You’ve noticed mold growing on some of your ducts. You suffer from asthma or allergies and have a difficult time breathing in your house. You have many pets with lots of fur and dander flying. You’ve tried everything from vacuuming to cleaning to air filters to working with your doctor. It might be time for an air duct cleaning. Air duct cleaning cleans your heating and/or cooling system – from the coils to the ductwork that runs throughout your home to the registers and grilles that send airto and from the heating or cooling source. A proper air duct cleaning addresses the entire system.
You no doubt have encountered many claims and received many coupons at your home in Alameda County, whether you live in Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, Hayward, or San Leandro. No matter where you are looking, you want to be sure you are getting a complete cleaning from a qualified firm. Use the information below to help you decide on the best air duct cleaning company for you.
I’m Getting Some Fabulous Offers for Air Duct Cleaning in Alameda County
We’ve all got the coupons or flyers. Really cheap air duct cleaning that will change your life. As usual, what’s too good to be true usually is, and you’re sensible enough to realize it. As you move around your house in Alameda County, whether you live in Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, Hayward, San Leandro, or Pleasanton, Newark, or Dublin, you may be asking yourself what an air duct cleaning will actually do for you. You’ve heard about concerns about indoor air quality – where pollutants can build up to greater concentrations than in the outdoors. Especially if you have asthma sufferers or allergies, or have lots of pets, you may be even more aware of air quality. Will cleaning your air ducts help resolve the problems?
Never work with a company that makes grandiose claims about dramatically improving your life. The research simply isn’t there to back up the claims. Air duct cleaning makes sense in that air ducts and your heating/cooling system send air through your home, air may have particles in it, and those particles may accumulate over time. So it makes sense to clean those areas once in a while, if you want to. Of course, if your HVAC system shows signs of mold, you should definitely have it cleaned. You should also search for the sources that allowed the wet in to start the mold, since it will merely mold again until you address the root cause. You should also have your ducts cleaned if vermin or insects are infesting them. And if you can see that dust or other material is clogging the ducts or dust actually gets spit out the registers, you are a good candidate for air duct cleaning.
When you are not sure whether you need air duct cleaning, you can ask the people who installed your heating and/or cooling system. They may be able to help you understand how sealed or unsealed your system is, and where possible contamination may enter. You can, of course, also ask an air duct cleaning company. They should be professional and responsible, but you must take care, since of course they also want to sell you something.
You should also avoid working with any air duct cleaning company that promises to do the job for a very low rate. If you look at the all the components that must be cleaned in a proper service, you will see that it is no small job. In addition, the company has overhead for the proper equipment, including the vacuum systems. A teaser rate may be advertised by the company, then charges piled on so that you end up paying a large amount. In 1996, the EPA estimated that a good air duct cleaning job costs between $450 and $1,000. Look for an air duct cleaning company that will provide a reasonable estimate, taking into account the size of your house and ductwork, access to the heating/cooling coils, and the entire system.
One other thing to avoid is a company that wants to schedule regular air duct cleanings. The frequency with which you decide to clean your ducts depends on who is living in the house, what animals are present, whether there is a change in conditions, such as a sudden increase in rain and subsequent water damage followed by mold, and the like. Since the benefits of air duct cleaning are not yet documented, you should have it done only when you need it. A good air duct cleaning company will understand this and not try to lure you in annual cleanings, or the like. Air duct companies themselves estimate that a cleaning lasts between three to seven years, a very wide range that makes setting up a schedule less than helpful. Also, if you have the misfortune to encounter a poorly trained technician, your heating and cooling system runs the risk of damage.
Having the Tools to Clean Your Alameda County Air Ducts
Once you’ve decided that you do want to clean your air ducts, and you are looking for a good air duct cleaner in Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, or Fremont, there are several things you can look for.
Your air duct cleaner should have the proper tools to complete the job. This includes a vacuum to remove particles from the air ducts. The vacuum may be truck-mounted or may be portable. Some companies claim their truck-mounted vacuums are superior, but the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), the trade association for HVAC cleaners, says that if their standards are followed, both truck-mounted and portable vacuums will do the job effectively. Truck-mounted vacuums do tend to be more powerful, but on the other hand, a portable vacuum can be brought into enclosed spaces, closer to the ductwork itself. If a portable vacuum is used that exhausts into the interior, it must have a HEPA filter to prevent particles from entering the interior space. Your air duct cleaner may also have a use for handheld vacuums and wet vacuums, and these should also have HEPA filtration. Your air duct cleaner might also need tools to cut into ductwork for better access. Inspection tools might include mirrors, a camera or closed-circuit television, or a periscope. Brushes are used to agitate the equipment and loosen dust. Some air duct cleaning companies may also use an air whip, an air gun, or a blowgun to loosen and move debris. However, fiber glass components can be damaged by these, so care is needed.
Having the Training to Clean Air Ducts in Alameda County
Just exactly what training your air duct cleaner needs to operate in Alameda County, whether in Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, San Leandro, Hayward, Alameda, Union City, or Dublin can sometimes be a source of debate. For a proper cleaning, your air duct cleaner should have a C20 contractor’s license from the California Contractors State License Board. This is because the C20 license is granted for building, maintaining, and repairing heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) equipment. In a proper air duct cleaning, the cleaning includes removing and cleaning the blower motor components, then reinstalling them. Since the blower motor is part of the HVAC system, the air duct cleaning company should be properly licensed. California contractors are required to include their license number in their advertising. You will notice that many air duct cleaning companies do not have a license. You should ask them why not and what components they include in the air duct cleaning that they provide.
In addition to the state license, it’s a good idea to look for air duct cleaning companies that belong to the National Air Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA). Members of the association will perform work to the association’s defined standards. The companies also pledge to hire at least one certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialist (ASCS).
Having the Professionalism to Clean Air Ducts in Alameda County
When you hire your air duct cleaning company in Alameda County, whether in San Leandro, Pleasanton, Fremont, Newark, Dublin, Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward, Alameda, or Union City, you should follow good guidelines for hiring contractors in general. Ask two or three contractors to provide an estimate for your particular house, not a general estimate. Ask how long the company has been in business, along with what licenses and certifications it has. California requires any company with employees to have workers compensation insurance, so check that the company has this, otherwise you can be liable if a worker is hurt on your property. Also check that the air duct cleaning company has general liability insurance and is bonded. California requires that its contractors have bonding. Ask for a written agreement before work is started. Ask how long the job may take and how many workers it may involve and make sure any quote covers those variables. Ask how the firm plans to protect any pets and the house during the cleaning process.
What Should I Expect From My Alameda County Air Duct Cleaning Company?
As you look for your air duct cleaning company, whether in Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, San Leandro, or Hayward, it’s a good idea to know what to expect from a proper cleaning. Before beginning any air duct cleaning, the company should look to see if asbestos is present in the system. If it is, it must be handled according to regulations. An air duct cleaner should use tools, such as brushes or blowguns, to agitate debris, in concert with a vacuum that will pull the debris out of the heating or cooling system. Both the supply and return air ductwork should be included. The supply air ducts supply heated or cooled air to the rooms, while the return air duct takes air back to the heating or cooling devices, usually a coil. The supply registers, return air grilles, and any diffusers should be taken down, cleaned, and replaced. The supply and return plenums need to be cleaned. Check especially for moisture on the supply plenum, which can lead to mold. The supply plenum sometimes gets damp if condensation from the coil is not properly drained. The plenums are boxes that are close to the coil for the heating or cooling device and connect to the rest of the ductwork that travels throughout the house. The heat exchanger’s air-stream side should be cleaned, as should the secondary heat exchanger. The blower motor and its housing and assembly should be removed, cleaned, and put back, leaving no oil or other dirt on the blades and the blower compartment clean. The evaporator coil, drain, and pan should all be clean, and the coils should not be damaged or pushed together after the cleaning. Any air filters should be replaced with filters that match those recommended by the heating/cooling system’s manufacturer. The air cleaner should also be washed.
Why Is My Air Duct Cleaner Recommending Chemicals?
Sometimes, an air duct cleaning company will recommend using chemicals to clean or as a preventative, for example, to prevent mold. For example, the evaporator coil may be cleaned using chemicals and water instead of vacuuming. To prevent bacteria and fungus growth, some air duct cleaners may recommend a chemical. You must be extremely careful about allowing the use of such chemicals. Releasing them into the air in your home may cause problems for the occupants. In addition, all such chemicals must be registered for specific uses with the EPA, and they cannot be used for other uses. There are a small number of chemicals that are registered for preventing bacteria and mold. Besides being registered, the chemical must be able to be used as described on its label. For example, if the label requires rinsing with water, it should not be used, since it is not a good idea to introduce water into your ductwork. Note particularly that these chemicals can only be used on bare sheet metal. Much ductwork today includes fiberglass board, or is flexduct, which includes fiberglass, or is a metal pipe lined with fiberglass. In any case where fiberglass is involved, the material should be replaced if it has mold or other contamination, since there are not products approved to clean fiber glass.
If you do allow a chemical to be used, you should first ask the air duct cleaner to show you the mold or other microbial growth. You should be aware that just because something looks like mold, it may not be. If your air duct cleaner shows you material from inside your ducts and claims that it is mold, you should get it checked by a laboratory to prove that it is mold. The chemical should be shown to you, so that you can verify that it is approved for use in your situation. Using chemicals to kill microbes should be a last result. Consult with your air duct cleaner to find out if there is no way to simply remove the existing growth and then address the source of the problem – for example, improper evaporation drainage – to prevent it from recurring.
Some air duct cleaners may recommend a sealant to prevent dust and particles from escaping from the duct into the air. In most cases, these sealants do not provide an added value. First, they are often sprayed into the ducts, so that proper coverage is not guaranteed. In addition, a sealant may harm ducts built from fiberglass, reducing their ability to reduce noise and possibly even harming their fire retardation abilities and voiding the manufacturer’s warranty. Sealants for preventing dust from escaping are generally not recommended by the EPA, NADCA, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), or the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). There are other sealants that may be appropriate when repairing damaged fiberglass insulation or fire damage in the ducts. A sealant should never be applied on top of wet, dirt, mold, or the like.
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