What Happens if You Don’t Clean Your Air Ducts?

The last thing you want is for your loved ones to become sick from breathing in unclean air. So can dirty air ducts really cause health problems?

Moisture can build up if your air ducts aren’t cleaned and maintained, causing mildew and mold to grow and spread. Mold spores that are forced through the ductwork can cause you and your family to become unwell. Dust, debris, and small animals may also clog the ducts, creating an uneven airflow in your home.

I’m going to show you how to identify when your air ducts need cleaning and why it’s probably best to call in an expert rather than doing it yourself.

What happens if you don’t clean your air ducts?

Life can become challenging for people with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory diseases if you don’t clean your air ducts.

Air ducts and vents need to be cleaned regularly as mold, dust, and dirt can quickly build up. Unfortunately, this is not the only disadvantage of dirty air ducts and vents.

Here are some of the consequences you and your family stand to suffer if you don’t keep on top of maintenance.

Contaminants invade your air ducts

A wide array of contaminants can collect in your air ducts, and dust is one of them. Everything at home, from upholstery to carpeting, can contribute to dust build-up. If uncleaned, they’ll stay there for a long time.

Even if you vacuum or dust often, chances are dust will still collect in your ventilation system. Aside from dust, dirt is also another culprit to watch out for.

If dirt is brought inside your home through your door or open windows, it’ll likely end up in your ducts. Dirt may sit there for a long time before it’s forced out through the vents.

Apart from dust and dirt, you also need to watch out for pet dander, especially if your furry loved ones live with you inside your home. Even if the air filters are regularly changed, these particles could still clog your air ducts.

Lastly, vermin and all sorts of pests might also find their way into your ductwork. They’ll stay in your air system, along with other contaminants, until the ducts are sufficiently cleaned.

Moldy home

Mold thrives in a wet environment. If your air ducts are clogged, the condensed moisture will also stay in the vent, causing a wet duct environment. Over time, mold and mildew will grow and spread.

The problem can worsen if the air ducts disperse air throughout your home. In that case, mold and mildew will also be blown all through the building.

If this happens, you can expect an unpleasant, musty smell. People who get exposed to this will mostly get sick, too.

Pests crawling the ducts

Aside from moisture, debris and dust is a breeding ground for most household pests like mice, rats, crickets, and cockroaches. You might not only find their carcass in your ducts but also their manure.

You know how unpleasant the smell would get if the air from the ducts circulates the room. Not only that, rat manure, for example, is known to spread bacteria.

If manure finds its way into a room in your home, your kids might come across it and become infected. The same manure could also get into your food. To prevent this from happening, you need to clean your ducts.

How do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned?

One tell-tale sign that you need the vents cleaned right away is if you see that they’re clogged. As you already know from the preceding paragraphs, there are many repercussions from a clogged duct. So, if dust is visible, call for help and have your ducts cleaned right away.

Another sign that you need your vents cleaned is the unpleasant odor in the air. If you can’t locate the source of an unpleasant smell, there’s a high chance that it’s coming from your air ducts.

To be sure, get up close to the ducts and give them a good sniff to substantiate your suspicions. You can also ask a technician to inspect the ducts.

If you see that people at home or in the office have respiratory conditions or allergies, that could also be a sign of mold in your HVAC system.

As you know, mold can thrive in clogged ducts, and if it spreads across the AC system, everyone is at risk of getting sick. To check, look for mold spots around your AC units and vent covers.

The quickest way of knowing whether or not your air ducts need cleaning is if you experience inconsistent airflow in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom, and other rooms in your home or within the building.

If your air ducts are free, there should be an even distribution of air quality within the rooms. If your room gets very dusty despite regular cleaning, that could also suggest that your air ducts are full of dirt and dust.

Dust build-up is a sign that it’s being forced out and directed to the surfaces from your HVAC system. If any of these instances happen, check your air ducts right away.

If you’re still unsure what’s the cause of the problem, it’s best to ask an expert to handle the problem.

How often should air ducts be cleaned?

Like any other vent and HVAC system, residential and commercial air ducts must be maintained regularly to ensure efficient and safe use. According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), you must clean your air duct every three to five years.

With some certain cleaning processes, this 3 to 5 year cleaning period could be extended to six to eight years.

Mold and pollutant build-up can cause allergic reactions, so if you observe this at home or in your workplace, don’t wait for the recommended cleaning period. Instead, have your air ducts checked and cleaned right away.

Can you clean air ducts yourself?

If you have the technical know-how and skills similar to a pro, then you can clean your air ducts by yourself. Unfortunately, it’s not a job for a layman with no technical knowledge and experience.

You’ll need tools like rotary brushes and a high-powered vacuum cleaner to clean the surfaces efficiently. If the cleaning job isn’t done correctly, it could only result in expensive repairs and additional duct damage.

Aside from that, if you’re not equipped to do the job properly, you might get exposed to dust, mold, and other allergens that could adversely affect your health. So it’s best to leave the job to the experts.

How much does it cost to have your air ducts cleaned?

Expect to pay around $400 for an air duct cleaning job. The cost is dependent on various factors like the complexity of the building’s ducting system, the number of serviced ducts, and house size. Depending on the system you have, your cleaning fees could climb from $400 to $700 or even $1,000.

Remember that you won’t be needing to clean your ducts all that often. As a general rule, you only need to clean it every six to eight years unless you experience air circulation issues and air quality.

Plus, it’s your family’s health and welfare we’re talking about, so the benefits of a clean air duct will always outweigh the cost of getting it cleaned.

Joshua Milton

I want to share everything I know about home improvement in order to help you. Whether you're a home enthusiast or an industry professional, I have the information that you need.

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