Do you have Harmful Airborne Contaminants in Your Northern Virginia Home?
When it comes air duct cleaning, many Northern Virginia homeowners are uncertain if they have harmful airborne contaminants in their home, and are not exactly sure what goes into an air duct cleaning service appointment or when they should clean their air ducts. To help property owners get the information they need, and as part of NOVA NARPM’s informational spotlight series, we recently interviewed Hugo Hernandez of A Plus Enviro-Services in Manassas Virginia to help Northern Virginia homeowners become better educated about harmful airborne contaminants, and the importance of air duct cleaning. Hernandez has over 20 years of experience in air duct cleaning and his business, A Plus Enviro-Services, has been serving the Northern Virginia metropolitan area for over eight years. They specialize in air duct cleaning and air duct cleaning only, which is a standout among area service providers because it is their only business. In our recent interview with Hernandez he offers Northern Virginia locals candid information and advice about the practice of air duct cleaning as well as tips on how to identify a reputable air duct cleaning service and how to avoid scams.
Tips On How To Choose The Right Air Duct Cleaning Service Provider
When seeking a qualified air duct cleaning service, choosing a company that specializes in air duct cleaning is a smart strategy says Hernandez because it is a common practice in the industry for companies to use the “guise” of cleaning air ducts as a way to get out to your home but really they are coming to see “what else they can sell” and do not actually care about the air ducts. Hernandez can speak to this because of the many times he has had to go back in and “redo work and clean up the mess” after a customer has had a negative experience with another service provider. He also notes that consumers should be wary of extremely low price quotes. In his years of experience, he has found that many companies do what is called a “bait and switch,” which is when a service provider offers a very cheap price and then upcharges and adds exorbitant fees without telling the customer. This is a red flag and a sign that you are dealing with an unethical air duct cleaning service. Hernandez says a reputable company will have clear and standard pricing and discuss their prices with you upfront. Additionally, a quality company will also carry pollution liability insurance, which Hernandez says, for his company, is an important component of their business model because it provides clients with peace of mind.
Real Advice From A Qualified Air Duct Service Provider
NOVA NARPM: What exactly are airborne containments, are they harmful and how do they get into our Northern Virginia homes
Hugo Hernandez: Well, first off, there are standards for this service as upheld by National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). They are the only association that certifies air duct cleaners. If you go by the standards, anything in your HVAC system that is not supposed to be in there is a containment. Basically any dust or debris that is accumulated is considered a containment. But if you want to talk about harmful containments, the primary ones are fiberglass and mold. Most HVAC systems will have some fiber glass material inside the HVAC system because of insulation. Insulation is of course used to maintain the unit temperature and reduce noise. Overtime, due to air friction, the insulation breaks down and releases fiberglass containments into the HVAC system. In our area, we have a lot of duct work made of fiberglass, mainly in attic units. A lot of people do not know they have this type of duct work. Additionally, mold is a very common containment in our area mainly because of the high levels of humidity during the summer. Basically you need three things to grow mold: humidity, organic material, and spores. Mold spores are common in Northern Virginia because of all the different vegetation we have. Essentially opening a window or door invites mold spores into your home. Overtime, an HVAC system that has accumulated hair, dander, pollen, dust, and other debris provides an ideal breeding ground for mold spores. Both fiberglass and mold can be harmful to your health, especially if you suffer from a respiratory illness, allergies, or an autoimmune disorder.
NN: How often should you have your air ducts cleaned?
HH: The standard is to have them inspected once per year and cleaned every other year. But, based on my experience I think, if you hire a qualified company that knows what they are doing, cleaning every 3-to-5 years is all that is needed. But, if you have allergies for example, you may want to clean them every other year.
NN: Let us be real here. Is air duct cleaning expensive?
HH: First we have to be talking about using a qualified air duct cleaning service that uses the proper equipment. We cannot stress it enough that equipment matters. For an average family with one HVAC system you can expect to pay about $500 for a complete mechanical cleaning. This should include all the vents, all the ducts, the HVAC coil and the fan. If you have a mold problem, there is an additional treatment for that which usually costs about $300 extra dollars. However, it is not unusual to find companies that charge upwards of $1000 for mold treatment alone and it is not uncommon for homeowners to get a bill for $1500. In terms of fiberglass, if the duct work needs repair it may not only need cleaning but encapsulation to seal all of the particles from continuing to pollute the air, which can cost about $700 to seal. You can also replace the insulation with metal ducts, but that is of course much more expensive and is usually a couple of thousand dollars to replace. This is not every case but these are things we do encounter.
NN: What happens to all the airborne containments when my air ducts are cleaned by a professional service? Where do they go?
HH: Every company has a choice of what kind of equipment to use and what a company purchases is a business decision. I have a preference for HEPA vacuums because the level of filtration is superior in my opinion. To give you an idea it is about the size of a large refrigerator. We bring the machine into your house and it is placed as close as possible to your furnace. Then a hose is run from the vacuum to the duct work. Sometimes if the ducts have never been cleaned or properly serviced an axis must be placed on the duct to create a seal that meets industry standards. We remove all the vents and cover all the openings and start cleaning one-by-one starting at the furthest end of the duct system so that we can pull and push the debris essentially pulling from one end and pushing from the other. Everything is collected in powerful dust filters and disposed of with the local ordinance.
NN: How can a Northern Virginia homeowner find and hire the best, most affordable and most reputable air duct cleaning service? What should people look for?
HH: First off, get yourself educated about the service so you can better understand what to expect. The best source is the NADCA association because they set the industry standards. You can find certified technicians near you by zip code on their website. Once you get to the point where you see the companies that you prefer, read their online reviews. Finally, the most important thing you should do is check the business out with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). There is actually a special task force for this industry that actively pursues scams because it such a big problem and if the company is unethical it will show on the BBB website.
Hernandez wrapped his interview with NOVA NARPM by saying that he is always looking for educated customers and is always more than willing to inform homeowners, even if they do not hire him because he wants to help people make an educated decision. He says, “I got into this business because I believe I can help people with our knowledge and service. It is not all about money.” In fact, because Hernandez is so knowledgeable about the area, he does not really offer specials because he has found that when customers are truly looking for a qualified service provider and are educated, his model and pricing is more than competitive. However, he noted, A Plus Enviro-Services does offer free dryer vent cleaning with a complete HVAC air duct cleaning purchase, a $165 value.
A Plus Enviro-Services is the only NADCA certified service provider in the area. To learn more about them visit www.aplus-ductcleaning.com and find them on Facebook at @APlusEnviroServices. To connect with NOVA NARPM on Facebook, find us at @NOVANARPM.