What's in My Air Ducts?

Air ducts are the lungs of the home like our friends at the National Air Duct Cleaners Association say. Acting like airways in the body, they help carry necessary air in and out of living spaces. However, air is not the only thing that cycles through ducts, vents, and your HVAC system. In fact, HVAC systems can act as a collection source for a variety of contaminants. Over time, these particulates can impact indoor air quality and HVAC efficiency as the system recirculates that polluted air around 3-8 times an hour in your home.

Watch below to see how your HVAC system cycles air and other contaminants throughout the home:

This is where air duct cleaning steps in to remove these irritants and help create cleaner indoor air. But what exactly are these irritants? Read on to learn more and find out what exactly is in your air ducts.

Contaminants & Particulates Found in Air Ducts

Buildup differs from system to system depending on household size and the square footage of a home. In general, there are three types of contaminants found in air ducts and ultimately, indoor air: particulates, biological contaminants, and odors/chemical vapors.

Biological Contaminants in Air Ducts

Out of the three types, you’re probably most familiar with buildup from biological contaminants. According to the EPA, these contaminants are, or are produced by, living things and come from a variety of sources. Additionally, they’re small enough to be inhaled and commonly found in areas that provide food sources and moisture like air ducts. This includes:

  • Mold
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Allergens

Allergen Removal

Removing allergens within air ducts is a key part of the service as they are a large contributor to physical buildup. This buildup impacts both indoor air quality and can minimize system efficiency by restricting airflow. Allergens can include:

  • Dust
  • Dirt
  • Fur and hair
  • Dander
  • Pollen
  • Debris

After repeated exposure in the home, allergens may cause irritation especially to those with asthma or allergy sensitivities. This can trigger acute allergic reactions like sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and more. Removing these from your HVAC system can help subside these symptoms.

Lastly, reduced allergen levels in ducts can help prevent microbial growth. Dust, dirt, and other particles listed above can act as food sources for growth like mold and mildew. With an HVAC cleaning, you can help minimize the risk of other biological contaminants surfacing in your unit.

Dusty tabletop in home

Odors and Chemical Vapors in Air Ducts

VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, make up the other type of contaminants found in air ducts. VOCs are the off gassing of odors and chemicals. They are mostly man-made chemicals and commonly used as ingredients in household products. Examples include:

  • Pet odors
  • Cooking smells
  • Cigarette, Cigar, Pipe smoke
  • Nail polish & hair dyes
  • Paints, varnishes, & solvents
    Chemical Vapors From
  • Cleaning & disinfecting chemicals
  • Fuel oil, gasoline & vehicle exhaust
  • Flooring, carpet, upholstery
  • Composite wood products
  • Building materials

While standard air duct cleaning doesn’t remove these, specialized air cleaners can. Stanley Steemer can install an in-duct air purifier that utilizes UV-C light technology to remove VOCs as they pass through your HVAC system. This device can destroy viruses and bacteria as well.

Call your local Stanley Steemer to see if they can install an in-duct air purifier in your HVAC system.

How Does Buildup Occur in Air Ducts?

Even if you keep a clean home, you may wonder why your house still acquires dust and other buildup. However, dirt and dust accumulation are natural and occur with everyday living. Simple things like unrolling paper towels, scratching our skin, or even opening the door create this buildup. Lifestyle and household size impact the amount of dust in home. This also affects how frequently you may need air duct cleaning.

Dusty tabletop in home

It’s recommended to get your air ducts inspected every 2-5 years. Some indicators that you need to clean air ducts more often or are due for a cleaning include:

  • Supply and return vent covers are dirty
  • Dark filtration lines appear on the walls, ceiling, or carpet surrounding the vents and baseboards
  • Excessive dust in the home
  • Variance in temperature or airflow from room to room
  • Increase in energy is needed to operate the HVAC system. This may indicate that dirt and debris could be restricting airflow
  • A newly constructed home, remodeling, or renovations (post-construction debris, drywall dust, sawdust, and other construction could settle in ducts)
  • Presence of one or more pets
  • Members of the household smoke
  • You recently updated your ventilation system by replacing your furnace or adding ductwork
Carpet with dirt filtration line

Why Should I Have My HVAC System Cleaned?

When deciding about air duct and HVAC cleaning, it may be easy to think, “out of sight, out of mind.” However, cleaning is a key part of home health and maintenance. Not to mention, the average six-room home can accumulate 40 pounds of dust in a given year. While you may not see it, you can unknowingly be breathing it in!

If you need a better idea of how a dirty HVAC system affects you and your home, picture your everyday vacuum cleaner. Even if you vacuum frequently, it’s easy to see how much dirt and dust collects when you take a look at the not-so-pleasant dustbin. Now imagine what that could look like in your air ducts that may not have been cleaned, unlike upholstery and floors! With HVAC systems circulating air 3-8 times an hour in your home, this means these allergens and irritants are circulating too.

Finally, vacuuming with an overfilled dustbin worsens the suction and overworks your vacuum. The same is true with HVAC systems and their efficiency. The more dust and debris buildup you have in your air ducts, the less efficient your system can circulate the hot or cold air you need it to. All in all, air duct cleaning not only helps to reduce energy consumption (translating to lower utility bills), but it also helps to create cleaner indoor air!

Living Brings It In. We Take it Out.TM Schedule Your Air Duct Estimate and Start Breathing Cleaner Air.