Indoor Air Quality

The Dirty Truth About Duct Cleaning

The demand for duct cleaning is something that has been on the rise over the last 10 years in the HVAC industry. It has gone from a very small niche business to a large and profitable industry and with this growth has come many questions. Before we get started allow me to establish my experience. I have been in the HVAC industry for over 15 years. I have never personally performed a duct cleaning but I have been back to multiple HVAC service after duct cleanings have been performed. I personally have no issue with the duct cleaning industry as a whole, I simply have concerns with the common practices I have observed as well as customers expectations in relation to the outcome.
Duct CleaningFirst, we must establish that the vast majority of residential and light commercial duct systems installed in Florida are flex and board systems. This means that the bulk of the air flows through flexible insulated tubes with a thin plastic inner liner. The remainder of the duct system is constructed of fiberglass board that is formed into boxes and triangle shapes that act as the main lines and distribution boxes.   Second we must state clearly that almost anything can be cleaned if enough time and resources are applied this is as true of ducting as any other surface.

The real questions are:

  1. Is duct cleaning effective at consistently providing cleaner air?
  2. Are the practices consistently applied that produce a good result?
  3. Is the cost of properly cleaning the ducts vs. replacing them represent a real value?

Is duct cleaning effective at consistently providing cleaner air? A report produced in 1997 by the EPA states that duct cleaning has not been proven to produce cleaner indoor air. The EPA has consistently stood behind this stance and this applies to all types of ducts. It stands to reason in my opinion that cleaning metal or meal lined ducts would be effective. There are many before and after representations of what duct cleaning can and has done for metal ducts. The issue remains in all ducts that cleaning can often dislodge matter that then may be reintroduced into the air stream had the cleaning not been performed. This leaves the question that unless the ducts are left completely clean has the duct cleaning been successful in reducing indoor air contaminants?

Are the practices consistently applied that produce a good result? The NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaning Association) has very good training and application guidelines on the proper cleaning of most duct systems. These practices if consistently applied by well trained professionals with well-maintained and cleaned equipment will result in the best outcome. My experience has shown that many companies that provide duct cleaning service do not consistently or fully abide by NADCA standards, this can result in a poor outcome as well as possible damage. When damage does occur due to improper duct cleaning practices it is often concealed which results in the property owner being unaware that there is an issue.

Is the cost of properly cleaning the ducts vs. replacing them represent a real value? Here is an excerpt from the NADCA website. The Environmental Protection Agency says that duct cleaning services typically “ but not always“ range in cost from $450 to $1000 per heating and cooling system, depending on the services offered, the size of the system to be cleaned, system accessibility, climactic region, and level of contamination and type of duct material. Consumers should beware of air duct cleaning companies that making sweeping claims about the health benefits of duct cleaning such claims are unsubstantiated. Consumers should also beware of blow-and-go air duct cleaning companies. These companies often charge a nominal fee and do a poor job of cleaning the heating and cooling system. These companies may also persuade the consumer into unneeded services with and/or without their permission. This makes it clear that proper duct cleaning does come at a price. In many cases the cost of proper cleaning may not be cost effective when compared with replacement. This depends on the age, condition, type and access to the duct system currently in place. In summary, I would advise the following

  1. Only have ducts cleaned if it is necessary, in most cases cleaner air can be more easily and consistently achieved through air filtration / purification.
  2. If you are going to have ducts cleaned make sure to use a NADCA accredited professional and check their work against the NADCA checklist  HERE
  3. If your ducts are in need of cleaning look at the comparable cost of replacement vs. cleaning
  4. Recognize that Florida duct systems are often not very conducive to proper cleaning reducing your potential success rate

Contact Us with any further questions and we hope this was helpful!- Bryan Orr VP Service Kalos Services Inc. Licensed A/C Contractor CAC1814620

Resources mentioned in this article can be found: EPA.GovNAIMA.Org, and Angie’s List. You can also check out these videos of news teams exposing the potential scams that can come with duct cleaning:

3 Products to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

In our previous post on air filters, we talked about one of the essential factors for indoor air quality. Today, here’s some advice on the other two options for improving your indoor air quality: Humidity Control and Ultraviolet Lights. There’s three products we’ve seen to be useful in this realm, so here’s some more info!


humidifierHumidifiers:
We’ll keep this brief as we, in our experience haven’t ever seen a good use for humidifiers in Florida, except in the case of a winter stuffy nose. The lack of humidity can dry out your skin and mucous membranes. Low humidity also makes the air feel colder than it actually is. Excessively dry air can also dry out the wood in the walls and floors of your home or business. As this drying wood shrinks, it can cause creaks in floors and cracks in drywall and plaster.

Dehumidifiers: These on the other hand, are more commonly used in Florida to improve indoor air quality. High humidity can usually leave one with that muggy, heavy feeling that fills the air. Often this occurs when it’s rainy, foggy, or hot outside (sounds like Florida!). Excessive humidity can make your hair frizzy and may seem to dampen everything, as well as allow spores to grow and wood in the home to swell and … well you get the idea. An average home, when talking relative humidity, typically maintains from 30-55% humidity when the air conditioner is operating properly. An air conditioner in cool mode is acting as a dehumidifier by condensing moisture on the coil and draining it outside. Increased dehumidification is offered on a lot of new systems by pairing variable speed blowers with single or two stage condensers. If your home is not maintaining a low comfortable living space, it may be an issue with AC system or a system being over-sized for your home.

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Ultraviolet light: Another option for indoor air quality is an invisible form UV Lightof electromagnetic radiation that can be a great friend! UV light is not visible to the naked eye, but it can cause some substances to emit visible light, which is known as fluorescence. This form of light, which is present in sunlight, can be beneficial to yourhealth, as it stimulates the production of Vitamin D. It also kills many harmful microorganisms. UV light has many uses, and it can help keep your equipment and air safe from these microorganisms, when placed in an air handler. UV lights are an effective way to keep molds and spores from growing, and increases the air quality of the whole home or business.   If you’re interested in any of these indoor air quality options for your home or business, or need some more questions answered, please visit www.KalosFlorida.com or call us at 352-243-7088!

Is Your Air Filter Costing You Money?

You know you do it; you just grab the filter off the shelf at your local store, without giving a second thought to whether you are buying the right filter for your needs. The kind of air filter you buy can make a huge difference, and you should be aware of a few things when planning on how to maintain and choose the correct filter for your home or business’ air conditioning system.
Air FilterA discussion on air filters can be everlasting, but here are three things to be aware of when planning on how to maintain and choose the correct filter for your home or business’ air conditioning system.

MERV Rating: MERV is a measurement scale designed in 1987 by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers to rate the effectiveness of air filters in indoor air quality. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and you can check out a chart in a previous post if you want to know what the numbers mean. In general, filters with a higher MERV rating need to be changed more often, since they pick more contaminants out of the air — but that’s why you want them, because they get more out of the air! Another factor to consider is the air filter’s thickness. For example, a MERV 8 pleated 1 ” filter doesn’t filter any better than a MERV 8 pleated 4″ filter, but the 4″ filter will last longer because of the increased surface area compared to the 1” filter.

Changing intervals: There is a common myth sold to homeowners concerning the infamous “30-Day Air Filter” vs “90-day Air Filter.” As filters pull things out of the air, they block your air more and more, making your equipment work harder even while keeping it from cooling the house well! Running your system with a dirty filter can make your costs skyrocket. The reality is each home has different conditions within it, and those conditions will affect how much is in the air for the filter to remove. If you have pets, or if your kids are going in and out of the house all day, your filters are probably not going to last what the box says. There are options for those who do want a filter that will last longer than 30 days, but they often aren’t cheap, the most common being purchasing a system that uses a larger filter. Go to our indoor air quality page for some information on these types of systems. Lower air flows, due to a dirty filter can decrease capacity and consequently the energy efficiency ratio or performance factor of the system and can increase your heating and cooling cost. A filter should be periodically checked and replaced when needed, not just every 30 days!change-air-conditioner-filter-2

Correct Sizing: Using correct size filter for your return is essential when selecting your air filter. Your filter is meant to protect your air-conditioning equipment, not just you. Under-sizing a filter can result in the air flowing into the return grill, bypassing your filter, dropping dog hair and dust on the expensive, heat-exchanging coil instead of the changeable filter. This would allow the components of your system to suffer the consequences from a lack of protection from your air filter, essentially wasting the money you spent on an air filter, and it might result in higher energy bills and possibly damaging the equipment. The most common under-sizing would be in cases where a filter is an inch or less from a more common size — like 15×20 or 20×21½. If you are under-sizing, the dust and debris that you see on your filter every month may be only a part of what is traveling through your air system, or even clogging up expensive equipment!

We hope this helps your selection process and if you have any questions please visit our homepage www.KalosFlorida.com or call us at 352-243-7088.

Which Air Filter Should I Use?

It’s Important to Choose the Right Air Filter

Have you ever been surprised at the amount of different air filters that are available at your local retailer? Most people can only guess which filter is actually right for their system. Although it’s a small detail, making sure you have the correct filter is one of the best ways to take proper care of your system and get the most out of your investment.

If you just need the quick rundown, our service manager Nathan Orr has broken down three standard air filters and their differences. In the longer video, we actually had some fun with an experiment. Which air filter actually holds up to its price tag? Check it out below!

 

Three Types of Basic Filters

When it comes to air filters, there are really three kind of standard 1-inch filters that you can get at any hardware store. First is a fiberglass filter. These are see through and in the field we call them boulder catchers…because that’s about all they will filter. They’re not really going to protect your coil or filter your air very well. These are only useful to stop large combs of animal hair or large particles from being pulled onto your coil. You can buy a five of them for $2-$3. We don’t suggest using these because they don’t protect your AC unit. Either way, they are cheap.

The second, and the most popular kind is a MERV 8 Pleated Filter. This is the type of filter you would most likely have installed by a technician performing an annual A/C maintenance. It’s beneficial because it has somewhat wide pleats. The purpose of the pleat is to give you more surface area, and the more surface area you create, the more effective the air filter can be. This type of filter will perform well and catch most of what you need it to. It’s not gonna really catch too many allergens, but it does a good job of protecting your unit. Usually, it costs around $3-$4 per filter.

On the high end, you usually have something know as an electrostatic charged filter. It usually has tighter pleat compared to the MERV 8 filter. There are more pleats to it, has more surface area and it’s electrostatically charged, which can help the filter to be more effective an allergen filtration. This filter will not release any dirt that it captures (at least not very easily.) These will usually cost around $15 per filter.

Electrostatic Filter vs. MERV 8 filterair filter

The electrostatic filter and the MERV 8 filters are both generally advertised as a 30-day filter. It’s important to keep in mind that 30 days is based on an average run time per day, and not a hard rule. Depending how much your unit is running, you may need to change it more frequently than the suggested 30 days. Generally, the recommendation is that you are checking it at least every 30 days to see if it has gotten dirty.

So as you can see, different filters do have different positives and negatives. Ask yourself if you air filter will protect your coil, filter your air, and compare different features and costs to come to your decision. Those are all things to consider when you’re selecting your air filter.

Of course, if you’re looking for a good place to buy some filters, hop over to our post about how you can get all of your preventative A/C maintenance filters delivered directly to your door.

 

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