Air duct cleaning?

As part of the service agreement with Sears, where I purchased a washer/dryer for my parents’ place, they get annual check-ups of the system. We had a service guy come out and do the first check-up last week. So we asked why the dryer kept shrinking clothes even though it’s on the lowest setting. The service guy asked when the last time was that we got our ducts cleaned.

Ducts? Cleaned? Not in the 12 years we’ve lived here… and who knows before that.

How often should one clean these ducts? How much does it cost? Is it a service covered by homeowner insurance? Is it going to be painful, like going to the dentist for the first time in 12 years? Are we bad people for neglecting our ducts?

How often do you clean your ducts?

We are about to have our ducts cleaned next week for the first time, though we’ve only been here four years. We’re doing it solely because our son has serious environmental allergies, and this is one of several steps the doctors ordered. We were told a standard house (3-bed) would cost around $450. They hook up what is essentially a major league vacuum to the duct where it meets the furnace in the basement and close off all vents, then hit ON. It will take around a few hours. Then our ducts are clean. Not sure how often we will need to do this.

I usually clean mine out about once a year. It’s a possible fire hazard, and a dirty duct does reduce the efficency of your dryer. They make a brush to clean them out with that’s not expensive, and it’ll work if you don’t have some crazy ducting system to get the exhaust outside. It’s not very hard to do, but you’ll want to cover the other end with a trash bag to catch the lint.

EDIT: Heh, I thought she was talking about dryer ducts

We bought our house new. We’ve cleaned the ducts once in 12 years, for two reasons. One was that I’d just finished the basement and we were pretty sure the ducts were full of drywall dust; the other was that my wife was pregnant and wanted the kid to breathe clean air. I’m thinking of having it done before the cold really hits this year, because of the loads of gunk that came out of it last time.

It cost around $350; they backed up a vacuum truck and just went to town with it. It wasn’t covered by insurance (it’s not even considered maintenance by our policy) and it was only painful inasmuch as we had a couple hours of loud vacuum noise which caused us to hang out on the deck for a while.

edit: replace ducts with ducks for juvenile giggles.

I, uh, thought I was as well…

In retrospect, you may be right. I thought it was about furnace ducts. If it looks like a duct, and sounds like a duct…

If you just mean your dryer duct, do it yourself. It will be easy. It probably goes straight through the closest wall to the outside world. Hell, run a toilet brush through there.

Dryer is in a laundry room in the middle of the 2nd floor (sharing a wall with the neighbors). Whose bright idea was that, rather than keep the hookup in the garage?

The drier duct needs to be cleaned every few years. The lint filter in your drier is course as hell so the ducting is going to load with crap relatively quickly. Both drier efficiency and effectiveness are going to drop as the pressure drop in the duct increases.

If you have a straight horizontal shot to the outer wall from the drier, cleaning is easy. If you’re on the second floor (as you are), there are any turns in the duct, or you don’t want to spend the time f’ing with duct cleaning it is better to pay someone to come in with equipment designed for the job.

Our duct guy found a bird’s nest inside the duct. It explained why the boiler kept shutting off and the carbon monoxide alarms kept coming on.

As long as the run for the exhaust vent doesn’t have a ludicrous number of turns in it, it should be pretty easy to do yourself as long as you’re reasonably handy and willing to spend a little money on the right tools. Given this is something you should do regularly, it’s worth learning to do it yourself. Here’s an example of a kit that would likely work fine.

For those of you talking about full-on duct cleaning services, you may be just simplifying the description of the work that’s done, but if the only thing the service you hire does is hook up the vacuum truck for a few hours, you’re getting ripped off. At one point, I worked for a restoration company that did duct cleaning, and a good service will snake all of the ducts with a special air tool which knocks the dust loose from the duct walls while the vacuum is running. (They go from room to room, removing the vent covers and running compressed air lines down the ducts.) A good service will also disassemble the blower on your furnace, take the squirrel cage outside, and pressure wash it. If they don’t use tools inside the vents, the vent walls will still be covered with filth no matter how long they run the vacuum.

I used to work for an air duct cleaning company back in the day. It was no fun. No fun at all.

Yes, they did that too.

Thanks Tork. Tomorrow I’m going to call the service that’s coming Wed. … and make sure they’re doing all that you said. Never knew enough to ask. Now I do.

I did the house duct cleaning once, it was as tork described, he spent a few hours cleaning each vent with special tools. I have allergies and asthma, so I hoped it would help (it didn’t really, but oh well, gotta try). The only downside was that the guy left us some scientology leaflets as a thank-you. Somebody told me that lots of duct cleaning services in LA have links to scientology, perhaps they can vacuum out the thetans.

This thread immediately made me think of this:

One weird thing you discover when doing duct cleaning is that in just about any house more than 20 years old, all of the duct interiors are coated with a golden-brown “nicotine sheen”. The squirrel cage on the furnace blower has got a particularly intense covering of the stuff. It’s pretty gross.

Nasty bird farts?

No, the boiler was already in the house. The exhaust duct was actually under recall because it would crack and leak MO indoors. The bird inside the duct exacerbated the problem by blocking the legitimate air exit.

So if you buy a place, make sure none of the appliances have been recalled.

Central Services: We do the work, you do the pleasure!