Should I Clean or Replace My Air Ducts?

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Ruthe Bryan

Subject: Replacing vs. Cleaning A/C air ducts

I am currently interviewing and getting estimates from more than 4-5 reputable A/C companies in my area regarding replacing or cleaning the existing air ducts in my house. My air duct system is 25 yrs. old, and when the A/C unit went kaput about 10 yrs. ago, I did not get it replaced and have used window units for air conditioning since then. Although there is a 50/50 split in opinion from my A/C service techs regarding whether to clean the ducts or replace them, one thing I took into consideration was the age of the duct work, and the fact that it had not been in use for over 10 yrs. now. I have decided to replace the duct work because it is 25 yrs old, and this will allow me to have newer, cleaner, more efficient duct work that is up to today's codes. Also, I did not feel that 25 yr old duct work (and for the record, it is the coils) would probably not be able to withstand the vigor of the brushing and vacuuming of the duct work. I think if ductwork is the galvanized steel, it can endure the cleaning, and in fact, a cleaning would be all that is needed. My advice to homeowners is to consider all facets of this service in regards to the age, condition, and type of duct work that you have-----but get more than 2 or 3 estimates. Contact 4-6 companies that replace/clean ductwork and then make an informed decision. Yes---replacement is more costly by about 2K - 3K over cleaning, but it could pay for itself in the long run because if you clean coils, and they are punctured or damaged in any way, then you are not only losing air and running up your electric bill, but then you'll have to replace them and if you wait a few more years, that cost will only go up!

Amy Ozsogomonyan

Subject: changing Ac/Heater and also doing duct cleaning

My contracor who is going change my Ac/Heater tells me that i need to do duct cleaning. My Ac/heater is about 30 years old. One contractor tells me that i do not have to do it, some of them are scams but this other one tells me that i should do it. Any comments and suggestions.

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Yes Jupiter. It depends on the severity of the situation, is the mold encapsulated in the insulation. If yes, than replace [insulation] it with new. Is it on the casing of the heater? If yes, clean it with a mold neutralizing metal cleaner. It's not a matter of finding something or someone to clean or address the existing mold. It's a matter of finding a contractor to rectify what is causing the mold grow. It's coming from excessive moisture in the air-handler unit. I can say with 100% surety you’re dealing with poor airflow and/or incorrect equipment sizing! Either issue will cause excessive icing of the evaporator coil, which leads to excessive condensate water in the system. The condensate will eventually overflow the drain pan leaving stagnant water in the air-handler housing, which leads to mold growth. I would not let any contractor do any kind of temporary repair, add any device like a UV light or air-cleaning product until the aforementioned is corrected. I talk a lot about this in my videos and on my website. It is the result of improper system design from unqualified contractors. There is a reason why some guys cost more than others, and this is one reason why!

If the ducts are venting through a window I'm assuming the duct work is all easily accessible.  Lowe's and Home Depot sell a cleaning kit that uses an electric drill to spin the brush as it goes through the ductwork.  I've found it to work quite well and you can do it yourself.  It may take a few passes the first time to get everything out if it has been a while since it was last cleaned.  Just make sure you get all of the loose lint out after running the brush through from both ends and you're good to go.  Please note that if the line is not hard but rather a flex duct line you can easily puncture a whole in it with this kit and will do better to clean it by hand.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services
There are varying opinions on the type of cleaning to have done on your air ducts.  My opinion is that it varies based on the type of duct work you have.  If you have solid material (typically metal) ducting you can have use a company that uses a brush to scrape the system clean.  If you have flexible plastic or foil ducts the solvent cleaners are generally a safer bet since the brushes often tear holes in the soft material and/or pull joints loose.  It really depends on what type on ducting you have.  You're ducts will collect all kinds of dirt, skin cells and allergens over time so if you see dicoloration around your vents it is probably time to get them checked and cleaned.

Also, don't stop at the duct work.  Don't forget your annual system check up by a licensed HVAC technician.  They'll make sure your system is running at peak performance, keeping it running efficiently and with as little impact as possible on your electric bill.  You can often save the cost of the annual tune up in the electricity cost saved.  If you have a natural gas system a bi-annual check and cleaning of the HVAC unit may be advisable to save electricity and gas.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services

if you have exhausted all of your choices I would call and put a complain in with the BBB then go to the DA and put a complain with them.  Then get a good lawyer and sue them for all you can get.

raymond gonzalez
koolray heating and air