If you believe your home is making you ill, chances are it is related to these four things:
- Poor ventilation
- Elevated fine particulates in the airstream
- Elevated carbon dioxide in the airstream
- Elevated volatile organic compounds in the airstream
These concerns can be analyzed and traced to a source by a qualified indoor air quality consultant. Before you embark on a wild goose chase for mold, order duct cleaning or other repair services, and consider a home inspection for indoor air quality. If your indoor air quality is poor, there is a reason and you need to know the cause and origin of the problem. Many unqualified inspectors are more than happy to take samples and tell you that “you have a problem and you should consult with someone who knows how to fix it” but that hardly helps you.
Indoor air quality problems are related to building deficiency. You need a consultant who can determine what the building deficiency is so you know how to fix it. Resolving an indoor air quality problem takes time and testing by a truly qualified expert. Don’t be fooled by quotes from “mold testers” promoting testing for $495; you are wasting your money and time.
Breathe Easy with Property360
Property360 provides truly qualified indoor air quality consulting services throughout Jacksonville, Orlando, Fernandina Beach, Daytona, Palm Coast, Gainesville, St. Augustine, and surrounding areas. In addition to air quality consulting, we also offer new construction home inspections, commercial inspections, termite inspections, and so much more! Contact our team at (904) 606-1570 or request an inspection online today.