How to Know if You Need Air Duct Cleaning this Winter

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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Air duct cleaning is an important step in keeping you and your family comfortable and safe in the winter months. The ducts channel the air from the furnace to each of the rooms in your home. If the ducts are full of debris or the air flow is blocked, you may have a diminish the air quality in your home, exposing you and your family to potential safety risks and health concerns. Moreover, this could cause your heating system to work harder than it should to heat your home, raising your electricity bills.

dirty air duct held up by a HVAC contractor wearing an orange glovesYou may presume that cleaning your air ducts involves clearing out the network of ducting that allows the heat and air to circulate through your home. However, a proper air duct cleaning involves much more than that. Air duct cleaning also involves cleaning various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing. For that reason, duct cleaning is best done by a professional HVAC technician.

Why You Should Clean Your Air Ducts

A thorough air duct cleaning offers many benefits, particularly in the winter months when you have few opportunities to let in fresh air from the outside. Indoor air pollution becomes a real issue. Dust, allergens, bacteria, and mold can settle on the sides of the ducts and on the various components, where these particulates can breed and contaminate the air you breathe. Cleaning your air ducts removes these contaminants and helps keep the air inside your home cleaner and healthier.

Furthermore, air duct cleaning can result in other benefits during the winter months, such as:

  • Better air filtration may reduce flu and cold viruses.
  • Improved energy efficiency, meaning your heating system can work better and cost less to operate.
  • Fewer particulates in the air can mean less dust accumulating on the surfaces in your home.

When to Get an Air Duct Cleaning

man wearing a surgical mask and holding a sign that reads fresh airIf you or your HVAC technician observes any of the following conditions, you should have your ducts professionally cleaned immediately:


Apparent mold growth on the inside surface of your ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system needs to be addressed. You can make a positive determination of whether the substance is in fact mold by having a sample tested by laboratory analysis.

Note that if you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy, you must replace the insulation and have your air ducts professionally cleaned to eliminate the mold. Note also that you will need to correct any condition causing the mold growth or mold growth will recur.


If you have, or have had, a rodent or insect infestation in the ductwork or elsewhere in your home, a professional air duct cleaning is critical. Rodent feces and insect saliva harbor dangerous air-borne diseases that are easily transmitted to humans.

Excessive amounts of debris

An excessive amount of lint, dust, pet hair, construction trash, or miscellaneous debris can release unhealthy particles into the air in your home. It can also make your HVAC system work harder to deliver the volume of warm air necessary to make your house comfortable in the wintertime. If that much debris has accumulated in the ducts and your system components, your air filters likely need to be changed as well.

Unexplained allergy symptoms

If someone in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses, it’s good to have your ductwork regularly inspected for signs it should be cleaned.

Dust blows out of the registers

When your heat kicks on, do you see a cloud of dust blowing out of any of the registers? If so, you need to clean your ducts and change your air filters.

You hear noises in the ductwork

If you hear rattling or whistling noises in the airflow, you may have a blockage in the duct work. A blockage can occur when a piece of insulation or piece of filter gets sucked into the ducts or a damper is partially closed or caked with dirt.

Other reasons

You should also have your air ducts cleaned if:

  • You have just moved into your home and don’t know what the prior owners did to maintain their HVAC system.
  • Your home is newly constructed or you recently remodeled. Construction dust and debris can accumulate in the ductwork.
  • You have fiberglass ductwork. The fiberglass surface can trap particulates as well as accumulate into your air. This is a sure sign you need an immediate air duct cleaning.

Some Simple DIY Air Duct Cleaning Steps You Should Take

professional HVAC Contractor performing an extensive air duct cleaningA thorough duct cleaning needs to be done by a professional HVAC technician who has the appropriate tools and expertise. However, you can do a few things yourself:

  • Remove the grates from the registers and vacuum them out with your vacuums hose attachment as far inside as you can. Don’t forget to clean the registers themselves.
  • Change the air filters regularly. Changing the air filters at least every 60-90 days will keep the ducts clean, the air inside your home clean, and your system components clean and in optimal condition. If you have pets, change the filters more often.
  • Check the air return vents and registers located on the floor. Sometimes things are dropped down into them and create a blockage. If you notice any blockage, it needs to be cleaned out. Make sure they are not covered up by furniture, carpets, pillows, or anything else that can impede the air flow and damage your heating system.

If you perform these simple tasks regularly, your ducts should be clean and clear for many, many months.

Contact a Reputable HVAC Contractor for More Information

Annual inspection and maintenance of your heating system will help you stay on top of your heating system’s performance. You can make minor repairs before they become major expenses and mid-winter emergencies.

A professional HVAC technician can evaluate the condition of your ductwork and make recommendations about cleaning it. Speak to a reputable HVAC Contractor for more information on air duct cleaning and to schedule a free estimate this winter.

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