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How to Clean Your Air Ducts

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The duct work that runs through your home helps supply that warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer months. During that time, debris, dust and pet hair can accumulate in your duct work, which can eventually slow down your HVAC system, cause your home to be dustier than normal, and make it more difficult for you and your family to breathe. Replacing your air filter monthly can help prevent some of these issues, but at some point you will need to clean out your duct work for a more thorough cleaning. A processional HVAC company will have the tools and know-how to get the job done efficiently and properly, but you can also clean them at home. See below for instructions and tips.

What You Need:

  • Shop vacuum with attachments
  • Leaf blower
  • Painter's tape
  • Newspaper (or brown paper bags)
  • Power drill


Before beginning, turn off your furnace and air conditioning systems.

  1. Start by vacuuming out each of your air returns throughout the house. This means wall returns, as well as floor returns. If need be, unscrew the screws holding the grills in place to open them up. Vacuum them out as best as possible. After vacuuming them out, replace the grill covers, then tape newspaper over the returns to block them. Repeat this all over your entire house, leaving only one air return open (the vent furthest away from your furnace is the best one to use).
  2. Next, go to your furnace and look for an access panel in your duct work that you can attach your shop vacuum to. If you don't have an access panel in your duct work, you may need to cut a hole in the duct work, or you can take some screws out of the duct work and take out a section. If you aren't handy with sheet metal, you may want to stop here and leave the rest to the professionals.
  3. Take the shop vacuum hose and insert it into the duct work, using insulation or newspaper to help hold it in place and prevent dust and dirt from coming out around the hose.
  4. Use the leaf blower in your open air return and turn it on. You are going to use the leaf blower to blow the dirt and dust down your duct work and towards the shop vacuum, which will vacuum up the dust and debris.
  5. Continue vacuuming and blowing the dust until you are no longer getting dust into your vacuum. It may take awhile to get the job done, but it will be worth your effort.

Keep your ducts clean by changing your air filter monthly and vacuuming your air returns often, as well as vacuuming your home often. Contact a professional HVAC company like Don's AC Service, Inc. for help with this project if need be in order to get the job done properly.