Duct Cleaning And Air Filters (2 of 2)

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

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.


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!



Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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



Re-Blogged 13 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Roy Kelley 10/26/2010 11:35 PM
  2. Shirley Soforic 10/27/2010 12:14 AM
  3. Tracy Santrock 10/27/2010 01:34 AM
  4. Gabe Sanders 10/27/2010 01:43 AM
  5. Ryan Behrens 10/27/2010 03:34 AM
  6. Gloria Ledesma 10/27/2010 05:12 AM
  7. Michelle Francis 10/27/2010 02:02 PM
  8. Steve and Jan Bachman 10/28/2010 04:40 AM
  9. Roger Johnson 10/30/2010 06:07 AM
  10. Jennifer Dulmaine 11/01/2010 02:45 PM
  11. Susan Jacobs 11/02/2010 11:49 PM
  12. Maureen McCabe 11/04/2010 11:45 PM
  13. Renée Montgomery 12/18/2010 10:18 AM
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Julie Babcock -Nook & Cranny Home Inspections
Nook & Cranny Home Inspections Tonawanda, NY - Tonawanda, NY

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

Oct 28, 2010 04:30 AM #45
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

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.

Oct 28, 2010 05:04 AM #46
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

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

Oct 28, 2010 05:53 AM #47
Jennifer Marks
On Maternity Leave - Garner, NC

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. 

Oct 28, 2010 06:24 AM #48
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

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.

Oct 28, 2010 06:36 AM #49
Keith Lutz
Keller Williams Metropolitan - Long Valley, NJ

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

Oct 28, 2010 06:56 AM #50
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I agree Keith.  It is a big bummer!

Oct 28, 2010 07:08 AM #51
Robert Adams
Keller Williams Realty, South Tampa - Tampa, FL

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.

Oct 28, 2010 09:40 PM #52
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

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!

Oct 29, 2010 12:11 AM #53
Lynda White
Bluegrass Homes & Farms Realty, Agent Know How - Louisville, KY
Admin. Mgr., Keller Williams Realty

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

Oct 29, 2010 01:29 AM #54
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Lynda - Lysol handles a multitude of sins!

Oct 29, 2010 01:36 AM #55
Aaron Vaughn, REALTOR© 512-845-4204
eXp Realty - Canyon Lake, TX
My knowledge is your power | eXp Realty


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

Oct 29, 2010 04:01 AM #56
Doug Patterson
Park Place Real Estate, Broker-In-Charge - Winston-Salem, NC
CRS, ABR, Broker-In-Charge

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!

Oct 29, 2010 05:34 PM #57
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

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.

Oct 30, 2010 12:06 AM #58
Peter Rozsa
Cupertino, CA - Cupertino, CA

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?

Oct 30, 2010 12:37 PM #59
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

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!

Oct 30, 2010 01:00 PM #60
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

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

Oct 30, 2010 03:34 PM #61
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

No Wayne, but you might choose to! 

I'm with you pal...

Oct 31, 2010 12:25 AM #62
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

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.

Dec 04, 2010 02:28 AM #63
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Well, then thanks very much for the reblog!

As always...

Dec 04, 2010 03:06 AM #64
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
You may contact me anytime...

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