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Cleaning Indoor Air

We're certain that many are sneezing and wheezing as you read this with allergens in full force.  However, for Amy, she thinks it may be something else lurking in her house.  She writes:

We have a (very amateurly installed) air conditioning unit in our 1920s house. Twice recently, when the temps got unbearable inside (mid 80s), we turned it on for a few hours. Both times, I got a sore throat that led to sinus infection within a couple of days. This last time, my husband got a sore throat followed by a migraine (which he has never had before) the following day. Amazingly, our 9-month-old daughter didn't get sick ... but we're wondering if our ductwork needs cleaning. (All this could be seasonal allergies or coincidence, but we're still leery.) I haven't been able to find reliable information about household air cleaning services - has anyone had their ventilation systems cleaned, and did it help noticeably? Any references for a reputable company? What about air purifiers? DIY solutions? Other ideas? Wheezingly yours, Amy

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If you have central air (vs a window unit) any HVAC company can come and clean out your duct work. I think the general guide is to have your ducts cleaned once a year, more if you have indoor airborne allergies. Your AC unit (window or central) also has a filter that you should be able to access and replace yourself. I would try this first. In addition, you can purchase cut to size-able filters for your heater vents and intake vents - you'll likely be amazed at what these look like when you go to replace them in a year's time.

My husband works for a pest control/air duct company. We have had are ducts cleaned and it made a noticable difference in our air quality. My husband struggles with his allergies and this seemed to really help him.

As already mentioned you can just change your air filter (I know some filters will be better than others) that may be just what you need but I will tell you I was amazed by all the dust/stuff the technician managed to get out of our ducts. Yucky!

Call the Energy Trust. They can point you towards a "trade ally", and you might also qualify for a rebate.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a great fact sheet on the web at http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airduct.html
They basically say you don't need to clean your air ducts unless you have mold or vermin in them or unless you see that they are so dirty that they are actually discharging particles into the air of your home.
Here's a quote from the EPA fact sheet:
"Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. It is important to keep in mind that dirty air ducts are only one of many possible sources of particles that are present in homes. Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving around can cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate mater in air ducts poses any risk to your health."
They go on to say that you should contact the EPA if the company you're dealing with makes health claims for duct cleaning or claims that routine cleaning is necessary.
They also have a caution about the chemical biocides and sealants that some duct cleaners want to sell you for mold and such: "research has not demonstrated their effectiveness in duct cleaning or their potential adverse health effects. No chemical biocides are currently registered by EPA for use in internally-insulated air duct systems."
A friend of mine recently had this done, and it cost quite a bit of money.

Purifiers are great. Read reviews on amazon and find one within your budget. They help so much more than people realize.

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