Ducts for forced air heating should be inspected annually. Heating ducts reach all through your house, and need to be inspected by a professional for energy-wasting leaks, excess dust that can constrict airflow and absorb heat, and dampers which may need adjustment and rebalancing for optimal heating efficiency.
The typical home ducting system will include an electronic air cleaner or physical filter placed between the returning circulated air flow and the heat exchanger. You should replace or clean the filter after 4 to six weeks of use, whether usage is for heating or air conditioning.
Replacement of filters is easy, as they are designed to be accessible for homeowners. Make sure that you get an exact replacement filter that matches the original, otherwise you risk changing the performance and efficiency of the entire heating system.
Keeping up with changing the filter regularly is the single most important thing homeowners can do to maintain the condition of their heating system and the quality of the air it produces.
Electronic air cleaners, which can be either of the electret, electrostatic or negative-ionizer type, should be maintained per the manufacturer’s instructions, and the same emphasis should be given to their maintenance as to that of filters. Electrostatic type air cleaners are the most efficient of the electronic air cleaners.
The heating ducts themselves should be cleaned once every three to five years. It is best to hire a duct cleaning company to perform this maintenance task, local companies can be found in the yellow pages of the phone book or online.
If you are unsure which company to choose, the company that installed the furnace can usually recommend one to you; look on the furnace for the installer company’s name and phone number. Make sure whoever does the cleaning has insurance that covers liability and workers compensation. Ask for references you can call, and how long they have been in business.
When you call the duct cleaning company, you will need to tell them you want the following services performed: complete cleaning of dust from all ducts, plus cleaning of blower blades and furnace heat exchanger, and if you have a central air conditioner, cleaning of the air conditioner coils.
Cost of a duct cleaning job will vary based on the size of the house and duct system. Watch out for add-on service charges that some companies try to pad the bill with, like deodorizing and disinfecting. Both of these are unnecessary if the duct cleaning was done properly, and can introduce unwanted chemicals into your air supply.
Also, make sure the cleaning company will take steps to protect the cleanliness of your home during the process. The majority of duct cleaning companies are reputable and trustworthy; however, it only takes one bad one to make a mess of your home and cost you more than you should be paying.