How Often Should I Get My Air Ducts Cleaned?

Air Duct Cleaning in Milwaukee, WI

How Often Should I Get My Air Ducts Cleaned?

January 18, 2023

Your air ducts are as critical to heating and cooling your home as your furnace and air conditioner. These ducts are responsible for getting your heated or cooled air throughout your home and regulating your temperature.

Unfortunately, ducts are notorious for collecting dust, dander, and various other forms of airborne contaminants. This buildup eventually restricts the airflow through the system, reducing its heating and cooling efficiency.

Preventing these restrictions is why cleaning your ducts is so important. Discover what duct cleaning is, how it’s done, what may affect how often you need a cleaning, and how professional cleaning is different from trying to do it yourself.

What Is Duct Cleaning?

Duct cleaning, on its surface, is exactly how it sounds. Someone cleans the ducting that runs from your HVAC system to the various points around your home. However, professional duct cleaning goes beyond those areas.

Professional cleaning includes the grates and grills. It’s also most effective when combined with HVAC maintenance when a technician cleans the circulating fan, the furnace’s heat exchanger, the AC evaporator coil, and the condensate drip pan drain. Trying to do just duct cleaning without deep cleaning your HVAC system leaves a lot of contaminants that will circulate into your home and quickly accumulate in your ducts again.

General Industry Recommendation

Your air ducts do not require as frequent cleaning as your HVAC system. Whereas your HVAC system needs regular maintenance visits twice a year, the general industry recommendation for duct cleaning is every three to five years.

However, your particular situation may require more frequent cleaning than the recommendation. The following are some of the variables that may necessitate more frequent cleaning.

Indoor Air Quality

There are several indications that you may have poor air quality in your home. Poor air quality is one of those things that can clog your ducts, but it is also caused by dirty ducts.

Things to look out for that indicate you have some air quality issues include:

  • Musty or moldy smells
  • A lot of dust
  • Sinus congestion and sneezing
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Dry skin
  • Headaches or nausea

Keep in mind that there are many contributors to poor air quality. Certainly, a buildup of contaminants in the ducts is one. However, the next several sections discuss specific contributors to poor indoor air quality that may clog your ducts more quickly.

Lifestyle Considerations

There are several aspects of your lifestyle that may contribute to poor air quality and clogged ducts. One of the most common is smoking in your house. Cigarette smoke and vape vapor make airborne particles sticky, which causes them to stick to the interior parts of your HVAC system and the walls of your ducts, making it much more difficult to clean.

Likewise, if you use a lot of artificial fragrances in your home, such as most air fresheners, these also degrade air quality. Similar to the chemicals in tobacco, they make contaminants sticky and more prone to clogging filters and ducts. Finally, indoor hobbies that create a lot of dust, such as any sort of indoor wood or plastic sanding, can accelerate contaminant buildup.


Pets can contribute significantly to the collection of contaminants in your ducts and HVAC system. Most people think about cats and dogs shedding hair and dander. However, caged pets are also major contributors, including everything from gerbils and hamsters to birds and even reptiles.

If you have pets, you may want to consider additional steps for improving your overall indoor air quality. Options to consider include air scrubbers and air purifiers, especially those that use high-efficiency filters.


No homeowner wants to think about infestations of any kind, but the reality is that they do happen. This can range from rodents like mice and rats to insects like ants, bees, and termites. These infestations cause a number of issues that degrade your air quality, ranging from additional dust to feces and other toxins.

Even if you can’t specifically tell that the infestation affected your ducts, there’s a strong chance it did. There’s also the impact the eradication and remediation efforts have on your air quality. Once you’ve completed the process of dealing with your infestation, you may want to consider having your ducts cleaned.

Duct Maintenance

How well you maintain your ducts will also affect how often they need cleaning. Leaky air ducts allow air to come in and out, which reduces HVAC efficiency and permits unfiltered air to enter the system. Signs that your ducts need attention and an inspection for leaks include:

  • Excessive household dust
  • Uneven temperatures
  • Rising utility bills

Many people don’t realize that their ducts need periodic inspection and maintenance. Specifically, the standard recommendation is to inspect the ductwork every year whenever possible. You’ll want to seal it whenever there’s an indication of some form of leaking.

Why Professional Duct Cleaning Is Worth the Cost

When it comes to cleaning your ducts, there’s a question about whether it’s something you can do yourself or if you need to hire a professional crew to do it. Consider the different processes and what you can expect.

If you try to clean your own ducts, you may attempt to shove a vacuum hose down your vent openings. This only reaches a few feet at the most, leaving plenty of ducting that isn’t getting touched. The other risk to doing this is that the vacuum hose end may damage your ducts if you don’t know how to navigate the ducting system effectively.

Professional duct cleaning is a much different process. It starts by having constant negative pressure in the ducts. What this means is that the team is continually sucking debris from the ducts throughout the entire process. This can only be achieved by professional-grade equipment that can create negative pressure. Further, they have the proper devices to clean out the inside of your ducts by gently pulling all the built-up contaminants from the sides of the ducts.

When to Get Ducts Cleaned

If you’ve never had your ducts cleaned, it may be time to get it done to improve your air quality and your HVAC efficiency. However, there are several other times outside of the recommended window you may consider having your ducts cleaned.

Keep an eye on your supply vent covers. A lot of dust on or around the cover may indicate contaminant buildup in your ducts. The same is true if you notice that you have a lot of dust around your home or that your furnace filter needs frequent replacing.

Finally, whenever you complete a renovation or home improvement project, you should consider cleaning your ducts. This includes simple projects like mudding drywall to repair cracks or even painting. Most projects produce a substantial amount of fine particle dust that’ll end up circulating through the air and collecting in your ducts.

Homeowners around Milwaukee have turned to Burkhardt Heating & AC Inc to keep their HVAC systems healthy and efficient since 1961. Our expert team provides duct cleaning and indoor air quality solutions along with AC and heating installation, maintenance, and repairs. Call Burkhardt Heating & AC Inc to schedule your duct cleaning appointment with us today!

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