Posted: March 3, 2012

As a homeowner, you rely upon your heating and air conditioning system to keep you comfortable throughout the year. No matter the time of day or year, you should be able to relax in your home and not worry about the air quality and the corresponding health of your family. Many homeowners probably do not thoroughly understand what comprises a home HVAC system – typically one knows where the unit is located in the house, and how to change out filters. Proper HVAC care, however, goes deeper than that – literally into the duct work that helps provide cool and warm air throughout the house.

If you suspect the quality of your indoor air has declined – maybe there’s a musty smell that you cannot pinpoint – it could be time to have the duct work cleaned out. A call to your professional HVAC serviceman can get the job done in a timely manner, but if you are not certain that is all that needs to be done here are a few things to look out for.

1) Check the grills. You might know them as vents or registers, but these objects help distribute the air throughout your home. Whether they are bolted to your floor or mounted on a wall, vents collect dust and mites over time. If left untreated, the particles may be blown out into your rooms with the air, causing you and your family to suffer adverse reactions. If is important, periodically, to remove the grills and give them a good dusting. You can even wipe them down with a warm, wet sponge if you like, but make sure they are dry before they are replaced.

Now, just because you’ve eliminated the dust problem on the surface doesn’t mean the problem is gone. There could be particles deep in the ducts that go ignored.

2) While the grills are off, get a flashlight if needed and check the inside of your ducts for anything unusual. If you see tracks or droppings that might come from a small animal – insects, mice – there is a chance the duct work has some contamination. Anything that appears to look like mold or mildew should be looked at immediately by a professional.

Rule of thumb when it comes to duct cleaning is to do so as the situation arises. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to check them once a month, but if you sense the air around you is not quite right you may wish to set aside some time for cleaning. Your lungs will thank you.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Newport News HVAC services and Williamsburg HVAC services.