(BPT) - Gesundheit! If allergy season has you sneezing and sniffling, you might believe you're better protected inside your house than outside in the fresh air. Think again. In a typical six-room house, everyday living creates up to 40 pounds of dust every year, according to NADCA: The HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association. What's more, your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system pulls in a sizeable amount of contaminants, and may re-circulate those irritants five to seven times a day.
Your heating and cooling system can be considered the heart and lungs of your home, taking in air and breathing it out. Generally, the cleaner the lungs, the cleaner the air in your home - and the fewer allergy triggers circulating in the air. While dirty ducts don't necessarily mean unhealthy air in your home, they may be contributing to larger health issues or harboring contaminants that could cause serious problems for people with respiratory health conditions or some environmental allergies. That's why it's important to get a quality HVAC cleaning done on a regular basis.
Having your HVAC system cleaned by a professional could actually save you money in the long run. That's because contaminants in your home's heating and cooling system cause it to work harder and shorten the life of your system. Even though you use filters, the HVAC system still gets dirty through normal use. When the system is clean, however, it doesn't have to work as hard to maintain the temperature you want, and will use less energy - saving you money.
Once you've decided to have your HVAC system cleaned, how do you choose a professional? NADCA urges you to resist those fliers you might get from fly-by-night companies. Firms offering '$99 whole house specials' and similar gimmicks may do work that's not up to industry standards or try to squeeze more money from you by using scare tactics. Here are other suggestions from NADCA:
* Look for a company that's certified by NADCA to perform HVAC system cleaning and is a member in good standing of NADCA. The organization has a list of member companies; visit www.nadca.com. NADCA members carry general liability insurance, have at least one person on staff trained and certified as an Air Systems Cleaning Specialist, and clean and restore heating and cooling systems following the organization's guidelines.
* Ask at least two contractors to inspect your system and give you time estimates for their work. This will give you a general idea of how long the job should take.
* Not every house needs an HVAC cleaning. A quality company will do a visual inspection first and recommend a complete cleaning only if necessary. The professional should be able to point out debris buildup that is visible to the human eye, such as by removing a floor register and taking a picture with a digital camera.
* Has the company been in business long enough to have adequate experience? Ask if the company has done work in homes similar to yours. Get and check references.
* Ask for proof that the company is properly licensed and adequately insured.
* The company may use one of two main types of vacuum collection systems - either one mounted on a truck or a portable unit. All vacuum units should be attached to collection devices for safe containment prior to disposal. Any device that exhausts indoors must be HEPA filtered.
* A vacuum collection device alone won't get your HVAC system clean. The professional should also use tools designed to actually clean debris off the components, such as brushes.
* Run through a checklist of what needs to be done with the professional before and after the job, to ensure it's done properly. You can find a thorough checklist at www.nadca.com.
Keeping allergies at bay can be a multi-faceted job. But having clean air ducts in your home will go a long way toward everyone breathing more easily.