Air ducts are useful things. Without them your furnace and air conditioner would have a heck of a hard time giving you the goods, and the Midwest’s weather requires a lot of the goods indeed. But air ducts serve another, often forgotten purpose, which is to accumulate more living things in your home and its air supply. Just let your air ducts go without a cleaning for a while and you’ll start collecting an impressive menagerie of small, horrible creatures to enjoy. Here is a safari guide to your dirty air ducts!
Viruses & Bacteria – If you put a virus and a bacteria close together, and you squint really hard, you will see that the virus is much, much smaller than the bacteria. Despite their size difference, however, they are both able to make you and your family very sick. A lucky virus can cause an acute infection or worse, and a bacteria like Endotoxin is as happy to live in your lungs as it is in your air ducts.
Mold & Mildew – Mold and mildew both love darkness, dust, and humidity, making dirty air ducts prime real estate to them. These are both types of fungi, but they’re nowhere near as innocuous as the mushrooms you’d put on your pizza. Because fungi reproduce by casting out countless spores, mold and mildew are adept at polluting your air with what are technically their little babies. That can cause asthma, allergies, and in the worst case toxic poisoning.
Dust Mites – To a dust mite, being inside a dirty air duct is tantamount to you being locked inside an all-you-can-eat buffet. For that reason a dust mite in a dirty air duct is walking on sunshine, and can lay up to 30 eggs in a single week. They do have a habit of letting their waste and dead bodies blow out into your home’s oxygen, however, where they can wreak absolute havoc on allergies.
Insects & Spiders – A lot of insects love the smell of Freon that comes out of an air conditioner, so they make their way inside of ducts where they can be closer to it. Other insects like the moisture, or the smörgåsbord of dust mites inside of dirty air ducts. This, in turn, can attract spiders after an easy meal. The good news is that the presence of these crawlies probably won’t make you sick. The bad news is that they might decide to move into the rest of your house, which you won’t care for because bugs won’t pitch in on the mortgage.
Rodents & Birds – The top of the air duct food chain, rodents and birds are more than happy to nest in so comfortable a place. When mice and squirrels aren’t rearranging the furniture in their air duct nests, they’ll find entertainment in electrocuting themselves as they chew through your home’s wiring. Birds aren’t too much better, and neither they nor rodents are aware of the concept of going to the bathroom outside. Needless to say, that stinks.
It is possible that you do not want so many things living inside your air ducts, even though that would render this safari guide useless. If that is the case, then you want the help of a professional. A specialist will come to your home with a powerful vacuum and all the snakey hoses they need to reach even the remotest crevices of your air duct system, and scrub the whole thing out until it’s like new again.
If you can cope with the newfound sense of loneliness you’ll feel once your ducts have been depopulated, you’ll enjoy many benefits from their having been scoured. Clean ducts reduce the amount of dust that will accumulate in your home, alleviate your allergies, and cease to produce foul odors as well. Perhaps best of all, clean ducts will improve the efficiency of your furnace and air conditioner. That prolongs their lifespans so that you can spend your money on more entertaining things, such as anything.
The National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommends that you clean your air ducts every three to five years, although cleaning may be needed more frequently if you have pets or suffer from allergies. Don’t neglect your air ducts just because they’re tucked away out of sight — unless you do want company, that is!
By David Scheller