Duct Cleaning Services
What is Duct Cleaning and why should I get it done?
Usually, duct cleaning services consist of a thorough cleaning of your furnace and HVAC system. If you think of your ducts as a tree, the furnace is like the trunk, with large branches coming off (main trunk lines) and smaller branches (ducts) leading to your vents. The dust that is circulating through your home can accumulate, along with other items (usually smaller items such as toys, pet hair and construction debris) can find their way into your ducts and if your ducts are not cleaned regularly, the accumulation of all this dust and debris could begin to wear out your furnace and restrict airflow in your ducts. Professional duct cleaning services can help you with this, along with providing cleaner air circulating throughout your house. A diagram below illustrates the typical components in your HVAC system:
History of Duct Cleaning:
One of the first furnace designs was called a gravity furnace, which used a simple burner with metal housing around it and large ducts that worked on the basis of hot air rising. These old gravity furnaces worked great in the sense that there was no moving parts but used copious amounts of fuel and were hardly efficient. But they were much better than the old coal fired stoves in kitchens.
In the late 19th century, a new furnace style evolved to have a fan next to the burner which we now call “forced air furnaces”. With a forced air furnace along came more air pressure, the higher velocity air coming off the fan allowed the use of smaller ducts and the ability to put supply vents in each of the rooms as well as return air vents to pull stale air back to the furnace. All this movement of air along with the new moving parts inside the furnace created a new set of problems: dust, naturally air born in the home was now being sucked into the furnace via the return air ducts. This dust accumulates not only inside the furnace components such as the motor, heat exchangers, sensors, limit switches etc, but also accumulates first in the return air duct system and then starts to pile up inside the air conditioning coil, supply venting and in new high efficient furnaces the dust can build up inside the reheat coil creating all sorts of problems.
Dust buildups inside the motors, coils and sensors cause these components to fail prematurely. Also, when accumulations of dust build up too much inside the return/supply ducting, this can reduce the flow of air, making the system run longer and harder, costing more in fuel and electricity, not to mention when the accumulation of dust gets too high, the pressure of the furnace fan will cause the extra dust built up in the return system to pull into the furnace. Dust build ups in the supply side will eventually blow out into the home, possibly creating health concerns for the people living inside.
Most people don’t realize that dust building up inside the system can harbor copious amounts of germs and bacteria as this dust is given the perfect breeding ground of heat from the furnace heat exchanger, and moisture from the humidifier.
Birth of duct cleaning as an industry:
Soon after forced air furnaces were introduced, people were quickly realizing the systems needed cleaning. People at first tried the basics by using a simple household vacuum, brooms, toilet brushes, anything they could find that might help clean out the dust buildups. But because the nature of ducting is hidden behind drywall, ceilings and walls, it became quickly evident that specialized tools would be needed to properly clean the ducts.
The first specialized tools started out by using high powered vacuums mounted on trucks known now as Power Vac Trucks. The vacuums were powered by the trucks engines in many cases, and had massive amounts of suction. They would in turn run a large vacuum hose from the truck to the home’s ductwork inside. Once the vacuum was hooked up to the duct they would literally bang the ducting where they could with a hammer to vibrate the dust loose so it could be sucked up by the duct truck.
The hammer method of duct cleaning was not at all effective and it was soon realized that compressed air would be required to agitate the dust inside. The first compressed air tools actually looked like oversized hair dryers. These high speed blowers worked ok but failed to get all the dust blown down to where the vacuum was hooked up. Most times in early duct cleaning, these crude methods left huge amounts of debris still in the ducts and actually made the dust blowing out the vents even worse. Eventually someone came up with the great idea of mounting high powered compressed air pumps onto the trucks. These truck mounted air compressors moved the industry forward at a rapid pace as the air pressure was great enough to push the dust all the way into the trucks vacuum, finally leaving the ducts properly cleaned.
As the industry has evolved, so have the compressed air tools, these new tools such as the scorpion whip, viper whips, skipper lines and blow guns have become very efficient at moving the debris inside the ducts down to the vacuum source.
A warning about Duct Cleaning equipment:
Other specialized tools for duct cleaning have also been invented, unfortunately, not all of these tools work as expected for the task. Many of the tools look to have been created simply by people only interested in trying to cash in on the growth of the duct cleaning industry. Tools such as shop vacuums with spinning brushes on the end of the hose look great in theory, but their design clearly lacks the ability to properly clean the entirety of the HVAC system. These systems fail to get into the main areas of the duct work such as the main trunk lines, especially when those trunk lines are in the ceilings and walls of the home. Not to mention, the only way to properly clean an air conditioning coil, reheat coil and heat exchanger is with the use of compressed air which these shop vacs clearly do not have. They also lack the ability to suck up large debris commonly found in ductwork from construction materials as their hoses are much too small to actually suck up the chunks of drywall, wood chips, insulation and all the other random things often found in ducts.
Now more than ever, consumers need to be on the look out for blatant rip off artists using the worst type of duct cleaning equipment currently on the market. Systems that were clearly designed for other purposes such as carpet cleaning vacuums, are now trying to be used for cleaning ducts and furnaces. An extremely poor example of this system is currently being used where the operator takes a cheap transparent plastic box, places it over the vent and then uses their carpet cleaning vacuum along with a poorly designed compressed air tool to feed down the vent to impress customers with the showmanship of seeing dust through flying through the clear box, without realizing that they are missing a large part of the cleaning process, as these tools clearly lack the ability to clean the whole system. The worst part is that they are undercutting the prices of professional duct cleaning companies and in some cases, overcharging customers for the kind of work that would make the “hammer method” of duct cleaning look modern and innovative.
History of Hypervac:
For professional duct cleaning companies like Hypervac, doing a proper cleaning of a customer’s duct system is a matter of pride and respect for those who hired them. In the 1980’s, Hypervac was one of these companies: a professional duct cleaning service that was family owned and operated.
Starting out in 1979 by Jim Thomson’s father with the typical duct truck to clean ducts, as time went on, Hypervac began building their own vacuum systems to access and clean hard to reach HVAC systems. Eventually the company evolved into a manufacturing company as other duct cleaners saw the benefits of the equipment being designed, and Hypervac naturally began to grow.
The fact that this equipment had been designed and created by people who know the duct cleaning industry meant that they understood that duct cleaners wanted a product that simply worked. Attention to details like limiting the “bells and whistles” for minimal maintenance and downtime were made a priority. Duct cleaners had enough on their mind getting from one appointment to another, having a machine with more parts to break down made little sense. Also, having suction as the number one priority meant that the design, research and testing of the vacuums were essential to creating the most suction possible, in as many situations as possible: what kind of suction would you have when your machine is pulling more dust than usual? Can you keep working for as long as possible?
Other details such as avoiding the “printer ink trap” of constantly purchasing new filters were put to the test: was it always needed or was it a way for vacuum manufacturers to make extra cash at the expense of their customers? Hypervac began with the design goal of having filtration that would last, instead of taking easy cash from their customers. As time went on Hypervac continued to grow and even went back to its roots and began to redesign the duct truck for the 21st century: the H1 Duct Truck.
How do I find a good duct cleaner in my area?
Duct cleaning services today use a variety of equipment and methods. As described above, we feel an obligation to warn consumers about certain kinds of equipment, but more than that, there are red flags that you will want to keep an eye out for when hiring a duct cleaner such as:
- Watch out for pricing that is “too good to be true”. Unfortunately, there have been those in our industry who use this “bait and switch” marketing tactic, and often these duct cleaners are pushy and dishonest with their pricing, adding all kinds of bogus charges as well as leaving your home without cleaning properly.
- Ask for a full quote and if there will be any hidden fees or charges.
- Ask how they will clean your ducts. Do they have a duct truck or a portable vacuum? Do they clean the main trunk lines and the blower in the furnace? If there is any larger debris in the duct system how will they get that out of your ducts? If they want to avoid questions, take this into consideration before hiring them.
- Will they be using the “push-pull” method of duct cleaning? The push-pull method means that you are attaching a high powered vacuum to your furnace to “pull” dust, and at the same time using compressed air to “push” dust and debris back to the vacuum.
- How long will your duct cleaning services take to clean my home? If they answer that they will be 30min- 1hr, you may want to hire someone else. Expect one and a half hours to 3 hours depending on the size of your home. This is only a guideline, but we recommend you avoid someone who claims to be able to clean your ducts in record time. It takes longer than 30 min to use proper equipment and clean all your ductwork (main trunk lines, all return air, supply vents, furnace blower, air conditioner, heat exchanger). Just bringing in the equipment and setting up and taking the equipment out, you should expect to take around 30min or more!
- Do they agree with NADCA standards or QUADCA standards? Take a look at their websites to learn more.
How will I know if my ducts are cleaned properly?
If you have followed our advice above, you shouldn’t have a problem. If you are still concerned, after hiring a duct cleaner you may want to ask for before and after pictures. You can even take before and after pictures yourself to verify the duct system was properly cleaned. Make sure they don’t leave your home until they have tested your HVAC system and it is working properly after cleaning. If there are any issues, or the duct cleaner is at all unethical in how they cleaned your ducts, please make sure to leave comments online so others will be aware of their services. Remember to leave positive reviews online as well! Hypervac is dedicated to promoting professional duct cleaners and we want to do our part to make the industry better.