Information on different air duct cleaning methods

Power Vacuum/Air Sweep method:
Average equipment value being used to perform an air duct cleaning: $50,000.00-$150,000.00 worth of machinery and equipment

According to NAIMA this method of cleaning is the most thorough form of cleaning a ventilation or HVAC system to deliver the lowest particulate count exiting an HVAC system. Actual air studies by a reputable international organization, such as NAIMA has conclusively proven that this in fact occurs in a ventilation system, which of coarse should be a no-brainer because if particulate matter was merely stuck to the sidewalls of ductwork and did not in fact circulate, then mechanical engineers would have never invented a furnace filter. How many HVAC service technicians have instructed you to never use a furnace filter? Probably, not too many, right? That is because it has been known for several decades that dirt, dust and debris will always circulate in a forced air ventilation system. Fortunately, most people are not completely unaware of this problem and have realized that occasional HVAC system cleaning can produce very good indoor air quality results when performed thoroughly and correctly.

Now that we logically know that forced air systems which moves air in a ventilation system not only moves the air inside of the ductwork, but the fine micron particulate matter that science had previously proven existed floating around with that same air, we can get on to the various cleaning methods that tries to tackle the build up problem that time will cause in a forced air ventilation system.

A raging debate between various companies world-wide tries to advertise and endorse their methods of cleaning to convince a consumer and potential customer that their method of cleaning is superior. Rather than writing a very obvious slanted article, I realized that simply stating what the advantages and disadvantages of each cleaning method is, would allow the consumer or potential customer to decide for themselves as to which cleaning method would best serve them. Yes, I can admit that every cleaning method has a clear advantage and disadvantage. Although I would love to make every consumer and or potential customer our customer, the reality is that many factors affect where a consumer or potential customer turns to for their indoor air quality needs.

Power Vacuum/Air Sweep method:
Average equipment value being used to perform an air duct cleaning: $50,000.00-$150,000.00 worth of machinery and equipment.

This method of cleaning is the most expensive, thorough and risky form of cleaning out there. The machinery can cost anywhere from $50,000.00- $150,000.00. The cost to operate is higher and if the technicians are not properly trained the risk of dusting out a house or breaking something in the house is greater.

The power vacuum/air sweep method involves a powerful large diameter vacuum hose generally ranging in diameter from 8”-12” that moves anywhere from 3000 CFM – 26,000 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of negative air draw depending on the type of power vacuum machinery being used. Typically speaking, having power vacuum machines that moves anymore that 10,000 CFM is foolish, considering the fact that all ductwork is rated for a set amount of CFM based on the size of the ductwork through external static pressure ratings, velocity and ambience. I do have to admit that the more power a vacuum has, the cooler it is to witness, though.

The power vacuum hose is typically installed into the ductwork via a circle cut out which allows for the power vacuum to put the entire side of the ductwork under a complete and sound vacuum draw. By doing so, every vent attached to the ductwork will have a centrally created vacuum present for proper system containment. From there, various mechanical brushes are sent down the rounds to break and push all debris down to where the power vacuum is sucking. Afterwards compressed air ranging from 150 psi – 250 psi air washes anything left by the brushes, to thoroughly and completely clean the round. Once all of the supply/heat pipes are cleaned a variety of different brushes, air whips and blow back jetters are employed to source remove all of the bulk matter back towards the power vacuum. This method of cleaning is superior for actually ridding the ductwork of all loose contamination because there is typically no cleaning obstacles presented by the ductwork that the self propelled mechanical and air tools can’t over come, as well as the fact that the sheer power of the vacuums not only effectively keeps all the debris contained, but has enough power to pull this debris out of the system.

Advantage:

Most thorough mode of cleaning where a positive effect such as increased HVAC system efficiency is realized, increased airflow from supply rounds is realized, less HVAC equipment parts failure is realized (or increased part lifespan occurs) elimination of foul odors presented by isolated incidents where dead animals are presented, animal liquid & solid excretions occur and odor emitting mold/mildew and bacteria occurs and in some cases dust reductions are noticed depending on the amount of contamination that is present in a ventilation system. After this method of cleaning is performed, assuming that the occupant maintains that furnace filter I previously mentioned to manufacturer recommendations, then cleanings may only need to be performed every 3-4 years or even longer if you invest in a high media filter unit.

Disadvantage:

This method of cleaning takes longer, the machinery costs more, which means you are charged more than what most contact cleaning companies would charge you. If the company does not adequately train their personnel to perform this cleaning method, then the risk of mishap is greater than a contact cleaning company due to the overwhelming power engaged into the ventilation or HVAC system cleaning project. This cleaning process is a louder process due to using effective and powerful machinery.

Contact Cleaning Method:
Average equipment value being used to perform an air duct cleaning: $500.00-$4,000.00 worth of machinery or equipment.

This method of cleaning is the safest form of cleaning in ensuring a reduced amount of mishaps and or errors at a jobsite occurs. Typically speaking, a company will use a glorified shop vac, various carpet cleaning hose attachments in conjunction with carpet cleaning machinery and or even a glorified shop vac with a spinning brush. Most contact cleaning companies will spend 30 minutes to 2 hours in attempting to reach as much ductwork that a person is physically able to reach. A small minority of contact cleaning companies will even make a good go at it and will spend up to 8 hours at an average residential jobsite. It is even fair to say that if a contact cleaning company spent all day, if the ductwork was completely exposed and if the ductwork was small enough, a contact cleaning company could technically perform a thorough job if the technician was motivated to perform a thorough job.

Advantage:

The contact cleaning method of air duct cleaning is usually more affordable in price for the consumer/customer because the equipment is so cheap. The contact cleaning method of air duct cleaning is a safer form of cleaning in ensuring that less mishap and errors occur during a job or project because not much agitation of dirt, dust and debris is being made. Contact cleaning machinery is usually not as loud as power vacuum machinery.

Disadvantage:

The contact cleaning method of air duct cleaning is very limited in what dirt, dust and debris is actually pulled out of a ventilation and or HVAC system. 2” diameter vacuum hoses cannot suck up 3” diameter beer cans or soda pop cans. Due to the laws of physics in that a 2” diameter vacuum hose leaves behind all large diameter items, no airflow improvement is ever realized after the service is performed. Clumsy shop vac hoses usually cannot effectively clean through most furnaces burners, hence the ash, dirt, carbon and dust that can be found in these burners typically stay in the burners. This results in no efficiency improvement when cleaning out the burners, because the shop vac hose could not fit inside of the burners to properly clean it as compressed air or nitrogen can. Most ventilation and or HVAC systems have portions of ductwork that is not easily accessible due to portions of the ductwork being drywall finished around. Should this be the case at any given jobsite, a consumer and or customer must realize that a large portion of ductwork will not be cleaned as a result when the contact cleaning method of air duct cleaning is employed. Typically a shop vac hose can only reach up to 15’ before the hose just curls up. Some trunk lines may stretch out to over 100’ in distance, which means 15’ would be cleaned and 85’ would go untouched. In ductwork rounds the shop vac hose can usually only reach up to 2 ½ ‘ before the shop vac hose gets stuck. 90 degree turns will almost always make the shop vac end its descent in cleaning down a pipe because the shop vac hose cannot be turned without physical intervention. A greater risk of disconnecting pipes occurs due to the physical nature of the contact cleaning method. Also if any home security wiring, telephone wires or low voltage wiring is ever present in the ductwork, the physical nature of the contact cleaning method in air duct cleaning will increase the chances in breaking such wires, whereas air washing will not compromise such wires in any shape way or form. Most contact cleaning companies will recommend that you should have your air ducts cleaned out every year or two, because they know they left enough debris in the ductwork to try to get at it again in a year or two.

Well there you have it folks. Both common methods in air duct cleaning really do have advantages and disadvantages. I attempted to write this article as fair and balanced as I could using as many facts based on past experiences that I have experienced in performing over 10,000 residential and over 2000 commercial air duct cleanings using both methods of cleaning. Based on my past experiences the advantages and disadvantages in both methods of air duct cleaning that I wrote about are very much so true in my experiences. There are many different cleaning machines and tools out there, which means’ that the chore in selecting a thorough air duct cleaner, can be daunting. I must say that experienced technicians in performing an air duct cleaning service can go along way, especially when a company is committed in investing in the more expensive forms of machinery and specialized tools as Lucky Duct is. In fact our least experienced technician that would show up to your home or office has 3000 + residential air duct cleanings and 850 commercial air duct cleanings performed. Lucky Duct strives to take better care of our people in pay and benefits than most other companies which is why we have been so fortunate in attracting some of the best tech’s out there. Cool machines and tools help, but experienced people can really make the difference in a project result as well.

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