January 23 - (Seattle Times Co) -- Thinking of having your air ducts cleaned? Lately it's become a big business, but that doesn't mean everyone who sends you a coupon advertising a "$99 entire-house special" is worthy of your business. In fact, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, a professional organization based in Washington, D.C., says buyers should beware of such gimmicks, and offers the following tips for choosing a service - and deciding whether you need one in the first place.
First, check the ducts , using a mirror and a flashlight. If there are no large deposits of dust or mold, or if no one in the house suffers allergies or asthma, you probably don't need to have the air ducts cleaned, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Just because you have dirty return registers doesn't mean you have disgusting ducts. It's normal for dust-laden air to be pulled through the grates, which you can vacuum yourself.
Do have your ducts cleaned if:
Your home has been remodeled.
Water has damaged your home.
You have pets.
Someone in the household smokes.
The carpet is old.
The windows are open often.
The home is newly constructed.
Check the cleaner's equipment. Be wary of a company that uses only shop-vac-size machines with 2-inch hoses. Talk to at least three companies, and make sure the one you choose uses powerful gasoline-powered machines mounted to trucks. Hoses should be at least 10 inches in diameter, similar to a dinner plate. Otherwise you're just stirring stuff out of the ducts without removing it, which will create more damage.
The cleaning service should:
Take hours to perform the service, which involves vacuuming and brushing. One employee should work four to eight hours; a two-person crew should take three to six hours.
Open access ports or doors to allow the entire system to be cleaned and inspected.
Use only high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration equipment.
Protect carpet and household furnishings during cleaning.
Use well-controlled brushing equipment with vacuums to dislodge dust and other particles.
Take care to protect duct work, including sealing and reinsulating any access holes they may have made.
For more information: The National Air Duct Cleaners Association, http://www.nadca.com/, has instructions on what to look for and how to locate a duct cleaner. Additional information also can be found at the EPA Web site, http://www.epa.gov/, by searching for "air ducts."