Air ducts contain a wide range of harmful microorganisms and contaminants such as pollen, pet dander, mildew and mold spores. Getting rid of this dirt helps keep indoor air clean and healthy.
Keeping up with cleaning the air ducts also prevents odors from developing, which is especially important in apartments. This article explores how often apartment air ducts should be cleaned to help both landlords and tenants understand this maintenance task.
Allergens and Respiratory Issues
Allergens like pollen, pet dander, and mold spores, can collect inside dirty ducts and circulate them throughout the home. This can cause or worsen allergy and asthma symptoms for those who suffer from them. Additionally, the dust that tends to build up inside air ducts can also contain harmful micro-organisms and other pollutants. Regular cleaning by a professional service provider helps to reduce the risk of these allergens and other contaminants in the home and makes it easier for families to maintain cleaner, healthier indoor spaces.
Even if family members do not have respiratory issues, dust mites and other organisms that live in the home can thrive in dirty ductwork. This can lead to unhealthy air quality and contribute to a number of health issues, including breathing difficulties, chronic sinus infections and even bronchitis in extreme cases.
The NADCA recommends that apartment occupants have their air ducts professionally cleaned every three to five years, depending on their individual circumstances. These include whether there are pets in the house, if anyone smokes and whether any occupants have allergies or other respiratory conditions. In addition, the ducts should be checked regularly for signs of mold and pest infestation, and cleaned as needed.
Landlords should consider air duct cleaning for their rental properties as well. This is because they are responsible for providing safe and habitable living environments for their tenants. While a clean HVAC system is a part of this, it may not be the first maintenance issue that comes to mind for many landlords.
When considering hiring an air duct cleaning service provider, make sure the company has state licensing to perform the work and has experienced professionals who are insured and bonded. They should be able to provide references from past clients. They should be able to explain the process and answer any questions or concerns. Also, they should be able to show the tenant any visible evidence of microbial growth or contamination. This includes the ability to show any samples that contain bacterial, fungal or other organisms on a settling plate or a petri dish for confirmation of their presence.
Building Age and Maintenance
When air ducts are cleaned properly, it reduces the number of harmful contaminants in a home. These substances include pet dander, mildew, mold spores and similar pollutants. These toxins are especially dangerous to those suffering from allergies and respiratory issues.
The EPA warns that these contaminants can also cause serious health problems for children, elderly adults and others with pre-existing conditions. Even those without such illnesses can experience a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, headache, fatigue and rashes.
Dust mites, dead skin flakes, hairballs, fabric lint and a host of other unpleasant substances can build up inside air ducts as well. Similarly, rodent droppings and dead mice can cause foul odors that are difficult to eliminate. Smoking and cooking odors can also make their way into the system, leaving behind a musty smell that is hard to get rid of.
Regardless of the source of the odor, having the air ducts cleaned can significantly improve the quality of life in an apartment building. The resulting clean air will have the added benefit of improving the property value, especially in cases where the ducts need to be cleaned before an owner sells it.
While there are many reasons to have the air ducts in an apartment building cleaned, it is important that the work is done by a professional service provider. Some people try to use home air cleaning systems to perform duct cleaning, but such products can damage the HVAC system and actually increase dust levels in the home. In addition, there are no studies to demonstrate that such cleaning prevents deterioration and other problems in homes. In addition, it is not the responsibility of a landlord to pay for this type of cleaning. Tenants may choose to pay for duct cleaning on rental properties, provided they obtain permission from their landlords. In such cases, a rent reduction cannot be requested if the landlord fails to perform this service. The EPA recommends that a qualified technician perform the cleaning to avoid such problems. The EPA’s Air Duct Cleaners Listing is one place to find a qualified service provider.
Air duct cleaning should be done when there is visible contamination of the ducts. This is often caused by bacterial, viral, fungal, or rodent infestations. If these contaminants are not cleaned out of the ducts, they will be circulated throughout the entire apartment building and into each individual apartment where they can cause respiratory issues for residents.
Dirty ducts can also contain fine dust particles that spread quickly from room to room, covering tables, smart phones, and children’s toys. These particles are a breeding ground for germs and can lead to asthma and other breathing conditions. In addition, if they are contaminated with pet dander, mold spores, or rodent feces, they can trigger serious medical problems such as toxoplasmosis in cats and hepatitis in humans.
If an apartment is new, it’s a good idea to have the air ducts cleaned before moving in. This will ensure that the previous owners didn’t leave behind a slew of allergens and pollutants, which can aggravate allergies and sinus and respiratory problems in the future. Likewise, if your family has pets, it’s a good idea to get the air ducts cleaned before your family moves in because pet hair and dander can accumulate in the ducts.
When an air duct is cleaned, it will be more efficient and likely last longer. If your ducts are clogged with a buildup of contaminants, the HVAC system will have to work harder to cool and heat the room and may break down faster.
Some cleaning companies may try to convince their clients that the ducts need to be cleaned by demonstrating visible evidence of microorganism growth on a settling plate. This is not a reliable method for determining whether or not biological growth is present in the ductwork, and laboratory confirmation should always be obtained before any decision to clean the ducts is made. In general, duct cleaning should be conducted every two to five years for optimal results. Taking the time to conduct this maintenance prevents the buildup of dirt, debris, and mold in the ductwork. In addition, it can prevent costly renovations and repairs that may be required before an apartment is ready to sell.
The issue of who is responsible for a property’s HVAC maintenance depends on the terms of a lease agreement. For example, some landlords include a provision in a rental contract that states the tenant is responsible for all repairs and maintenance, including duct cleaning. This means that the tenants are responsible for paying the cost of professional duct cleaning services and making sure they have this service performed at the specified intervals.
Other lease agreements make it the landlord’s responsibility to remedy any conditions that negatively impact a tenant’s physical health and safety. This includes mold caused by leaky roofs and windows, contaminated air conditioning systems and clogged, dirty ductwork. If a renter notices unexplained respiratory issues or severe allergy symptoms, these problems may be caused by dirt in the ducts and should be addressed with an expert duct cleaning company.
It doesn’t take long for a residential or commercial HVAC system to develop problem signs, especially in urban environments with tighter housing and office buildings that require more ventilation. The longer a building’s ductwork has gone without being cleaned, the more likely it is to get clogged with a variety of organic contaminants like fungi, bacteria and pollen, and the more often it will need professional duct cleaning services to keep functioning properly.
In addition to blowing or vacuuming the ductwork, reputable duct-cleaning companies will brush the surfaces of a duct system and use sanitizers to ensure all the crud that clings to the duct walls is completely eliminated. This process is usually completed using a hose connected to a vacuum wand or by inserting a flexible brushing tool into the vents.
As a landlord, you should know that it doesn’t take long for a duct system to develop problem signs, especially in urban areas with tighter housing and office buildings that require much more ventilation. The longer a building’s vents have gone without being cleaned, the more likely it will be to become clogged with a variety of organic pollutants like fungi, bacteria and pollen, not to mention cigarette smoke and pet odors.