Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Duct cleaning as a means to better IAQ

September 19, 2010

More and more cleaners are looking for additional services to offer their customers.

Air duct cleaning is a popular choice for carpet cleaners, as well as JanSan cleaners who work with carpeting, because of the public’s growing awareness and concern about in-door air quality (IAQ) — which makes it an easy add-on service to sell.

For a carpet cleaner, the $300 to $500 you can make per job at a higher gross profit than carpet cleaning alone isn’t bad, either.

Homeowners, as well as facility owners and supervisors, have their air ducts cleaned for several reasons.

As years pass, air duct systems can accumulate dirt and debris, pet dander, pollen, mold, and dust mites. Many of these contaminants are the same found in the dirty carpets, rugs and upholstery you clean daily.

Most home and building owners are uneasy knowing that the air they breathe is circulated through these contaminants, not to mention that this particularly aggravates symptoms of asthma and allergies.

Others view interior dust as a symptom of dirty air ducts, and want the ducts cleaned for that reason alone.

Video inspection does the job

A typical air duct-cleaning job would first involve using a video inspection system to show the home or building owner the condition of the duct system.

When cleaning a carpet, pull out your video inspection system to show the person accountable how dirty their air ducts really are. Most people are shocked when they see that the air they breathe travels through dirty air ducts. Video inspection is what sells the duct-cleaning job for you.

Many video inspection systems even include a VCR, so you can record the duct inspection and leave a copy with the home/building owner.

Taking steps to clean

The cleaning technician should take the following steps after the owner of the structure agrees to the duct cleaning:

  1. Remove all of the registers and clean them by applying a good degreaser and rinsing them with water. Remember to mark the location of the registers on the back, so there will not be a problem returning them to their correct location, and always return each register to its previous location.
  2. Clean the entire duct system using air duct cleaning equipment that both agitates the inside walls of the ducts and vacuums the debris. Be sure to utilize an agitation device such as a soft bristle brush auger that will not damage most types of typical duct systems, including flex, sheet metal, or fiberboard. Clean the supply runs first, beginning with the air duct farthest away from the air handler.
  3. Work your way back towards the air handler, cleaning the remaining air ducts, and then overlapping air ducts to ensure complete cleaning. Some air duct cleaning systems even allow you to use your video inspection system for active monitoring of the air duct cleaning process. Active monitoring allows the operator to see what he is doing, and also allows the house/building occupant to view the air duct cleaning process in "real time" — providing a credibility to your cleaning operation.
  4. After you clean the supply duct runs, you are ready to clean the cold air return. Typically, because the return draws air to circulate through the system, it is full of more dirt and debris than the supply duct. Here, an active video inspection system would come in handy.
  5. Air duct cleaning actually involves more than cleaning only the ductwork. Because the entire air conveyance system needs to be cleaned, the next step would be to clean the air-handling unit. Certain states require a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) license for accessing the ductwork, so check with your local authorities.
  6. After you clean the air handler, you can offer your client the option of fogging the duct system with a deodorizer/bacteriostat, an add-on service that leaves a pleasant smell. Confirm that the fogging chemical you intend to use is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in air duct systems, and follow these points:
    • With the system on, you want to fog directly into the cold air return for about one minute per 1,000 square feet of building. The system fan distributes the chemical deep into the system.
    • For tough odors or mold control, you may have to use a sanitizer in the ductwork.
    • Whenever you use any chemical in an air duct system, always inform your client and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

When the duct cleaning job is done, use your video inspection system to show the customer the results. Video inspection is an important tool in air duct cleaning because it lets the customer know the job was done right.

For carpet cleaners who can add “IAQ specialist” to their list of cleaning titles, that means increasing referrals and decreasing callbacks.

Scott Peterson is vice president, Production, Rotobrush.