Knowledge Base

Top Benefits of HVAC Cleaning

NADCA’s rule of thumb for consumers is that “if your ducts look dirty, they probably are,” and that dirty HVAC systems should be inspected by a reputable, certified HVAC professional. Below are some other reasons homeowners choose to have their air ducts cleaned.

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is one concern that homeowners have when they decide to investigate air duct cleaning. In a typical six-room home, up to 40 pounds of dust is created annually through everyday living. Your heating and cooling system is the lungs of your home. The system taken air in and breathes air out.

Through normal occupation in a home, we generate a great deal of contaminants and air pollutants, such as dander, dust, and chemicals. These contaminants are pulled into the HVAC system and re-circulated 5 to 7 times per day, on average. Over time, this re-circulation causes a build-up of contaminants in the duct work.

While dirty ducts don’t necessarily mean unhealthy air in your home, school or workplace, they may be contributing to larger health issues or harboring contaminants that could cause serious problems for people with respiratory health conditions, autoimmune disorders or some environmental allergies.

Energy Savings

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted. Contaminants in the heating and cooling system cause it to work harder and shorten the life of your system. Although filters are used, the heating and cooling system still gets dirty through normal use.

When an HVAC system is clean, it doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the temperature you desire. As a result, less energy is used, leading to improved cost-effectiveness.

Information on HVAC Cleaning Equipment

Many types of tools and equipment can be used to successfully clean an HVAC unit. Some companies use truck-mounted equipment and others use portable vacuums. NADCA standards state that, when used properly, both types of equipment can get the job done correctly.

The following are some common types of tools and equipment used on HVAC inspection, maintenance and restoration jobs. Please note that this is not a complete list, and some types of tools and equipment may be missing.

Access Tools

Access tools consist of devices used by technicians to create entry points in the HVAC system to facilitate inspection and cleaning. These access points may range from small holes for optical imaging, to entry panels large enough to accommodate service personnel entry and bulkier equipment.

Inspection Tools

Visual inspection devices can be used to evaluate the build up of debris and contamination within an HVAC system, monitor the cleaning process, and evaluate the success of the cleaning methods employed. Some common tools include:

Hand‑held mirror
Direct‑view "periscope" (mirror device with eyepiece for right angle viewing, often with light source attached)
Closed circuit television (CCTV) camera system
Camera (35mm SLR, etc.)

Hand Cleaning Tools

"Hand cleaning tools" include simple brushes and a number of pneumatic agitation and cleaning devices. Accumulated debris is often loosened from ductwork and other HVAC system components by power brushing and/or manual brushing. Pneumatic devices such as blowguns, air skippers and air whips are often utilized to drive agitated debris to the collection device. Fiber glass lined metal ductwork, flexduct, and ductboard can be damaged by overly‑aggressive removal techniques and must be handled accordingly.

Vacuum Collection Devices

Vacuum collection device are used to create negative pressure within the HVAC system, in order to control the spread of contaminants during the cleaning process. There are two main types of vacuum collection devices: (1) Those mounted on trucks or trailers, and (2) portable units. Truck/trailer mounted equipment is generally more powerful than portable equipment. However, portable equipment can often be brought directly into a facility, allowing the vacuum source to be located closer to the ductwork.

Compressed Air Sources

Many tools and devices used for HVAC system cleaning are pneumatically powered, which requires the use of large amounts of pressure supplied directly to the tools. The most common method of supplying this pressure is through the use of an air compressor.

Hand‑Held HEPA Vacuums and Wet Vacuums

Hand vacuums are used quite commonly by HVAC cleaning contractors for a variety of tasks and are a common sight on any cleaning project. HEPA filtration is needed for such vacuum cleaners, especially those designed to extract water as well as dry debris.

NADCA: Educating Consumers to Make Informed Choices

When done correctly, HVAC cleaning is a very beneficial service for your home or business. NADCA’s dedication to quality assurance helps ensure and promote a higher standard of performance for all of its members. Quality assurance also provides a means of consumer education, through tips on how to select a qualified contractor, establishing performance checklists, and adopting a policy of full disclosure for its members.

All members are required to perform work in accordance with NADCA Standards. As part of its Quality Assurance Program, NADCA provides information about how to select a qualified contractor along with pre and post-cleaning checklists to ensure that total system cleaning is performed.

Consumers Beware: Have you Hired a Reputable Company?

Bad business practices are everywhere, especially when it comes to services that are needed in the home. NADCA, which is comprised of legitimate HVAC cleaning companies, has long been plagued by a small number of “fly-by-night” companies that are dishonestly portraying themselves as offering air duct cleaning services.

Instead of actually cleaning a customer’s HVAC system, these scam companies use scare tactics and “bait and switch” methods to squeeze money out of their clients. NADCA receives many consumer complaints about these types of companies, which many times do not clean the HVAC system at all, let alone to the industry’s standards.

Consumers are told they have mold and other toxic substances in their HVAC systems – claims which are most likely false and used merely to extort money. Coupons and flyers advertising rock bottom prices on “whole house air duct cleaning” and “HVAC mold and soot removal” arrive in the mail daily for some households.

It can be scary to think that the air circulating through your home may be causing sicknesses, allergies, or worse. There often exists a legitimate concern for the health and well-being of a home or building’s inhabitants. For this and many other reasons, consumers and property managers become interested in purchasing air duct cleaning services.

HVAC cleaning is a legitimate service that is necessary for many homes and commercial buildings.

Dirt and debris trapped in your HVAC system should be removed not only for the quality of the indoor air, but for the efficiency of the system itself.

Please check out this section of the website for tips and guidelines on selecting a reputable HVAC cleaning company.

Why You Should Choose a NADCA Member

Trade associations are a common way for members of an industry to band together in support of higher standards and performance. NADCA is a trade association comprised of about 1,000 companies in the HVAC inspection, maintenance and restoration industry who have signed the NADCA Code of Ethics, and they have also invested time and resources into industry related training and education.

Hiring a NADCA member provides consumers with an added level of security, since members possess general liability insurance, and have at least one person on staff that is trained and certified. NADCA requires that all members have at least one certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialist (ASCS) on staff, and they must clean and restore your heating and cooling system in accordance with NADCA standards and guidelines.

Checklist for Residential Consumers

Is the company able to show proof of NADCA membership and certification?

Is the contractor willing to conduct a thorough inspection of the HVAC system PRIOR to performing any work? Does the contractor agree to disclose any problems discovered during the HVAC inspection? (This is required by NADCA’s ACR Standard.)

Is the HVAC System fully operational (before cleaning)?

Will/did the contractor clean the supply ductwork?

Will/did the contractor clean the return air ductwork?

For metal ductwork: Are the interior ductwork surfaces free of visible debris? Select several sites at random in both the return and supply sides of the system.
For fiberglass/fiber-lined ductwork or ductboard: Is all fiberglass or lining material in good condition (no tears or abrasions, and it is also well adhered to the interior of the duct)?
Components to be removed, cleaned and reset:

Supply registers
Return air grilles
Are the registers, grilles and diffusers visibly clean?
Are all the registers, grilles and diffusers properly reset?
Components to be accessed and cleaned:

Supply air plenum
Return air plenum
Is the supply plenum (located directly downstream of the air handling unit) free of moisture, stains and contaminants?
Is the return air plenum free of visible dust and debris?
Installation Access Panels (as needed)

Are access panels properly sealed according to the NADCA ACR Standard?
Will/did the contractor clean the air-stream side of the heat exchanger?

Will/did the contractor clean the secondary heat exchanger?

Components to be removed, cleaned and reinstalled:

Blower motor; housing & assembly;
Are the blower blades clean and free of oil and debris?
Is the blower compartment free of visible dust and debris?
Did the contractor clean the evaporator coil, drain, and pan?

Ask which method was used to clean the items listed above – did the contractor use Type 1 (contact vacuum/brush/or air wash) or Type 2 (coil cleaning chemicals and water).
Check to make sure that both sides of the cooling coil are visibly clean
Point a flashlight into the cooling coil. Does light shine through? It should if the coil is clean.
Check to make sure the coil fins are straight and evenly spaced, as opposed to being bent and smashed together.
Check to make sure the coil drain pan is clean and that it is draining properly.
Did the contractor replace the air filter?

Do the filters fit properly, and are they the proper efficiency recommended by the HVAC system manufacturer?
Did the contractor wash the air cleaner?

Request an explanation from the contractor if any questions above were answered “NO.”

After the HVAC cleaning is complete, check to make sure the HVAC system is operating properly.

NADCA Consumer Videos: Get Informed!

NADCA developed the videos below as guidance for residential consumers who may have questions and concerns about hiring an air duct cleaning company. The videos provide answers to a number of questions commonly asked by the residential community. Confused about why your HVAC system should be cleaned, or how to find a reputable company? These videos explain everything you need to know about air duct cleaning.

HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Can Have Energy Saving Benefits

How Your HVAC System Affects the Indoor Air Quality of Your Home

It’s Common for HVAC Systems to Get Dirty – Learn How

The NADCA Guide to Proper HVAC System Cleaning

How Your Ducts Got Dirty (NADCA)