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Air Duct Cleaning. Is this a good idea?

Elm Energy Group Admin - Thursday, October 03, 2013

Air Duct Cleaning. Is this a good idea?

By: Colin Reed

The Problem: According to the EPA “Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.” 

Do you have one of these concerns?:

  • Our kids are having allergy problems
  • We smell mold or mildew throughout our home
  • My house has an abnormal amount of dust in it
  • I have to change my filters more than every 30 days
  • We are concerned about toxins & allergens affecting our indoor air-quality


Does this dirty duct look familiar?

Are these thoughts leading you to consider paying for air-duct cleaning? If so hold the phone, before you spend your hard earned money I’d like you to take a couple of minutes to understand indoor air quality, your ducts and how they get dirty.  If your ducts are dirty air is getting into your ducts from somewhere it is not supposed to, most likely your attic or your crawl-space.  

You think this disconnected duct might be causing air-quality issues?

One cause is excessive duct leakage. Only since 2012 have building codes in NC required new homes to have their ducts tested for leakage, meaning before 2012 who knows the condition of your ducts. Here at Elm Energy Group we routinely test ducts in existing homes with leakage between 20-30% (which means 20-30% of the air you are paying to heat and cool your home is being lost!), almost 5X what current code allows. This can cause all kinds of problems including dirty ducts, poor indoor air, uncomfortable rooms, and high energy bills. 

Cleaning these ducts without solving the problem is like putting air in a tire with holes in it; a temporary fix.  Air-duct cleaning in the Charlotte area will run you anywhere from $99 to get a light dusting (not accomplishing much) or upwards of $750 depending on the size of your system. While this may seem inexpensive think about doing it again and again as your ducts dirty themselves through regular use, it starts to get expensive and becomes a hassle. 


Another duct we found in a crawl-space that was completely disconnected!

So what should I do? I’m glad you asked, first let’s talk about why you think you need your ducts cleaned. Is it excessive dust? Is it an allergy concern? Are you concerned about a mildew or moldy smell? Many companies will sell you ways to alleviate these particular problems.

  • A duct cleaning service to get rid of dust.
  • A HEPA filter to get allergens out of the air
  • Mold remediation to clean mold or mildew

But let me ask, once you get your ducts cleaned how do you know they won’t get dirty again? A HEPA filter will take allergens out of your home, but how are they getting inside in the first place?  Lastly, once mold is remediated what is stopping it from coming back? 

If you really want to stop these problems you need to re-define your problem. The problem isn’t my ducts are dirty; the problem is something is causing my ducts to get dirty.  Don’t clean them, find the problem. What we recommend is starting a conversation with one of our technicians about your problem and what your goals are. From there we can talk about scheduling a home energy audit or a trouble- shooting appointment with one of our building technicians. We use the latest building science knowledge and diagnostic equipment to find what is causing your home to underperform eliminating the guess work. With experience in well over 1000 homes our technicians have seen it all when it comes to home performance problems and know how to fix them.  When it comes to improving your homes health and air quality consider investing in a solution and call Elm Energy Group.





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