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What is air duct cleaning, really?
What's the difference?
How do I find out if my HVAC unit actually needs cleaning?
All air handlers -or HVAC units- are accessible for inspection by design, so power off the unit first, and then remove its front cover panels to take a look. A GAS furnace is depicted to the left. Note the blower fan at the bottom and; the air filter enclosure to the side. By removing the air filter, part of the return ductwork will also become exposed. Since the blower fan is the heart of your system, it should be inspected first. If you see anything like in the pictures below, then consider having the HVAC unit cleaned along with the air ducts.
Left side pictures denote excessive dust & debris, which tells you there’s a problem with the air filter. The ones to the right denote excessive rust, which means there’s a moisture problem that needs immediate attention.
Keep in mind that when the system is on, what’s in the blower is also in the air that you breathe, so ..you be the judge. Also, of note is that if the blower fan is dirty, so is the rest of the system, and blower fans cannot be cleaned while in place. They MUST be removed & cleaned outdoors, and this task alone takes 1 hour or so.
Evaporator CoilYour evaporator, or A/C cooling coil looks like an automobile’s radiator and it usually sits above the furnace. You should know that dirt & water socialize in there, and yet is the most neglected of all HVAC parts. That’s because periodic servicing takes soft hands & a fair amount of patience, and for many HVAC maintenance contractors ..patience is not worth a dime. Inspecting A/C coils in gas furnaces can be tricky but again, if the blower fan is dirty, so is the coil’s inner side.heat pump
Heat pumps are far more accessible. When you remove the cover panel the blower fan is totally exposed, and also most of this infamous coil, which unlike that of a gas furnace, it actually faces the incoming airflow. Thus, it is prone by design not only to do its own, but also the air filter’s job. So-please, pay special attention to it.dirty and rusty cooling coil
dirty cooling coilIf it looks like in the pictures to the sides, have it cleaned ASAP. Moistened dirt build-up on its surfaces work pretty much like a hair clog in your sink. It can restrict airflow up to a point in which ice build-up may occur, blower fans choke, fan motors overheat or burn, or may cause blower surfaces & surrounding areas to get filled with mold. If that may be the case, you’ll find out at first sight.
Cleaning coils & blower fans are tedious tasks, take specialty tools, character, know-how & patience to do it right; or even licensing, depending on where you are. And this is what “blow-n-goers” Feast off, Cheat on, or Skip at all.
Consumer’s Countermeasures: Seeing for yourself the condition of your HVAC unit Before you call anyone; knowing what needs to be cleaned and; saying that you want -and will- closely inspect these key HVAC parts along with the ductwork at the time of booking may cause certain companies to suddenly experience booked up syndrome, or please hold attacks. Have some coupons? Go ahead now – Try One Out! 🙂
Should Licensed Contractors offer options?
If regulations apply, then the answer is no. According to the EPA, if an HVAC system is to be cleaned, is everything from top to bottom, no piece should be left behind; but sure enough, there are circumstances in which a licensed contractor might choose to accommodate your personal needs at a reasonable price, but not without making sure that you understand that while performing a limited task, cannot assume liability for anything else. If no regulations apply and; should you agree to the facts in advance, then you may choose from two half-way options:
- Air Duct Cleaning – Meaning, all of the ductwork, vents & grilles, but nothing else than what distributes airflow.
- Air Handler or HVAC Cleaning – Meaning, all of the heating & cooling machinery, but none of the ductwork.
But until your local authorities draw the line & set apart a custom service from a half … job, anything less than a full-service is not worth the try. Regulations or not, EPA still makes sense, and we stand by the authorities 100%.