ICS Magazine

Duct Cleaning: The ICS Interview

May 9, 2003
ICS went to two of the segment’s leaders to get their perspective on duct cleaning, what the process actually is and what it takes to incorporate it into an existing business.



In order to do the best job possible of providing an introductory overview of duct cleaning, ICS went to two of the segment’s leaders to get their perspective on the specialty, what the process of duct cleaning actually is and what it takes to incorporate it into an existing business.

ICS Cleaning Specialist: Briefly, what does the duct cleaning process involve?
Gary Kruse: The basic duct cleaning procedure consists of three integral parts. A powerful vacuum is attached to the ductwork to create an airflow in the ducts that will transport the loosened debris to the vacuum’s filtration system. The vacuum will remain on during the entire cleaning process.
Brushes or other mechanical means of agitation are used to dislodge debris that is caked on the ductwork. Then, after the agitation, high-volume/high pressure compressed air nozzles are snaked through each section of the ductwork to blast the loosened debris into the air stream created by the vacuum.

Richard Wade: A typical air duct-cleaning job would first involve using a video inspection system to show the homeowner the condition of their duct system. Video inspection is what sells the duct-cleaning job for you.
Next, you would clean the entire duct system using air duct cleaning equipment that both agitates the inside walls of the ducts and then vacuums the debris. Some air duct cleaning systems even allow you to use a video inspection system for active monitoring of the air duct cleaning process.
The next step would be to clean the air-handling unit. Certain states require an HVAC license for this, so always check with your local authorities. After you clean the air handler you can offer your customer the option to fog the duct system with a deodorizer/bacteriostat. This leaves a pleasant smell in the system. Confirm that the chemical you use is registered by the EPA for use in air duct systems.
The final step is to once again use your video inspection system to show the customer the results.

ICS:Why should homeowners consider having their ducts cleaned?
RW: Homeowners have their air ducts cleaned for several reasons. Over the years, air duct systems can accumulate dirt and debris, pet dander, pollen, mold and dust mites. Most homeowners are uneasy knowing that the air they breathe is circulated through these contaminants, not to mention they can aggravate the symptoms of asthma and allergies. Other customers view interior dust as a symptom of dirty air ducts, and want the ducts cleaned for that reason alone.

GK: Homeowners generally get their ducts cleaned for three reasons. One is housekeeping related. Most people do not want dust to be spewed throughout the house every time the furnace or air conditioner runs. Nor do they want to endure the many odors that are associated with dirty ducts.
The second reason is heath related. Dust, mold, pet dander, etc. can be very dangerous for those family members with respiratory problems. Since the duct system is designed to be a very effective way of distributing air throughout a home, it is also very effective in spreading pollutants from the ducts. Having the ductwork cleaned is one step in helping to eliminate contaminants from a home.
The third reason for having a duct system cleaned is the resulting better efficiency of the furnace and air conditioner. Dirty ducts can dramatically reduce airflow, resulting in higher fuel costs since the system must operate longer to get the desired climate within the home.

ICS: Are there hazards associated with duct cleaning and, if so, how do you avoid them?
GK: Most of the hazards associated with duct cleaning can be avoided using common sense. Safety glasses should always be worn when using any power tools or compressed air. Also, since the duct cleaner is working around dust and in some cases other contaminants, it is recommended procedure to wear a respirator.
It also is important that a duct cleaner be able to recognize situations that they are untrained for and need additional professional help. Cleaning ductwork containing asbestos or high concentrations of mold is to be avoided unless one is properly trained and licensed to handle these contaminants. Also, unlicensed technicians should not be doing repairs on HVAC components. It is always a good idea to check local and state regulations regarding licensing requirements for your technicians.

RW: Some hazards associated with air duct cleaning include cuts, scratches, and inhaling dust or antimicrobial chemicals. Proper training and common sense are the two best ways to avoid these issues. Also, some systems have mold present, which could be hazardous to the technician.

ICS: What kind of training does a technician need before he or she begins cleaning ducts?
RW: Many air-duct cleaning systems are delivered with a training manual, but the best way to learn the air duct cleaning process is a combination of hands-on experience and classroom instruction.
There are many different types of air duct systems in the country, from flex duct and fiberboard to radial perimeter and extended plenum. Therefore, it is best to look for a training program that offers the technician a variety of systems on which to train.
Classroom instruction is equally important. It is a good way for the technician to learn the specifics about different HVAC systems, microbial contamination and available treatments, and how to properly market your air duct cleaning services.

GK: The procedures used in residential duct cleaning are relatively simple. However, a certain amount of training regarding procedures and equipment is necessary. The amount of training required is somewhat dictated by the background of the technician. A licensed heating and air conditioning technician would certainly require less training than someone with no knowledge about a heating system.
Training can be accomplished using videos or spending some time observing a qualified technician. There are also some excellent classes available throughout the country for those wanting more detailed and extensive training. Like many other cleaning services, a little common sense and planning goes a long way in the duct cleaning business.

ICS: Is duct cleaning a viable service for a cleaning professional to incorporate as an “add-on” service for his or her company?
GK: Duct cleaning can be an excellent service for the cleaning professional. It produces high gross margins and high revenue and is a service that can be an entr?into the rapidly growing IAQ service field.
Productivity is key today. By adding a duct cleaning service, the professional cleaning contractor can add to the productivity of all the support personnel by generating additional revenue using the same support staff.
Advertising and promotion can be very effective in generating duct-cleaning business. Consequently, many contractors vary the amount of advertising they do to help smooth out the peaks and valleys inherent in their businesses.

RW: Air duct cleaning is a great add-on service for carpet cleaning professionals to provide. After you clean your customer’s carpets, you can use your video inspection system to show the customer all of the contaminants in their air ducts. This is an easy way to generate an additional add-on sale.
Many carpet cleaners are looking at their business as a provider of indoor air quality services, rather than simply carpet cleaning or upholstery cleaning. This positioning opens up additional revenue streams not available when carpet cleaning is a company’s sole service. Not to mention customers with whom you have done business already trust you. You did a good job before at a fair price. Because of this they are more likely to buy additional services from you, so offer more services.

Gary Kruse is General Manager for the IAQ Products Division of Abatement Technologies, Inc. in Duluth, Ga. He has been actively involved in the asbestos abatement, duct cleaning, mold abatement and air filtration industries for the past 15 years. He has written numerous articles relating to air filtration equipment for these industries. You can reach him at gkruse@abatement.com.

Richard Wade has spent more than three years working in marketing for Rotobrush/AIRQC in Carrollton, Texas. For more information call (800) 535-3878 or go online at www.rotobrush.com.