Can You Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned in the Winter?

by Michael Franco
Residential HVAC Duct Cleaning with a Power Brush

There’s no way around it: Owning a home comes with year-round maintenance responsibilities. In the spring, it’s readying your house for those unpredictable April showers. Come summer, there’s lawn maintenance and landscaping to attend to. And in the fall, well, it’s the leaves. So. Many. Leaves.

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Then comes winter. Like any other season, there are several routine maintenance tasks you’ll want to make sure you’re doing to keep your property in good shape, like cleaning your gutters and insulating your pipes.

If you've not already done it, you should move cleaning your air ducts to the top of your winter maintenance checklist. In general, it’s recommended that you have your ducts cleaned at least once every three to five years, and winter can be a good time to get this essential bit of home maintenance handled.

What Is Air Duct Cleaning?

Air duct cleaning generally refers to having your HVAC system thoroughly cleaned. It usually includes cleaning the intake, supply and return vents, heat exchangers and evaporator coils, as well as the fan motor and housing. Believe it or not, having your air ducts cleaned is an important part of routine maintenance for any home with centralized heat and cooling.

Generally speaking, a duct cleaner will use a number of specialized tools and high-powered vacuums to agitate and remove dust and other debris from the duct system. They might also add a chemical biocide in certain areas to inhibit mold growth or to prevent the accumulation of dust particles. Even if you exchange your air filters twice a year, you’ll still need to have your ducts cleaned on a regular basis.

When’s the Best Time to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned?

Truth is, it’s never too late to have your air ducts cleaned. It can be especially worthwhile to have it done in the winter months. However, if possible, you should actually try to have them cleaned before winter hits.

There are multiple reasons for this. For one, clean air ducts are more efficient. Too much dust, dirt and other debris can get trapped in the HVAC system’s components, reducing airflow, causing it to work harder. As an added benefit of having to work less hard, clean air ducts even extend the life of your HVAC system as a whole.

Secondly, cleaner air ducts help maintain healthy indoor air quality. In the winter, keeping the air clean in your home can be a challenge. Mold, dust mites, pet dander and even mouse droppings can circulate through your air system, aggravating your allergies and causing unnecessary inflammation, so says the Environmental Protection Agency. After all, when the days get shorter and colder, we’re inside a whole lot more often with that furnace cranking.

Finally, dirty air vents are actually a major fire hazard. Believe it or not, dust is highly flammable. If it’s left to accumulate in your air vents, the particulates can pose a significant risk of fire when your furnace is running.

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Dryer Vents

Getting your HVAC system’s air ducts cleaned can be a great time to also knock out a related project that you’ll want to move to the top of your list: cleaning your dryer vent. Like your air duct system, dryer vents get lint, dust and a million other particles trapped in them, increasing your risk of fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is due to not keeping the vent clean.

However, unlike air duct cleaning — which typically requires a professional service provider to do the job — you can clean your dryer vent yourself relatively easily. Simply disconnect the vent from the back of the dryer and use a brush to dislodge any trapped debris, then use a vacuum to get the rest out.

Get Clean

In case you’re not already having your air ducts cleaned, the winter months can be an excellent time to knock out this bit of routine home maintenance that will help keep you and your family healthy and safe year-round.