Every year, with the return of cold weather, the doors no longer open until the occupants pass and the windows spend most of the time completely closed. During the long months that our winter lasts, you and your house live more or less under mechanical respiration. The air you breathe is introduced, spread or exhausted through a network of ducts: air exchangers, heat recovery ventilators (HRVs), forced-air heating systems, bathroom fans, range and kitchen hoods. dryer… Are all these ducts and the air they convey clean? Air duct cleaning: how to do it?
Air duct cleaning: how to do it?
Thorough cleaning of ventilation ducts is much more complex than one might think. Professional help will likely be in order. Indeed, for a deep cleaning, specific devices will be necessary. Count between $300 and $600 for the cleaning to be done by a specialist. Typically, the suction-friction-push (SFP) process is used for this type of (deep) cleaning. This technique is implemented using a high-flow negative air sensor which will be installed at the level of the heating system.
This installation will aim to suck up everything that will be dislodged from the ducts. This sensor is 25 to 50 times more powerful than an ordinary vacuum cleaner. Then, in order to dislodge the dust from inside your ducts, the use of stirring tools will be necessary. Rotating brushes, air nozzles and nozzles with integrated whips can be used for this purpose. With the presence of professionals on site, you could take advantage of their abilities to clean other compartments of your building, such as the bathroom extractor or your kitchen hood.
Regarding the dryer hoses, it is strongly recommended to clean them every two years. If this is not done, you will be at greater risk of a fire hazard due to lint building up in your duct and blocking your pipe.
Why is it important to clean the ventilation ducts?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there is no conclusive evidence that Air duct cleaning has the effect of preventing health problems among occupants of a home. On the other hand, as mentioned above, those who suffer from allergies and intolerances linked to the presence of dust will have to carry out frequent cleaning.
In addition, it is by inspecting the ventilation ducts that other problems with underlying causes can be diagnosed. For example, if you notice the presence of mold, it could have originated elsewhere and spread into the ducts. The spores of this mold could then be sent into the air moving inside the house.
Finally, Air duct cleaning can improve the efficiency of the devices to which they are connected.
How often should the ventilation ducts be cleaned?
In order to sanitize your home and reduce your exposure to common pollutants from your home, your kitchen, your pets or your renovations, Ramneek Sidhu strongly suggests Air duct cleaning every five years. A few exceptional cases, however, require that you have your ducts cleaned without delay:
- Purchase of a new residence (new or not)
- Interior painting work
- Replacing your heating unit
Consequences of a clogged ventilation system
The ventilation ducts are the lungs of your home: if dirt, debris and pollutants accumulate there, your home will not breathe as it should and problems will begin to arise:
- Condensation or excessive frost on windows
- Moisture stains, mold on walls, ceilings and in wardrobes
- Peeling paint
- Persistent or unusual odors
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
In extreme cases, certain lung infections such as severe pneumonia (Legionnaires disease) may occur. So be vigilant!
As far as forced-air heating systems are concerned, it is especially in the return ducts (commonly called “returns”) that dust and debris accumulate the most. To clean them, simply insert the hose of your vacuum cleaner after attaching a brush. Unless young children or long-haired pets are present, one dusting of this kind by major cleaning of the house is more than enough.
Has water leaked into the pipes? Are you moving into a new or renovated home? Does the airflow from the heat generator seem abnormal to you? A more thorough cleaning of the return ducts is required. For this, you need to hire a specialized company. One restriction, however: refuse the spraying of biocides in the ducts. In Canada, no product intended for this use is currently registered. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation asserts that such a practice is absolutely not necessary for proper cleaning of the ducts.
Ducts of air exchangers and HRVs, whether rigid or flexible, can only be cleaned using specialized equipment: their winding path in the cavities of the walls and floors and their fragility (in the case of flexible ducts) make household vacuum cleaners unsuitable. It also happens that the pleated sheath of the flexible ducts has been stretched too little, which makes cleaning it simply impossible. In this case, there is only one solution: replacement.
When should they be cleaned? It’s very relative. It is certain that in a house without a range hood and housing two adult smokers, two children, a cat and a long-haired dog, the ducts will quickly become clogged. A good indicator of the need or not to contact a specialized firm is the state of cleanliness observed inside the device or on the air diffusers. As a general rule, it reflects well that of the ducts.
Air extractors and dryer exhaust
The ducts of bathroom fans and range hoods do not usually require routine cleaning. A check of their external valve will inform you about their condition. Thus, when the fan is on and the damper does not open or opens very little, it is then possible that the duct is obstructed or unhooked.
The dryer’s exhaust duct, on the other hand, must be disconnected regularly. It is important to remove, by hand or using a vacuum cleaner, the lint that has accumulated there. This will increase the efficiency of your dryer while reducing the risk of fire.
Exterior air vents
Checking duct vents is also imperative: short-winded appliances will wear themselves out on the job, and half-open exhaust dampers will drive up your heating bill. The Seasonal Maintenance Tour is the perfect time to see it. Remove anything that might be blocking the air vents. Beyond the leaves, paper scraps and lint, you might even find a bird there looking for some warmth and comfort!
As clean and unobstructed as they are, the airways in your home will not be able to ensure optimal performance of ventilation or heating devices if their filters and fans are not properly maintained. Refer to each appliance’s instruction manual for the ideal frequency of cleaning or replacing these parts.
The filters of recent models of air exchangers and VCRs are generally easily removed, as are those of range hoods and dryers. Then simply vacuum them or wash them with mild soap and water. As for the filters intended for forced-air heating appliances, regular maintenance guarantees their proper functioning and allows the appliance to propel air free of particles harmful to health.
And why not take advantage of the fact that a filter has been removed to dust off the fan blades it covers?
Air duct cleaning services: find a good company
Finding a company that offers air duct cleaning services is not complicated. However, not all services are equal when it comes to quality. We sometimes hear stories in the media of pressure sales by companies going door to door or calling people to convince them to take a cleaning contract.
If you have been contacted directly, without asking for service yourself, you may need to be wary! In fact, according to Paul Hannah, an expert quoted by the Toronto Star ( Is duct cleaning worth it?, published March 31, 2013), you should always be the one to contact the companies. You should also avoid signing a contract when an offer seems too good to be true (it will be). Finally, if you ever agreed to sign a contract with a company that came to see you door-to-door, don’t forget that you have 10 days to terminate it.
How much does a duct cleaning cost?
The cost of professional cleaning depends in part on the number of air vents on your devices.
Here is an overview of our rates for cleaning ventilation ducts in Quebec :
- Wall unit: starting at $199 (plus tax)
- Air exchanger: starting at $299 (plus tax), including the cleaning of 6 hatches (allow $10 per excess hatch)
- Dryer hose: $50 (plus tax), offered exclusively with the purchase of air exchanger or wall unit cleaning
- Furnace: starting at $480 (plus tax), including the cleaning of 15 hatches