The Truth About Air Duct Cleaning – What You Should Know

Duct cleaning. Is it the secret to pristine indoor air quality? An instant cure for your allergy symptoms? Or just another way for contractors to take your hard-earned money?

So many companies market products and services that claim to improve the quality of your air. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, there’s a very good chance you’ve received countless coupons for one of service in particular: air duct cleaning.

Truth be told, the duct cleaning business has cleaned up its act somewhat in recent years. Gone are the days of people hawking bottom-price duct cleaning services door-to-door, and review sites like HomeStars have made it much easier to vet duct cleaning companies.

But you’re not the only person wondering if duct cleaning is really worth your money. There are still widespread misconceptions about the purpose of duct cleaning, how duct cleaning works, and the results you can realistically expect it to achieve for your home.

We are proud of the work we do in the duct cleaning services, but we’re also the first to tell you that not every home needs to have its ducts cleaned! It’s important that you know the facts about duct cleaning before you decide if you need to book an appointment.

Here, you’ll learn:

  • How duct cleaning works
  • How long an average duct cleaning takes
  • How often you actually need to have your ducts cleaned
  • Whether it really gets rid of dust, mold and bacteria
  • The potential health benefits
  • What a duct cleaning should cost

What is Duct Cleaning and How Does it Work?

Duct cleaning refers to the process of cleaning various parts of your forced-air heating and cooling system to remove dust and other particulates. Along with the air ducts themselves, a complete professional duct cleaning also includes cleaning of:

  • Supply and return ducts and registers
  • Grilles and diffusers
  • Heat exchangers
  • Heating and cooling coils
  • Condensate drip pans
  • Fan motor and housing

To do this, the duct cleaning technician first dislodges contaminants from the surfaces of the HVAC system using brushes, air nozzles and other so-called agitation devices. Next, the loosened particles are collected and removed from the house using a powerful vacuum system.

During this process, the entire HVAC system is placed under continuous negative pressure to prevent particles from escaping into the living space. It essentially creates a suction that forces the contaminants to move in only one direction – which is into the vacuum hose. Some refer to this as negative pressure duct cleaning.

Duct cleaning technicians may also apply a chemical biocide to kill microbes inside the ducts and other components.

Why Do People Have Their Ducts Cleaned?

Your central air conditioning or heating system continuously circulates air between your living space and HVAC equipment. Depending on the size of your home and your HVAC system, the air makes 5-7 full circulations each day.

The system also draws fresh air into your home outside using mechanical ventilation.

As this process repeats on and on, dust particles from inside and outside your house will begin to accumulate inside your air ducts. These particles can consist of everything from dirt and dust to pollen, pet hair, air pollutants, spores and bacteria. The exact makeup of the ‘dust mix’ in your home depends on the age of the house, the climate, your household habits and the number of people living there.

How much dust lives inside your ducts? Again, it depends on the situation inside and around your home. In our experience, the average duct cleaning in the Greater Toronto Area removes between 5 and 6 pounds of dust and debris.

How Long Does Duct Cleaning Take?

It’s hard to say how long a duct cleaning will take without knowing more about your home. The time it takes to clean a home’s HVAC system depends on many different variables, including:

  • Size of the house
  • Size and number of HVAC components
  • Amount of dust build-up
  • Number of duct cleaning technicians working on the job

Without this information, it simply isn’t possible to provide an accurate time estimate. Be skeptical of any quote you receive that doesn’t account for these factors!

How Often Is Duct Cleaning Necessary? (According to the EPA)

No one likes the idea of the air they breathe moving through filthy dust-covered passages. If you want to keep your ducts as tidy as possible, we generally recommend having them cleaned about every 3 years.

However, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation agree that you don’t need to have your ducts cleaned on any particular schedule – so it’s not a necessary part of your annual home maintenance routine.

There are, however, exceptions. According to the EPA, agrees that you should have your ducts cleaned or replaced when you notice:

  1. Excessive Dust
    This doesn’t just mean lots dust around your home, but when you see dust coming out of the supply registers. The registers should never be expelling visible dust into your living space.
  2. Vermin
    Rodents, insects or other vermin are a serious potential health hazard. If you’ve seen critters in your air ducts, it’s all but certain that there are droppings and remains in the ducts as well.
  3. Water Damage
    Water-damaged ducts are a breeding ground for mould. However, you must address the source of the damage and complete the necessary repairs before having the ducts cleaned.
  4. Restricted Airflow
    Excessive dust or debris can restrict the flow of air to your furnace or air conditioner.
  5. Mould
    Visible mould, slime or any other growth inside the ducts is a cause for concern. Sometimes, the first sign of mould is a musty or earthy odour rather than a visual cue – but in that case, you should confirm the presence of mould first.
  6. Odour
    Notice a bad odour originating from the ducts (or any other part of your HVAC system)? It could indicate mould, vermin, or water damage, which need to be addressed.

Does Duct Cleaning Really Help Get Rid of Dust?

When it’s done right, a professional duct cleaning will effectively remove dust from every surface inside your ducts. However, the effect is not permanent. As long as you’re using your forced-air heating or cooling system, the ducts will continue to accumulate dust as before.

Dust is a fact of life. You’ll never banish it from your house completely, no matter how often or thoroughly you clean your house. The same goes for duct cleaning.

The good news is, most of the dust inside your ducts sticks to the surface. It doesn’t all end up in your living space. That’s why we don’t recommend duct cleaning more frequently than every few years.

Does Duct Cleaning Get Rid of Mould and Bacteria?

It isn’t possible to eliminate mould and bacteria by agitating and vacuuming the ducts alone. However, biological contaminants can be removed through the targeted use of biocides and disinfectants. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) does regulate chemical and biological cleaners specifically for use in HVAC cleaning.

At AtlasCare, we have chosen to offer a safe, plant-based disinfectant called Benefect instead of harsh cleaners made from synthetic chemicals. This vent deodorizer kills more than 99.9% of bacteria, mould, and fungal spores while remaining chemical-free and keeping your family safe from toxins longer.

Does Duct Cleaning Leave a Mess?

Provided the job’s done right, duct cleaning should not blow dust into your living space, and there is no evidence to suggest that a professional duct cleaning is detrimental to your indoor air quality. A competent, NADCA-certified duct cleaning company will always take the time to properly seal your vents, keep their duct cleaning equipment clean, and protect your carpeting and household furnishings from the vacuum hoses.

AtlasCare’s Red Carpet Service goes several steps beyond these measures to keep your home as clean as possible: our technicians wear protective booties to keep from tracking in outside dirt and complete each service call by cleaning any leftover debris with an Asthma Society of Canada-approved HEPA vacuum.

Are There Proven Health Benefits to Duct Cleaning?

As mentioned earlier, the dust inside your home is made up of a wide variety of particulate matter, and the typical dust mix includes dirt, dust mites, pollen, hair and pet fur. There’s no reason to believe that a sprinkling of these particles in your air ducts poses any risk to your health. But we do know that these particles can trigger allergies and other symptoms in those who are sensitive to them.

Although dusty air ducts don’t necessarily mean unhealthy air, they can contribute to larger health issues. Dust mites, for example, produce allergens that are known triggers for people with asthma. In fact, dust triggers symptoms in 64% of asthma sufferers. Dust is also among the most common year-round allergy triggers, and many people who have seasonal allergies like hay fever are also allergic to dust mites.

Air ducts can also become contaminated with materials that are harmful to most people, like mould and bacteria. The ducts can become a means of distributing these contaminants throughout the home. Therefore, the EPA recommends having your ducts cleaned after vermin infestation or water damage, or if you see or smell mould.

How Much Does Duct Cleaning Cost?

The short answer is, it depends. The cost of a duct cleaning won’t be the same for everyone.

When someone requests a duct cleaning quote, they usually provide us with some basic information on the size of their house (in square feet), the number of storeys and the number of supply registers. Those facts do have an impact on cost…but it’s not enough to create an accurate, complete cost estimate.

The cost also depends on:

  • Your existing HVAC equipment
  • Size of your HVAC system
  • How easy it is to access the system
  • Level of contamination inside your ducts
  • Number of team members needed to do the job
  • How long the job is expected to take
  • Other environmental factors

The last thing we want to do is mislead you on the cost of a duct cleaning based on an incomplete picture of your home. That’s why we only provide cost estimates after we’ve had a chance to speak with you one-on-one.

How to Find a Reliable Duct Cleaning Company

Although the government has cracked down on door-to-door duct cleaning sales, we continue to hear from people in the GTA who have been mislead by cut-rate duct cleaning companies.

In fact, that’s why AtlasCare began offering professional duct cleaning services in the first place – many our heating and cooling customers complained to us about the lack of trustworthy duct cleaning services in and around Toronto.

Wherever you live, there are a few practical steps you can take to make sure you find the best duct cleaning company in your area. Keep these in mind the next time you’re looking for someone to clean your ducts.

  1. Only hire duct cleaning services from companies and contractors that are in good standing with the National Air Duct Cleaners Association or NADCA. This association is the gold standard for duct cleaning services in Canada and the United States. To become a member, a company must have certified Air System Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) who have passed NADCA’s certification exam on staff. NADCA’s member list should be the first place to look for services in your area.
  2. Make sure that a service provider agrees to clean all components of your HVAC system, not just the ducts. This is part of NADCA’s standards for a complete and professional duct cleaning. Neglecting to clean the entire system can result in re-contamination, which negates any potential benefits of having the ducts cleaned in the first place.
  3. Check customer reviews on unbiased, third-party sites like Google, Facebook and HomeStars (Home Advisor in the United States.) Take note of any customers who report high-pressure sales tactics, hidden fees, or claims of problems with their heating and cooling systems after the duct cleaning.

For more information or to book your service appointment, contact our duct cleaning specialists today.


What NOT to Do When Your A/C Stops Working

What should you do when your AC suddenly stops working?

Don’t Lose Your Cool!

Call the air conditioner specialists at AtlasCare for the fastest emergency service in the GTA. At AtlasCare we mean it when we say we’re “always there when you need us.” We proudly provide a 4-hour service window, day or night. Call us at 905-829-1296 for fast and reliable air conditioning emergency service.

Don’t Try to Fix It Yourself

Tinkering with your AC unit is not a DIY project and best left to the HVAC experts. The heat & cooling service maintenance experts at AtlasCare can troubleshoot your air conditioner to get it up and running smoothly again in no time.

The internet is full of DIY tips and how-to videos for the homeowner. It can easily lead you to believe that you can diagnose and repair your AC unit yourself. But unless you have experience with mechanical repairs, troubleshooting your unit is best left to a trained HVAC technician. Not only can they diagnose the problem in half the time, but they can also quickly source any replacement parts.

Don’t Look for Replacement Parts Yourself

Don’t go searching for replacement parts yourself. Cheaper products on the internet may be inferior to your equipment. AtlasCare sources products from reputable companies and combine that with their expert training so that they’re installed properly and guaranteed to last.

Don’t Overlook the Obvious

Be sure to check your thermostat to make sure the program settings for you AC unit are correct. Sometimes little hands, or even not so little hands make unwanted changes. The thermostat should be set to cool, and left on AUTO. It’s also a good idea to check the thermostat battery.

It’s also possible that a circuit breaker has tripped. Check to see that your circuit breaker is not in the off position. If so, flip it on and see if your unit restarts.

A clogged air filter will prevent any airflow. Clean or replace your air filter to see if that remedies the problem. Clean your filter with a soft brush, mild soap and water. Change and clean your filter often to avoid this problem in the future.

Don’t Switch Your A/C Unit On and Off Repeatedly

When your system is running as it should it automatically cycles on and off according to the temperature changes. Turning your AC unit on and off quickly and unnecessarily causes excess stress and wear and tear on your system.

If cleaning or replacing the filter does not resolve the problem, there may be any number of other problems to diagnose with simple solutions, to more serious situations where your AC unit will need to be replaced.

If you’re in the running for a new system, consider the ENERGY STAR certified Lennox® XC21 Air Conditioner that runs 20% quieter than standard air conditioners, or the Lennox Elite® Series XC16S Air Conditioner, which boasts outstanding home comfort with even temperatures, lower energy bills and the highest level of reliability. AtlasCare’s expert team will work with you to find the best solution.

Here is a list for common AC unit problems:

  • Not blowing cold air
  • Not cooling enough
  • Won’t turn off
  • Won’t turn on
  • AC fan not working
  • Leaking water outside
  • Leaking water inside
  • Leaking water when turned off

Note anything unusual such as any bad smells or noises coming from the unit that you can share with your HVAC technician.

Don’t Skip the Yearly Inspection

Avoid sudden breakdowns of your AC unit, especially in really hot and humid weather when you rely on it most, by having your AC system serviced annually! With regular maintenance, your AC unit will last longer, run smoother, and save you money on your energy bills in the long run.

Contact our air conditioner specialists today!

Red Flags to Watch Out for When Choosing an HVAC Company

When it comes to your house, you want to ensure things go smoothly. Choosing the right contractor to carry out work on your HVAC system in your home can be difficult, stressful, and if something goes wrong, expensive.

One of the most important things to do when choosing an HVAC company is to research.

In the sea of searching, it may be difficult to notice qualities that companies have that will be best for your needs.

While everything a company says may sound good, there are some red flags worth looking out for when making a decision.

Long Wait Times

We’ve all been there. The one thing we need, breaks suddenly.

HVAC problems can be sudden and serious such as heating issues in the winter. What do you do?

As a customer, you want a long-term relationship because you want to ensure quality. You need someone to be there when you need it. The last think you need is to wait all day for the services you require.

It’s important to find a company that prioritizes you as a customer. Fast emergency service windows and working around your schedule gives you the flexibility, but the security to know you’ll have the services when you need them most.

Poor Reviews and Photos

An online presence is important for many people. Reviews and photos are a good indication of the service you’ll end up receiving.

No one company is perfect, so generally a few negative reviews can be expected. However, a large number of negative reviews is a red flag.

What‘s important to differentiate one company from another is what they do when the customer is displeased. Companies that provide a money-back guarantee for any poor quality of work shows that they are both confident in their skills.

It indicates they are focused on making you happy and creating a long-term partnership between you two.

No Established Reputation

People want to know that companies will be there when they need them.

Without an established reputation, you have no guarantee how long they will be around or how reliable they are.

Companies with long histories and numerous awards provides a solid foundation and a reliable reference for their services.

You can count on companies to be there for you in the years to come.

High-Pressure Sales Tactics

No one should feel pressured to buy something. High-pressure sales tactics can make customers feel like the only option they have to end a stressful situation is to say yes.

If the HVAC company you’re considering is using these tactics to sell you their services, they may not be the company for you.

A few of the main high-pressure tactics are:

  • Endless chatter
  • Limited Time Offers
  • Emotional Manipulation

When it comes to solutions to your problems, there’s never just one way. Don’t feel pressured by a company to solve it a certain way.

You should always look to explore options and figure out together what works best for you.

Lack of Transparency

The best way to know if a company is right for you is often through referrals.

But be careful when using online referrals. There is a growing number of referral businesses that exist solely to acquire customer leads and funnel them to various other service companies for a fee. “Fake” referrals that have led you to finding a company you’ve never heard about doesn’t always mean you’re getting the best service.

The best referral is from someone you know or who has an active local presence. Everyone knows the best kind of service is the “I know a guy” kind of service. You know the company that’s recommended will deliver what you need, with business transparency.

With any business transparency between client and the company is key.

By definition, business transparency is clear, unhindered honesty in the way they do business. It is a lack of hidden agendas.

A transparent company with an active local presence will have your best interest in mind.

Bottom-Barrel Pricing

Most companies like to say they have the best pricing out there.

But when you’re looking into several companies regarding one service and you find an unusually low price, it might not be best to go with them.

If all a company wants is to earn a quick buck, you’re not going to get quality work.

When it comes to certain things, the cheapest option out there is often not the one you need.

You often get what you pay for.

Included in every HVAC cost:

  • the price in your invoice accounts for the company’s licensing,
  • insurance,
  • equipment, etc.

If the price is too low, something is missing.

Ultimately the choice is up to you, but don’t rush through your decision without researching first.


The Benefits of Whole-Home Humidification

The goal of many homeowners during the winter is to keep their families warm.  

That’s a wonderful thing except it comes at a cost: the warmer the air the drier it becomes.  

Ideally, your home should fall under the 40-50% humidity range for both your home and your health.  

Your furnace can often strip the air of moisture when trying to heat rooms and maintain temperatures. This leads to dry air throughout the house.  

The best way to save money and be energy efficient is to have an indoor humidifier.

The Benefits of Whole-Home Humidifiers

Everyone notices when the air in the house is dry. Maybe you’re putting on Chapstick more often or moisturizing your hands.  

Besides these small things, what does a whole-home humidifier actually do? 

Prevents & Treats Illness

Winter is an invitation to get sick. Dry air is a catalyst.  

Dry air pulls the moisture from your nose and mouth. And because your nose needs moisture to combat against viruses, you can become vulnerable to illness such as colds, sinus infections and the flu. 

With proper humidity within the home, you can fight against the common cold and flu symptoms we are all susceptible during this time. 

And good news! Bacteria can’t thrive in moist air. 

Protect Your Wood Furnishings

Remember that beautiful antique dresser that was your grandparents? You’ll want to keep it in good condition especially when the humidity is down.  

Without properly maintained humidity levels, your wood floors, and antique furniture like the beautiful old dining room table, could be damaged. 

Low humidity can cause the wood to dry out and even split.  

Create Warmth

Think about how hot it gets in the summer. What is the leading cause of feeling overly warm during those months? The humidity. 

We all know the saying “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” and it is absolutely true.  

The humidity plays a major role in how warm it actually feels as opposed to what the temperature actually is. While this can be undesirable in the summer, it is very beneficial for your home in the winter.  

Not only can proper humidity in your home make you feel warmer, it can help your furnace be more energy efficient and use less. The more moisture in the air means the more heat the air can store. 

A home with proper humidity and set at 68 degrees will feel like a home that’s set to 70 degrees.  

When you feel warmer at a lower temperature, you’ll save money on your heating bill.  

Physical Comfort

When your nasal cavity is dry, it can sometimes lead to snoring. 

With proper humidity you can: 

  • Reduce snoring 
  • Keep your skin from feeling overly dry 
  • Preserve your voice 
  • Prevent your throat and nose from feeling dry and scratchy 

Static Electricity

Have you noticed that you’ve been getting shocked when you touch a doorknob or someone else?  

Static electricity is much more prevalent when the air is too dry. This is largely why we experience static shock and hair that stands on end when it is colder and drier.  

Humidifiers can help eliminate this nuisance from your home and reduce the risk.  

There are a few key differences between whole-home and single-room humidifiers to consider when deciding whether to invest in one.  

Whole-Home Humidifier Vs. Single-Room Humidifier  

From a whole-home humidifier, the water used comes directly from your water supply. Over the course of the heating season, the water panel will need to be changed one or twice.  

They are attached directly to your home’s HVAC system, meaning it will use less energy to humidify the entire home than individual room humidifiers. 

Single-room humidifiers, while at a lower initial cost, are much more maintenance. The water within the humidifier needs to be changed daily to ensure: 

  • The humidity level is correct in the room 
  • To avoid the container becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and mold

They must be placed near a bed or living space depending on the location for best results. The bubbling noise could be a nuisance, especially when guests are present.  

Single-room humidifiers also must be deep cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria or mold from developing and entering the air.  

While single-room humidifiers can be used occasionally for isolated areas of the home, they are not the most efficient.  

If you’d like to learn more about improving your home’s comfort and furnace efficiency, contact us here for more information.