How Often Should Your Air Ducts Be Cleaned
Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Air ducts are an essential component and key addition to every home's heating and cooling system. However, folks tend to disagree on when (and how often) it is necessary to clean one’s air ducts. Some people believe that air ducts should be cleaned regularly, from every six to seven months – to prevent allergens from building up, and to stop your ducts from becoming future health hazards.
Naturally, there is ‘heated discourse’ in the “air duct community”, and so a lot of people think that the first option is overkill, choosing instead to opt for the more commonly circulated advice of cleaning ducts every two to three years.
Others might even go as far as to say that their ducts don’t need any cleaning, because their homes are clean enough. We’ll say this – even if the air in your home feels “clean enough”, it's still important to maintain proper sanitation on a scheduled basis, which is why we’re here to help you out on making the right call for your specific scenario.
A Matter of Context And Urgency
The first thing we need to get out of the way is this: frequency follows factors. Be sure to remember that abbreviation, because the rate at which you’re meant to sanitize your ducts is heavily dependent on your location, climate, and any potential respiratory illnesses you or your family members may have.
If you live in a humid place, mildew and mold spores are your biggest enemies, as they love places where hot and cold air allow for a consistent accumulation of moisture. Air ducts tend to be even more problematic in that regard, as mold may accumulate in very hard-to-clean places.
The more obvious problem comes in the form of rodents and insects, which may like to use your system of ventilation as a means of getting around – like a subway for nasty creatures. In cases like these, it is best to clean your ducts every 1 to 2 years, during the summer.
Why Bi-annual Cleaning Is Nonoptimal for Most
It might seem tempting to clean your air ducts every six or seven months if you’re a germophobe. However, such frequent HVAC cleaning can actually cause more problems than it solves. If there aren’t any visible signs of mold, pests, or excess dust/dirt, then the constant cleaning procedures may in fact stir up more dust than they….well, clean.
Most modern studies suggest that light amounts of dust particles don’t genuinely present a huge problem to households in regard to health – of course, this should be taken with a tiny grain of salt, as there are people with respiratory issues such as asthma who would benefit from more frequent cleaning, as long as it is done by experts who will make sure that the dust or debris in the ducts doesn’t spread to the household itself.
The Sweet Spot
For a majority of people, the best frequency for air duct cleaning fits snugly around the 2 to 3-year mark, as in most cases (bar the aforementioned occurrences involving mold, infestations, or visible dirt) the accumulation of hazardous particles is sporadic and seldom high-risk with regard to potentially posing a health risk to non-ill people.
In fact, NADCA even recommends air duct cleaning be kept within a 3 to 5-year range in terms of frequency. Think of it as a handy general rule of thumb. It goes without saying that the presence of mold or pests changes that range considerably, though it is better to deal with those problems first (such as hiring pest control) and then figure out the optimal frequency period based on whether you live in an apartment or house, if pests are common, etc.
As a good way of compromising between general experts’ advice and the caveats related to your situation or health conditions – one can be assured that the frequency of 1-2 years fits most households’ needs, with minor adjustments in months or a year depending on whether other factors call for it.
In addition, some cleaning methods make it so that you won’t need to have your air ducts treated for up to six years, assuming your household is otherwise visibly clean.