There are lots of duct cleaning companies out there, and many use very different sets of equipment. This is something you might have never thought about before, but it can make a big difference as to whether or not you get your money’s worth out of a duct cleaning.
Not all duct cleaning equipment is created equal and knowing just a little bit about the differences in what’s out there and what is and isn’t effective can help you make an informed choice when you hire a company to clean your ductwork. And of course, the alternative is that you may end up paying a company your hard-earned money only to have them do a sub-par job.
Below you’ll find an overview of the most common types of duct cleaning equipment that companies use, plus a quick look at how they work (or don’t).
The Good (HEPA Vacuum + Sweeps + Whips + Sanitation):
This is the system that Hi Tech Duct Cleaning uses and this is the industry gold standard for professional level duct cleaning. Here’s an overview of how the system and process works with this equipment:
- HEPA 3-Stage Filtration Vacuum System
This is a portable HEPA vacuum offered from Abatement Technologies which typically has 2,500 – 3,000 cfm of vacuum power (cubic feet per minute). This means that the vacuum is incredibly powerful and can pull debris and contaminants out of even very large duct systems in large homes and businesses.
Three-stage filtration means that there are three areas of filtration:
- Where the large hose connects to the vacuum there is a mesh net that helps to collect large debris and thick dust
- Underneath that net is another pleated bag filter which catches finer dust that passes through the mesh bag
- Below the pleated bag filter is a HEPA filter that catches minute, microscopic particulates (think bacteria molecules, mold spores, dust mites, etc.) which the other two filters are not capable of catching.
- HEPA filters are 99.99% efficient in catching microbes, bacteria, and small debris. It’s also a self-contained system meaning that anything that gets sucked into this type of vacuum cannot escape again.
- Air Compressor & Air Sweep
Runs at 185 PSI. We connect a forward air sweep to this which blows air at a 360 degree radius and we send this sweep down through the ductwork lines. Most lines are 6-8” in diameter so the sweep is able to hit all edges of the line, forcing debris to come loose and get pushed to the main trunk line where the HEPA vacuum is hooked up and can pull in all of the debris knocked loose by the air sweep.
- Whip System – This system runs off the air compressor as well at 185 psi. Each whip is 5 feet long. They interconnect and there are different types which range from stiff to extremely flexible. This allows us to create whatever length and level of flexibility is needed and tailor that whip system to the needs of that particular duct system. These whip systems beat the inside of the ductwork, knocking debris loose. The whips are capable of getting into every nook and cranny of the ductwork, no matter its shape or size. This makes it vastly superior to cheaper brushes and brush systems (which we’ll talk about in the ‘Bad’ section below).
- Reverse air sweep – Once the whip system has knocked everything loose throughout the ductwork, we then hook up a reverse air sweep to the compressor, which pulls all the loose debris in the duct lines back to the vacuum, where it can be sucked into the contained HEPA system.
NOTE: The return side is 70-75% dirtier than the supply side. So it’s important to know that you MUST get the return side clean. You cannot just clean the supply side and expect to have your system and your home/business be clean. If a duct cleaning company says that they will only clean the supply side, you will not be getting your money’s worth and you are not dealing with a professional.
- Sanitation Machine – This is a machine that we use to sanitize ductwork lines, trunk lines, and vent covers after all the debris has been knocked loose and vacuumed out. This machine pushes an antimicrobial spray through the system, coating the ductwork and killing mold spores, bacteria, pollen, dust mites, and any other nasties that might be living in your ductwork which somehow escaped the HEPA vacuum system.
- HEPA filtered Shop Vac – This is not your average shop vac that you get from Home Depot. This is a self-contained vacuum system with HEPA filtration, just like our big vacuum. We use this vacuum to clean up any debris that is inside the furnace itself, in the furnace’s blower motor compartment, and around the vents. (And after we get done vacuuming all of this up, these areas get sanitized as well).
The Bad: Truck-Mounted Systems
- Truck-Mounted Vacuum – These systems usually consist of a powerful vacuum system mounted inside of a truck or van that is then powered by the vehicle’s engine or by a secondary motor inside the vehicle. On the surface, these systems sound great because the suction power is good. However, the vehicle is parked outside at the curb or in the driveway and then a long (very long) hose is led into the house and down to the furnace and ductwork in order to perform its job. Unfortunately, much of the suction power of the vacuum is lost when a hose is run that far from the source of the vacuum. Even if the company using one of these systems pairs it with air sweeps, whips, and a sanitation system each job they complete will vary widely in how effective it actually was because that all depends on how far away the truck-mounted vacuum had to be from the home in question.
For my money, I know I’d rather hire a company with a HEPA vacuum that sits right at the furnace with maximum efficiency/suction power and can guarantee a thorough job every time.
- Brushes – Typically, brushes used to clean ductwork are round. But 95% of ductwork is square or rectangular. This means that the round brush is incapable of getting to debris and dirt that has built up in the corners of the ductwork. If a company claims to use a brush like this but isn’t using any additional equipment to knock dirt and dust loose, you should be a bit skeptical.
- Shop Vac – This is your average shop vac that you buy at your local Home Depot or home improvement store. And unfortunately, it’s more common than you may think for low-cost duct cleaning companies to claim they can clean your ductwork thoroughly using nothing but one of these shop vacs. Rest assured, these machines are helpful for many tasks but they just don’t have the suction power to adequately clean ductwork in even the smallest homes or apartments.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
When you call around to price duct cleaning services, be sure to ask the company what kind of equipment they use. This will give you great insight into the quality of their company, their work, and give you peace of mind that you will receive great service!
Hi Tech Duct Cleaning, Inc. uses the HEPA Vacuum + Sweeps + Whips + Sanitation system on all of our duct cleaning jobs so you can be sure that you are always getting the very best of what’s available in the world of duct cleaning. If you are in the Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, or Southeastern Indiana area, give us a call to schedule your duct cleaning appointment today at (513)737-3200.
If you aren’t in our region, be sure to check NADCA for certified duct cleaning companies in your area and when you give them a call get all the details on how they plan to complete the job before you schedule.