Should I clean my air ducts or replace them?
Cleaning vs Replacing Ductwork is a question we get asked a lot. The short answer is, it depends on the age, condition, and type of ductwork in your home or business.
We only clean insulated metal ductwork if replacing them is not an option. Over time, dirt, dust and debris clogs the interior insulation making the circulating air in the building hard to keep to acceptable levels of cleanliness. Due to this buildup, you may notice
- Increased allergies
- Need for more frequent cleaning and dusting
- Odors in your home or business
This particular type of ductwork has a fiberglass insulation, which is damaged by cleaning- sending fiberglass insulation through your home. Fiberglass is an irritant to our lungs and skin and damages our indoor air quality when it’s stirred up.
Although we can seal or encapsulate the fiberglass insulation in your ducts, it’s nearly impossible to reach every surface on the interior of the ductwork. Additionally, duct glue is a VOC (volatile organic compound or chemical) and adding to your home’s VOC load adversely affects your indoor air quality. Increasing your indoor exposure to VOCs or chemical gases is never suggested.
In the case of insulated ductwork, our recommendation is to replace them.
Flex Duct can be cleaned, but whether to clean or replace is determined by age and condition of the ductwork.
A quarter century is a long life for plastic shrink wrapped around a wire coil, so Flex duct should be replaced every 20- 25 years. .
Dirt and debris tend to become trapped inside the ridges of the ductwork over time or during construction. To clean the ductwork, we use whips and spinning brushes. These will damage older flex ducts that have become brittle with age. Newer flex duct can withstand the cleaning process well and without damage.
Our recommendation with flex ductwork is to clean them if they are under 20 years old and in good condition and replace them if they are over 20 years old or in poor condition.
Metal ductwork handles the cleaning process quite well. The key with metal ductwork is a pre-cleaning inspection. Before cleaning takes place, it is recommended to inspect all overlapping joints and junctions and seal them with mastic, a duct sealing putty. This not only keeps dust, dirt, and debris out of your ductwork, but decreases your energy bill by increasing the HVAC’s airflow through the ducts.
Additionally, it is recommended to repair any fallen duct insulation or add insulation to the exterior of any bare metal ducts, metal plenum, or duct boots. This aids efficiency, but more importantly, inhibits mold growth and odors stemming from condensation build up on bare metal.
We recommend cleaning metal ductwork, but stress that a pre-cleaning inspection and repair will help keep your indoor air quality healthy and your HVAC efficient.
The Bottom Line
Our goals are always to maintain the highest indoor air quality possible, and keep your HVAC running efficiently. The best way to determine if you should clean or replace your ductwork is by getting them inspected. Calling in a professional to check your ducts and lay out your best options is certain to help you make the best decision for your home and the air you breathe.