Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How To: Solutions for Cleaning & Deodorizing your AC Vents and Ducts

By: JoFer Interiors_SMP

Ok, so the seasons are changing and you are planning to clean your vents & ducts. But just where do you start? 
You do your due diligence by searching the web and find numerous companies claiming they will sanitize and disinfect your ductwork for a so called " fraction of the cost". 

Now, pay close attention to the words 'sanitize' and or 'disinfect'. By definition these words require extreme high kill rates and there's no way one can guarantee 100 percent saturation rate. 
Conversely, if the cleaning company is willing to perform a 'before' and 'after' relative test of the amount of pollutants and or saturation rate in the vent air duct systems, then by all means we could give them the benefit of the doubt.  Wouldn't you say so !  

In this tutorial we will simply stick to Solutions for Cleaning & Odorizing/Deodorizing your AC Vents and Ducts. NOT to be confused with sanitizing or disinfecting. 

With that been said, we must assure you that one of the best ways to ensure, or at least maximize the quality of the air in your home is to clean your air vents and air duct system. 
The air vents and ducts in your home collects millions of dust, hair, dirt, pollen particles and other allergens. 

Note: Another tangible benefit of performing a vent and or air duct cleaning, is one you will see on a month to month basis. We are talking about the savings $$ it will bring on heating and air conditioning bills.

Keeping cool, and debris free air flowing into your home is our task at hand for this apartment dweller.
Note: ( We have also placed a short shared video by: "This Old House" to the right of this post.) Video may not be visible from certain hand-held devices. 
Below are some of the simple items you will need to perform the task:

a) Web Vent Filter pack $2.99
b) Air vent register $8.00(Only if replacing old one).
c) Air freshener of choice ( 'NO' Plug-ins or spray bottles please)
d) Air duct odor neutralizer ( optional )
e) Dust mask & goggles (price depends on quality).
f) Commercial grade Vacuum ( could be rented from hardware store).

Web Filters used in AC Vents

Here is a 12 pack of 4" X 12" Vent Filters purchased at a local hardware store. These are inexpensive an rather efficient. As you can probably already see on the packaging, these can filter out Dust, Dirt, Smoke and Pollen particles by means of Electrostatic Filtration. 

Web Filters used in AC Vents

This is the back side of the filter packaging with brief installation instructions on placement. 

Web Filters used in AC Vents

This is what these filters look like out of the bag. Same texture on both sides. 

AC Vent register

A 12" X 6" ceiling and or wall vent register with directional air control knob that will allow you to point the flow of air or close completely. Even though this is not considered or sold as air tight vents, it will restrict about 99% of flow. 

Note: These registers come in numerous sizes and shapes. Simply take a look around your home ( walls, floors, ceilings ). 

Web Filter installed into AC Vent register

A view of the vent register from the back. 

Essential Oil used to create an air freshner

Here is an example of an oil used to create the concoction that we will then use to saturate the web filters. These essential oils obviously come in various scents. for this particular tutorial, we went with peppermint  for the bathroom vents.  

Some of the items you will need are:
a) small spritzer bottle 
b) a carrier oil. In this case we used plain odorless baby oil. 
c) essential (scented) oil.

Note: Since this is a project for the AC vents, you may not want to use coconut oil. Coconut oil tends to solidify at low temperatures. 

Proceed by filling the spritzer bottle with the desired amount of carrier oil and a few drops of the scented oil and shake.
Take a sniff at the concoction and determine if scent is pleasing enough to your liking.  
Then spray the web vent filters generously and let them sit in a sealed zip lock bag for at least 3 days prior to placing them into the vent register.

You may also chose to only use the web filters and omit the scented oil completely. The choice is yours. 

Web Filter installed into AC Vent register

Web Filter installed into AC Vent register

A view of the web filter being installed from behind the vent register. For this step you will have to use two 4" X 12" filters for the standard vent register size. You will be left with a 2 inch gap on one side of the register. 

To resolve this issue, simply cut a third filter to size in order to fill this gap space. 

Web Filter installed into AC Vent register

Another close up view of filters fed almost all the way through the register. 

A look into the creepy crawly vents. 

Note: (WARNING) Please make sure that prior to removing the old registers form your vents, remember to turn he AC dial to the OFF position. 

Commercial grade Wet & Dry Vac

Wet & Dry Vac that can be purchased or rented from many local hardware and home improvement stores. 

Woman cleaning an AC Duct & Vents

The wet and dry vacuums will be equipped with a generous variety of extension nozzles hoses and brushes. 

Note: VERY IMPORTANT ! When vacuuming the ducts, do not use harsh strokes on the walls, ceilings, or floors. Some ducts of older homes may be lined with fiberglass insulation liner. If this fiberglass if compromised, it may cause this debris to be blown into your living area. If not sure on how this looks like, view here for some images on fiberglass duct lining. 

(These may be foil wrapped with a yellow or bluish/grey glass fibers.)

If you notice signs of deterioration in your duct,('ONLY' applicable to fiberglass linings) or have concerns about possible issues with your air duct liner (NOW is the time to contact your landlord and or an air duct professional).   

There are other great alternatives to ensure the continuous scent of pleasant smelling air into your home. You can achieve this by using products such as the one above (Glade solid gels). We placed this glades deodorizer inside the duct.

This is a perfect alternative considering that you can regulate how much scent you want these to release by simply exposing a small portion of it. (If you have never used these before, simply twist the cap clockwise and lift until the chosen amount of gel is exposed

What if I just want an odorless system ?

If you are not a fan of odors and potpourris, then you may also have the option of using Air Duct products that neutralize harsh scents that may be stubbornly stuck to your duct system. Products like the DIVERSITECH Duct-Fresh Gel claim to be nontoxic with no dyes and meets residential and commercial ductwork specifications. 
Cleaning Air Ducts and Vents followed by using Quality AC HVAC Filters. A Must ! 

AC Filter classification for AC Unit

Filter (a) Standard / MERV- FPR 4

AC Filter classification for AC Unit

Filter (b) MERV- FPR 7

AC Filter classification for AC Unit

Filter (c) Best / MERV-FPR 10 

These are a few of the filters you may see sold in your local home improvement stores. Note the texture and the different shapes of the web on these filters. Many times the feel alone will be a tale, tale sign on the quality of these filters. 
The ratings of these filters are usually stated as MERV or FPR and will range from Fair/Standard, Good and Best

Lets take a closer look at these
when considering air conditioning filters for your home, keep in mind they are classified by categories through the MERV rating and or some type of numerical standard like . This will all depend on the brand furnished by your vendor.  
Filters belonging to the MERV/ FPR 4-5 rating trap larger particles (Dust / Pollen) and have a standard efficiency. 
MERV / FPR 7-8 filter is useful for pet owners and will also filter some bacteria and mold spores. MERV/ FPR 9-10 and above ratings are reserved for those filters with households whom member(s) may suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses. 

Filter (a) Fair: This type of filter is one you would mostly find if you are a renter. Your leasing office may have these changed in your unit on a set day each month. 
This filter does very poorly with regards to smaller airborne particles such as pollen, smoke, fungal spores, etc.

Filter (b) Good to Best: This type of filter is the norm in many cases. It's fairly rigid and does a good job with small (Pollen) to large (Dust) air borne particle. But  Not as good for Fungal Spores and other smaller particles.  

Filter (c) Better to Recomended: Prior to taking much more interest in the air we breathed in our home. I did not pay much attention to types of filters. 
My overall understanding was, well, a filter is just a filter Right.. WRONG
These bad boys are the cream of the crop. These ( MERV 9-10 or FPR 9-10) filters would go as far as trapping very small particles such as Smoke, Mold, Bacterium, Viruses and even Pet odor

Just ponder for a while on how small an odor particle must be  

The overall cleanliness of the AC unit closet area is also crucial to the performance and resulting quality of the air indoors. 
It is an astonishing surprising fact that many home owners or even renters completely miss this area of their dwelling place when performing their home maintenance duties.   

Conclusion: As you shop around for services consider the task at hand and whether what you are being offered is indeed what you will get. Be educated and informed in your decision.  
Cleaning your duct-work  'alone' is not going to create the maximal impact. 
A professional knows that an annual maintenance on your 'entire' system including the air handler is also crucial to your systems overall well-being. Conversely if you have the time and enough " elbow grease " as they say, then this is also a practical money saving D.I.Y task.  

In other Words: An Efficient AC Unit + Quality Filters and a little air duct/vent "elbow grease" = Cleaner Air Ducts&Vents / Better smelling quality air & a cleaner Home. 

Please share you thoughts on this post. And if you have other useful hints on keeping "YOUR" breathable space made perfect, please share. 

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