When was the last time you had the duct system in your home checked? For many people, this is one part of the heating and cooling system that tends to get little attention unless there’s some sort of breakdown. The fact is that proper maintenance of the air ducts is important for a number of reasons. What could happen if you don’t get around to checking and cleaning the ducts? Here is some essential information that you need to know.

Understanding What Can Be Lurking in Your Air Ducts

In order to get an idea of how important duct cleaning happens to be, it pays to know what sort of contaminants could be lurking in those ducts right now. Many people may be surprised at what can end up trapped in the system. Here are a few of the more common contaminants:

*Pet Dander: If you have dogs or cats that spend most of the time indoors, there’s more to think about than shedding hair that ends up on the furniture. The dander will get into the duct system as well. Over time, it will combine with other contaminants and be forced out of the vents while the unit is running. In other words, yesterday’s pet dander could be part of what you breathe in today.

*Dust and Dust Mites: You spend a lot of time dusting the furniture, vacuuming the carpets, and mopping the floors as a way to get rid of dirt and dust. Even the bed linens get attention partially due to the dust that can accumulate on surfaces during the day. While that’s great, there’s also dust and dust mites settling into the air ducts. Unless the ducts are cleaned from time to time, the dust and the mites will be part of what you breathe in.

*Rodent Remains and Waste: If you’ve had any type of pest problem, it’s likely spread to the air ducts. Even if you have an exterminator come in and treat the house, the odds are high that some traces of those pests remain in the duct system. For example, there may be rodent carcasses and certainly some amount of waste contained in the system. Do you really want the forced air flowing through those ducts and out of the vents to move over remains and waste?

*Mold and Mildew: Condensation can set up in the duct system and leave behind enough residue to trigger the growth of mold. Mildew may also be found in the ducts over time. Think of what happens when the air moves over the mold; tiny spores break off and are carried into each of your rooms. Eventually, some of those spores are inhaled. That doesn’t bode well for anyone living in the home.

There are other contaminants that can end up in the duct system, but you get the idea. Any type of contamination is not good for you or anyone else living in the home.

How Can These Contaminants Affect Your Health?

Can dirty air ducts make you sick? The answer is yes. The impact on your health can range from what appears to be minor ailments to some major health issues. Here are some examples of how the contents of a dirty duct system can affect you:

*Sinus Conditions: If your nose feels constantly stuffy or seems to run for no reason, it’s possible that you have allergies. It’s also possible that your body is reacting to exposure from one or more contaminants found in the duct system. Have some allergy tests and see what you can find out. If they come back negative, you can either have the ducts cleaned or continue to sniffle, sneeze, and blow your nose on a regular basis.

*Unexplained Fatigue: Everyone gets tired now and then, but there’s usually an identifiable cause. If you seem to be tired all the time even though you get enough sleep, that’s cause for alarm. Assuming medical tests don’t reveal some sort of ongoing ailment, the cause could be exposure to contaminants in the air ducts. Having them cleaned should help you feel more energetic.

*Breathing Issues: If you seem to find it harder to breathe these days, it could be because of the air ducts. As more contaminants build up in the system, there’s more to be forced through the vents and into the air in each room. As you breathe them in, they begin to interfere with the function of your lungs. Now is a good time to do something about the ducts and avoid any long-term consequences for your respiratory system.

*Dry and Itchy Skin: You may not associate dry skin that seems to itch with a dirty duct system, but the connection is definitely there. Exposure to whatever emerges from the ducts can break down the collagen in the skin and make it dry out with greater ease. Dry skin is also more likely to itch. You can keep using moisturizing lotions to compensate, or you can have the ducts cleaned.

What Does Dirty Air Ducts Mean For Your Heating and Cooling System?

Along with your health, do consider the impact on the HVAC system’s efficiency. A higher level of contaminants translates into more stress on the unit. Essentially, not having the ducts cleaned contributes to a shorter life for the unit. Given how expensive it is to replace as home heating and cooling system, regular cleanings make a lot of sense.

How do I Know if My Air Ducts Need to be Cleaned?

If you notice mold or darkened spots around air vents, it’s time to clean. Even if those are not present but the air seems to be stale and family members are starting to sneeze, cough, or have stuffy noses more often, it pays to check the ducts.

How Often Should I Clean the Air Ducts?

Most experts will recommend having the duct system thoroughly cleaned at least every three years. Keep in mind that if someone in the household smokes or if you have pets that stay inside, having the system checked and possibly cleaned every two years is not out of the question.

Can I Clean Air Ducts Myself?

While it’s possible to clean the duct system yourself, it’s rarely practical. Along with the ducts proper, you also need to clean the blower and other parts of the system that force air into the ducts. You also need to purchase or rent the right cleaning equipment and use the recommended cleaning agents. By the time you do all that, the cost of doing the job versus hiring someone is negligible.

How Much Should Duct Cleaning Cost?

A lot depends on how much cleaning is actually done. Be mindful about special deals that offer to clean the entire system for less than $100.00 since they may or may not involve tasks like cleaning the vent covers or tackling the casing around the blowers. Even if the cost is more in the $300-$500 range, make sure you know what’s included and what sort of guarantees come with the cleaning.

Do take duct cleaning seriously. Along with decreasing the stress on the unit and possibly lowering energy costs, the benefits to your health are easy to identify. If it’s been a long times since the ducts were last checked, call a professional today. You may be amazed at how different things seem to be once the cleaning is completed.