Duct System Components
Ducts: These are the large metal ‘pipes’ or tubing that form the main passages through which air is moved around your house. They’re connected to the furnace, the air conditioner, the supply and the return vents, the flue, and the plenum. The ducts also include duct transitions, which connect the various pipes and allow them to go in different directions.
Air handler: The air handler is the part of your HVAC system that controls and circulates the heated or cooled air that’s used to regulate the temperature in your house. After the air is heated by your furnace or cooled by your air conditioner, it’s passed to the air handler, which contains a filter and a fan that cleans the air and then blows it into the ducts.
Registers and grilles: Registers and grilles are both types of vent covers that go over the openings in a floor or wall that are attached to the duct system. The difference between them is that registers have dampers that can control airflow, whereas grilles are always open and can’t be used to slow or stop airflow.
Flue: The purpose of the flue is to vent air to the exterior. These are required for heating or cooling systems that create dangerous gasses, such as with a gas furnace.
Plenums: Plenums are the part usually right above the furnace that helps circulate the air into the ductwork itself. HVAC systems may have one plenum for supply air and one plenum for return air.
Pros & Cons
Pros – Benefits of Duct Cleaning
Duct cleaning has many potential benefits. For one thing, it can improve the air quality in your home and increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.
Beyond that, there may also be other related benefits, including:
- Better indoor air quality
- Reduced symptoms from allergies, asthma, and other breathing problems
- Removing potentially hazardous contaminants (like mould) from your ductwork
- More efficient ventilation and HVAC systems
- Eliminating odours from the home
- Lower energy bills
- Reduced maintenance for your furnace and air conditioner
- Increased longevity for your heating and cooling systems
Keep in mind that the relative effect of duct cleaning on these benefits might be fairly moderate. In other words, don’t expect a dramatic reduction in your energy bills or that your furnace will last twice as long.
Duct Cleaning and Air Quality
Duct cleaning reduces the number of contaminants in your indoor air, including dust, allergens, and mould. This can be especially important if somebody in your family suffers from allergies or asthma, and cleaning your ducts may help to reduce symptoms. Removing these contaminants may also help to eliminate persistent odours in your house, especially ones caused by pollutants, smoke, dander, mould, and other odour-causing substances.
Duct Cleaning and HVAC Efficiency
Obstructions and debris in your ductwork can impede your ventilation system and reduce airflow, and this will cause your furnace and air conditioner to work harder. Similarly, dirty components like air handlers and coils can also make your heating and cooling system less efficient.
By getting your ducts cleaned, you can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system, improve ventilation, reduce your energy costs, increase the lifespan of your furnace and air conditioner, and reduce maintenance costs for your heating and cooling systems.
Cons – Potential Limitations of Duct Cleaning
Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for some duct cleaning services to overemphasize the importance and benefits of duct cleaning. For that reason, you should understand the limitations of the service so you can decide if you really need it, and have realistic expectations about the benefits.
Duct Cleaning Doesn’t Eliminate Dust
For one thing, duct cleaning will not magically eliminate dust from your house. Cleaning will temporarily remove dust from the ductwork, but it won’t permanently remove it from the air. This is because dust is all over the place, including inside and outside, and we’re constantly creating most of it. So while duct cleaning will reduce the amount of dust in your house for a while, the dust will always come back.
Duct Cleaning Doesn’t Address Root Causes
Another limitation of duct cleaning is that dirty ducts are sometimes a symptom of a larger problem, and cleaning the ducts won’t address the root cause. For instance, if your ducts are dirty because of rodents or insects, the duct cleaning service will only clean the current mess. However it won’t address the infestation, and you’ll still have to have that dealt with by a pest control company.
Similarly, if you have mould in your ducts, cleaning will only remove the existing mold, but won’t address any potential moisture issues that allowed it to grow in the first place.
Do I Need to Have My Ducts Cleaned?
Duct cleaning isn’t something most people have on their regular to-do lists, and that’s fine. In fact, there are generally only certain instances in which duct cleaning is really ‘essential’, so here are some examples of when you should consider duct cleaning and when you may not need to:
✓ I need my ducts cleaned if:
- Dust accumulates frequently and excessively around your home
- There’s a rodent, insect, or other infestation in your ducts
- There’s excessive dust, debris, or other obstructions inside the ductwork
- You’re noticing reduced airflow and ventilation throughout the house or in several rooms
- You recently did extensive renovations
- There’s mould growing in the ducts or any related components
Also note that if you don’t have an additional air filtration system (i.e. you’re just using the basic flat air filters) and/or don’t often replace your filters, duct cleaning may provide some additional benefit in your case.
Furthermore, certain factors can increase dust accumulation in your home and make occasional duct cleaning more worthwhile, like having an unfinished basement for instance.
X I don’t necessarily need my ducts cleaned if:
- There’s some dust in the home or ductwork, but it’s not excessive (some dust is normal and unavoidable)
- There aren’t any vermin or insects infesting the ducts
- Air is flowing easily through the system
- You haven’t done any recent renovations
- You have a good quality air filtration system attached to your central heating & cooling system
That being said, having your ducts cleaned every so often, say once every couple years, may be beneficial and isn’t likely to do much harm anyway.
A good time to have your ductwork cleaned is before the fall/winter heating season. During the summer and early fall, we’re more likely to have our windows open thus letting in all kinds of pollen, dust, and other pollutants, so having your ducts cleaned at the same time as a tune-up and inspection of your heating system may make sense.
Typical Cost of Duct Cleaning
The price of duct cleaning services will depend on many factors, but the average price is around $375. However, the cost can range anywhere from $250 to $500 or more, depending on the company you choose and where you live.
Other factors that will also impact the cost include the size of your home, the extensiveness of your ductwork, the number of vents in your house, how easy it is to access the system, and even how dirty your ducts are.
As with other home services, rates can vary a bit by region. Larger cities, like the Greater Toronto Area, may have more competition and thus slightly lower prices, though larger nicer homes in affluent neighbourhoods may pay a bit more.
You should be wary of automatically choosing the lowest price you can find. Be sure to hire a quality, reputable company!