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T&D Duct Cleaning wins Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award 2013

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ARTICLE for MASON-DIXON ARRIVE

It wasn’t allergies or questionable air quality but, rather, the feeling that a 30-year-old home would likely have dirty ductwork that led one Baltimore County homeowner to seek the services of a professional duct-cleaning company.

According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), a 20-year-old, Washington, DC-based nonprofit association of companies engaged in the cleaning of HVAC systems, those dozens of small tunnels running through the average home are the unsung heroes of residences and commercial spaces alike – carrying heated and cooled air to make indoors comfortable in all seasons of the year.  But the NADCA also contends that air ducts hold the record as a home’s dirtiest part, citing the fact that during construction of homes quite a bit of trash is left within the ducts (drywall dust, lumber, and so on), and it’s this debris around which dirt, dust, allergens and contaminants wrap as air flows by. 

Dave Finck, one of four technicians at the NADCA-certified T&D Duct Cleaning of Sykesville, Maryland, notes that it’s not just construction debris that’s found in ductwork.  “Playing cards, toys, credit cards, coins – you name it, and we’ve found it,” he points out as he sets up for an approximately two-hour cleaning of a Towson townhome.  “The longest part of the processing is getting set up, getting the right tools in place,” he explains as he stretches three connected hoses from a vacuum unit to the home’s furnace.  He cuts a 12-inch diameter hole in the air return duct at the furnace and secures the end of the vacuum hose within the duct.  Duct cleaners go to where the furnace is – basements, attics, crawl spaces – and often work in cramped, dark spaces.

For the actual cleaning, Finck says he and his fellow technicians start at the most distant point and gradually work their way to the furnace, using an “airwhip” to bang the sides of the ducts and break contaminants free to be sucked by a powerful Nikro vacuum into a waiting filter. 

The airwhip or brushes or even “skipper balls” perform the necessary agitation to loosen the debris clinging to surfaces within the duct, although individual cleaning firms tend to tout the advantages of their particular tools.  Technician Finck says T&D utilizes the airwhip with great success, and, as work progresses, the baby-blue filter in the vacuum becomes … well, filthy. 

Initially all the supply vents in the home are cleaned and then the air return ducts.  Technicians then check the furnace coils (“Oil-burning furnaces are especially nasty due to the soot,” Finck observes.) to make sure they are free of debris.  Then hoses are removed, holes are patched and the duct cleaning process comes to an end. 

One final step was taken at the three-story Towson townhouse: the clothes dryer vent was cleaned, temporarily showering a small outdoor courtyard with lint that resembled very fine snow as it drifted to the ground.  Less lint, less fire hazard, T&D’s Finck explains.

The NADCA’s Web site (www.nadca.com), free consumer literature, and FAQs all underscore that duct cleaning – even if only performed once after a home is built – protects the life of HVAC equipment in a home, promotes energy efficiency, and reduces dust.  “For people who smoke or have pets or suffer with allergies,” Dave Finck explains, “a good cleaning every five years might be adequate although many homeowners prefer more frequent cleaning.”  Finck tells the Towson homeowner, a nonsmoker without pets, to consider a seven-year interval before the next cleaning.

“If you change your furnace filters once a month like we’re all supposed to,” he adds,  “that really helps.”