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Duct Cleaning And Air Filters (2 of 2)

In the previous post I discussed dusty ducts and their contents.  That post has become increasingly popular!  And I have received many private contacts asking for the follow up!

So, how can we prevent such dust build up in our ducts and forestall its accumulation?

First, there are two HVAC industry philosophies on household air filtration. 

Second, there are many types of filters out there - ranging from disposable, to washable to electronic.  Some are very cheap, others quite expensive.

Remember, an HVAC system moves and conditions air.  The more it moves the more it can condition.  So air returns are extremely important.  Most people think of their HVAC system as one that blows air.  It is more valuable to think of it as a system that RETURNS air.  Volume is crucial!

Philosophy 1.  Install a filter that allows more air to flow.  This puts less strain on the system, moves more air and the system operates more efficiently.  But, these filters remove less particulate matter from the air and the system can get dirtier faster.

Philosophy 2.  Install a high-filtration filter.  These of course remove more particulates from the air.  But they clog more quickly and restrict air flow and need cleaning or replacement quickly.  Even newly replaced, these filters cause 10 - 20 times more restriction to air flow.  Therefore, they reduce efficiency, but the system stays cleaner longer.

So, which to choose?

Some news about dust!  The typical family of four creates about 40 pounds of dust in a year!  This comes into the house as we open windows and doors, on our clothing and shoes, and it resides in our furniture, carpets, bedding and pillows.  That is a lot of dust!

Just walking through a room disturbs and releases millions, if not billions, of dust particles into the air, which is moved about as we continue to move.  Sitting on the sofa releases much more, or hitting a pillow or folding a blanket - you name it!  Dust is always moving about the house through the air.

TO FILTER ALL THAT FROM THE INDOOR AIR, ALL OF THE AIR WOULD HAVE TO BE EXCHANGED BETWEEN 12 AND 15 TIMES AN HOUR! 

The typical HVAC system exchanges all of the air in the house only about 5 to 7 times A DAY, depending on its efficiency and size.  And that is only true if you run the fan 24/7.

So your furnace/AC filter will never, that is NEVER, filter enough air to adequately to remove all those particles and allergens from the air.  An expensive air filter might keep your system cleaner, and your registers, but not so much anything else.

So what can we do?

My recommendations: 

1.  Vacuum and dust regularly.  Nobody wants to hear that!  But it is true.  Approximately 85% of the dust in the air falls onto the floor and furniture.  Vacuuming often with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Accumulation) vacuum gets a lot of it.  Dusting is crucial.

2.  HEPA room air cleaners can go a long way toward controlling allergens, spores, molds and mites in the house.  These are most effective in bedrooms.  Should you use the ozone-creating filters?  My reading says no.  Ozone negatively charges dust making it fall.  It will land everywhere, and on you while you sleep!  When you get up you disturb it again, releasing it back into the air.  Ozone can also be irritating to many people's respiratory systems.

3.  Shake pillows and blankets outdoors, and often!  Were you the student asked to beat the chalk erasers at school?  Same principle!  Wash bedding regularly, particularly to control dust mites.

4.  Vacuum furniture and mattresses.  Spraying mattresses with Lysol or some other disinfectant helps also to control dust mites.  Deodorizers do nothing toward dust mite control.

5.  Replace your furnace filter regularly!  How often?  Once a month, except perhaps those months the system is not operating so much.  And put it in the right direction!  They have an arrow on them showing the way!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 64 commentsJay Markanich • October 27 2010 06:30AM

Comments

Good advice. I use a 4" pleated MERV 11 filter. Much better than the stuff you buy at the big box stores...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Thank you Jay, just reminded me of the things that need to get done, before we turn on the heat.

Cheers

Nor Yeretsian

Posted by Nor Yeretsian, Envoy Capitol Realty Inc., Brokerage Toronto (Envoy Capitol Realty Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Michael - MERV keeps showing up, here and there!  I meet him a lot...

Nor - you are welcome.  Take both posts together!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay - Good advice on a topic that's often neglected.  Regardless of the issue of dust and cleaning, most don't understand the importance of maintaining clean filters for peak efficiency in their HVAC system.  Of course, many are unaware of how much household dust is dead skin--the favorite food of dust mites.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 8 years ago

Hence, John, the incredible accumulation of dust mites in the house!

Methinks people replace their air filters for the wrong reasons, and therefore not too regularly.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay-thanks for the education on duct cleaning and air filters.  So many people neglect to change the filters as often as they should. Also, thank you for the recommendations on the HEPA air cleaners, I was thinking about purchasing one for my home.  Excellent post everyone should take time to read.

Posted by Diane Williams almost 8 years ago

And I am glad you liked it Diane, and can move with it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay,

I have worked closely with one plumber/HAVC man as long as I've been in Real Estate. Larry is past retirement age but keeps on working for his brother at Ted's Plumbing (701) 838-3283. When I put in a new furnace this year I asked him to put in a 4" filter system. He refused, said they are hard on the system, thus he obviously subscribes to Philosophy 1. I trust his 5o years of experience so now I have a 1" filter system.

Bob

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Bob Timm, Project Coordinator for Tivoli Homes (Tivoli Custom Homes) almost 8 years ago

Bob - most HVAC guys I talk to subscribe to #1 too.  So I guess its back to vacuuming and cleaning!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Cleaning lady..it's why God made them..

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 8 years ago

Hey thanks for the helpful suggestions today.  Maybe people should pick a day, like on January 1st go around the house and do all this stuff. Change the batteries in the smoke detectors , duct s and air filters, etc. etc. etc.  Do it all in one day!

Patricia/Seacoast NH

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 8 years ago

Jay, good advice and tips. We're using a couple of the HEPA room air cleaners and an electronic air filter system on the furnace. I also pays to have the ducts cleaned before installing and using these systems. Thanks again.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 8 years ago

Jay,

 

Thanks for the information. I missed Part 1 so I'm going back to read that now.

 

Brian

Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) almost 8 years ago

Great post and certainly worthy of a reblog!

Posted by Tracy Santrock, Raleigh - Cary Realtor/Broker In Charge (Fonville Morisey/Santrock Realty Group, Inc. ) almost 8 years ago

Jay,

 

Great post! Lots of useful information.  Who knew "Ozone negatively charges dust making it fall.  It will land everywhere, and on you while you sleep!"  YIKES!  I too am on  my way to read your original post.

Thanks to people like you, we can all breath a lot easier.

Ella Reape, Realtor Nashua NH www.EllaReape.com

Posted by Ella Reape, Realtor 603-821-1140 ~ Selling Homes Throughout Southern New Hampshire, Luxury Homes Division, Keller Williams (Keller Williams Realty Nashua NH) almost 8 years ago

S&D - oh!

Patricia - some things can be done once a year, but your filters NO!

Michael - thanks, and good suggestion on the duct cleaning!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Brian - enjoy!  The two taken together are complementary.

Tracy - thank you and thanks for the reblog!

Ella - that is what lightening does too!  It cleans the air that way.  (   "Intelligent design..."   ;)   )

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Thanks Jay for taking the time to write such an informative article.

Posted by Marie Story, Broker Associate, Pinecrest (Miami) Specialist (Coldwell Banker - Pinecrest (Miami)) almost 8 years ago

You are welcome Marie.  That is the spirit of AR, is it not?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay,

Given my cleaning priorities, I learned along time ago that dust and I can cohabitate! Clean filters are important though.

Posted by Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ (Weichert) almost 8 years ago

Jay, thanks for some very valuable insights to dust & mite control!

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) almost 8 years ago

Thank you for the second installment...and your advice.  I cannot show this to my wife who thinks vacuuming  every day is ok....I am more for changing the carpet once a year!!!!*%!

Posted by Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker, Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940 (Mike McCann - Broker, Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska) almost 8 years ago

Thank you for the interesting post. Step 1. CHANGE YOUR FILTER EVERY 30 DAYS.

Posted by Scott Baker, Realtor Homes for Sale in Cincinnati, West Chester, Mason, OH Area (www.eHomeReports.com Coldwell Banker West Shell) almost 8 years ago

Your two-part post made me sneeze just reading it!  I've seen some scary vents showing homes - we try to change our filters every time the electric bill comes!  That Part 1 dust mite looks worse than any Halloween character!

Posted by Cara Marcelle Mancuso, Call a Marana neighbor, I'm THERE! LONG REALTY (Long Realty - Dove Mountain, Marana AZ) almost 8 years ago

Alright, I'll go home and vacuum....  Couldn't you have come up with something else?  Seems to me that HVAC people all lean toward #1 while doctors lean toward the #2.  I guess #1 and vacuuming more is the correct answer.  I need Mike's wife to come to my house!

Posted by Stephanie Williams, Realtor Murrells Inlet (Seaside Properties) almost 8 years ago

This is great info.  Thanks for doing the follow up.  I have tons of dust in winter because I heat with a fireplace, my hepa filter helps a LOT.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) almost 8 years ago

Thanks for this article. Looks like a HEPA air room cleaner is in my near future. I've also thought about duct and furnace cleaning. Or the invention of individual register filters. Sometimes I put a dryer sheet under the vent. Makes the house smell nice. But, after reading this, from the stand point of trapping dust.. may be a worth invention! Have a great day.

Posted by Ryan Behrens (Remax of Joliet) almost 8 years ago

Irene - great habits!  Filters, though, are essential!

Brian - you are quite welcome!  Stop by again!

Mike - you sure you want to go with replacing the carpets annually?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

That's the crux of it Scott.  The system can't operate properly without doing it.

Cara - they are frightful!  Tissue?

Stephanie - sorry, but that is it!  Doctors are thinking air quality and not the physics of moving it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Wow, Tammy, I bet you do have dust!  Clean or replace your HEPA filter regularly.

Ryan - could be, but don't restrict air flow...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Thanks for the follow up to those nasty little creatures.

I luv the filter in the right direction line,it's like when Campbell's took the directions off the soup they received a ton of email.

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) almost 8 years ago

Don - I don't remember Campbell's doing that!  I bet that got on a lot of people's wrong side...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

So informative Jay!  I'm adding your link to my facebook page for my fans and emailing it to my husband to make sure he sees it!  Thank you!

Posted by DeeDee Riley, Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas (Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA) almost 8 years ago

HA!  This is a no-brainer.  Replacing filters often with a low filtration type is more desireable to me than replacing a motor.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 8 years ago
Jay - it sounds like you side with philosophy number 1, right? I'm a firm believer in cheap furnace filters; they purpose of the filter is to protect your furnace! Sorry 3M. I like to support local businesses, but I'm not a fan of their super-duper-ultra-restrictive-allergen-eliminating filters.
Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

Jay,Thanks for the nudge,Here north of Boston it is starting to be heating season.I definitely need to change my filters.Thanks for the reminder.Happy Selling.

Posted by Jim Hazell (Real Property Inc.) almost 8 years ago

HA!  If your solution is vacuuming and cleaning, there is no solution.

I'm posting this to Homefinders.com.  Good consumer info.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

Jay, Thanks again for helping me out. I have a couple of quick questions, if you have the time. First, We originally had a 4" electronic filter in our furnace. When we had the furnace replaced, they left it there, telling us to just use a 4" filter in it's place. What's better, the 4" filter or the electronic filter? Also, you mentioned using a HEPA air filter in the bedroom. Do we need one for each bedroom or will one be enough? Should we add a second on the main floor? (all 4 bedrooms are upstairs).

Posted by Eric Michael, Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519 (Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI) almost 8 years ago

Thank you DeeDee!  I am glad you enjoyed it that much!

Lenn - not into replacing motors?  And filters are easier?

Reuben - We're number 1!  We're number 1!

I mean, yes, I like efficient air flow!  But you gotta replace it now and again...    ;)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

I am glad you are nudged Jim!  Go forth!

Lenn - not my favorite solution, that is for sure!  Thanks for the re-post!

Eric - see post #8 above.  You can get a regular filter into that slot.  I would go with a less restrictive air filter myself.  The 4" types can be extremely restrictive!  You might want a HEPA filter for each sleeping person's room.  As to the big room, you might decide not to if you don't have a lot of dust.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Gosh and I thought my cleaning schedule was sufficient. guess I need to re-think that.

Posted by Mike Mayer (Mike Mayer, Broker/Owner - i List For Less Realty, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Well, Mike, cleaning can mean many things!  Certainly if you are vacuuming regularly you are on top of it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Oh, Jay - not vacuuming!  How depressing.  I was hoping for a magic solution!  But thanks for posting - it is great information.

Posted by Lisa Ackerson, CRS - Dallas Fort Worth Area Expert (Fathom Realty DFW) almost 8 years ago

Sorry Lisa!  I couldn't believe it myself, even when I came up with that!

Actually I didn't, but that sounds good.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Dusting and vacuuming, eh?  I guess I'm not a fanatic; housework saves lives ;) 

Posted by Julie Babcock -Nook & Cranny Home Inspections (Nook & Cranny Home Inspections Tonawanda, NY) almost 8 years ago

Dear Jay,

About a year ago, we got a new HVAC system with one of those new-fangled filters. Maybe not the best choice, but it cost more, so the company won. Wish I had known then, what I know now. On the vaccuuming, maybe it is time to get one of those little robots that go around doing that, since my cleaning lady moonlights as a Realtor and gets too busy some weeks.

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) almost 8 years ago

We have six kids.  Dusting involves them rolling around on the carpet and the furniture.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

the filter only fits one way on my return-- am I putting it in right?  if movement puts more particles in the air should I change it 2x  month around christmas or when the pollen is really bad. I buy the basic "cheap" filter -- I tried a nicer filter for a couple months -- but the power bill just went up. -- it must have decreased my air movement ??!!  - Cleaning/dusting definitely improves the air quality. Bought a better vaccuum and the filters don't look as nasty. 

Posted by Jennifer Marks (On Maternity Leave) almost 8 years ago

Julie - you are NOT a fanatic, but house work actually kills.  Each time you do it you send millions of mites to mite heaven (or hell...).

Dorte - maybe you can remove it and install another one in its stead.  The company pushed that one because it made them the most money!

Gene - that made me laugh out loud!  I'm betting they do a great job!

Jennifer - when I say right, I mean the direction of the arrow.  See the blue link above at the bottom of the post.  The arrow on the filter should point toward the blower.

Once a month is fine.

The other filter may have restricted your air movement substantially, and that will cause more electrical use of the motor.  Good for you on the new vacuum.  They are very effective.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Wow, I really learned alot from these 2 posts.  Have to start cleaning more!  Dang!

Posted by Keith Lutz (Keller Williams Metropolitan) almost 8 years ago

I agree Keith.  It is a big bummer!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Great post! bummer, gotta clean. A year or so ago my daughter had severe allergy problems, possibly due to dust/pollen.  Having 3 oak trees in our suburban yard doesn't help.  We have had our ducts worked on (repaired a hole and replaced a section) and put HEPA air filters in 2 of the rooms.  This year is much better for allergies! 

Thanks for the post.

Posted by Robert Adams (Keller Williams Realty, South Tampa) almost 8 years ago

Well, Robert, that may be the thing she needed!  I have tree allergy problems.  It is hard to keep that stuff out of the house and/or ducts!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

I did not know that about the Lysol, thanks! *runs to the store to buy Lysol* ♫ There ain't no bugs on me! ♪ :P

Posted by Lynda White, Admin. Mgr., Keller Williams Realty (Bluegrass Homes & Farms Realty, Agent Know How) almost 8 years ago

Lynda - Lysol handles a multitude of sins!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Jay:

I took my sickly A/C system is for a flue shot. Turns out I didn't have all my ducts in a row.

Posted by Aaron Vaughn | Builder | Investor, If the deal makes sense, the cash will follow. (Conifer Homes) almost 8 years ago

I think it depends alot on the location of the system.  Attics are dusty,,,,basements are....well, basements. and crawl spaces...OMG.     Agent Aaron put it nicely!

Posted by Doug Patterson, CRS, ABR, Broker-In-Charge (Park Place Real Estate, Broker-In-Charge) almost 8 years ago

Agent Aaron - I hope it gets better quick!  And as quick as your jokes!

Doug - true, but all the returns are inside the house and they can load up quickly.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

I have 100% unrestricted airflow: I removed the filter. A little dust helps build up your immune system and makes you more tolerant of pollution.

We all think that a little bit of dust is bad for you. Why not build a hermetically sealed home and live in a bubble never to be exposed to anything! Oh, I forgot, that's been tried with animals and as soon as they came out to be exposed to the normal enviornment, they quickly died of infections and other common minor maladies that all other animals survived with.

Why did humans survived millions of years without HEPA filtered air and we can't do it now?

Posted by Peter Rozsa (Cupertino, CA) almost 8 years ago

We can survive Peter!  But as I say here, we cannot filter enough air with our systems to make that much difference.  Filtering the air does protect your system though!  It will get dirty really quickly and that will dramatically affect your efficiency and the life span of the system!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Thanks for the info. But, do I really, really have to dust more often?

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) almost 8 years ago

No Wayne, but you might choose to! 

I'm with you pal...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

I guess I never did stop by to say thanks but I knew I had to have Re-Blogged this.  The timing was perfect for the first Friday in November.

Posted by Maureen McCabe, Columbus Ohio Real Estate (HER Realtors) almost 8 years ago

Well, then thanks very much for the reblog!

As always...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

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