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The Hidden Perils Lurking in Air Ducts - Business

The Hidden Perils Lurking in Air Ducts   by Alison Withers

in Business    (submitted 2012-01-11)

Copyright (c) 2012 Alison Withers

The risk of fire, the higher energy costs of running an inefficient system and the possibility of higher rates of breathing and other health problems among the building's users are the three main hazards associated with failure to maintain and clean air duct systems.

All three of these are linked to the build-up of deposits inside the ducting and to the efficiency of filters that have become clogged or blocked with particles.

Debris and dust can build up inside the system leading to a fire hazard, especially in commercial kitchens, where there is likely to be an amount of grease taken out of the air by the extraction systems. This, according to the UK Fire Service is one of the main causes of fires in restaurants and cafes.

Moisture and debris provide the ideal conditions for the development of mould inside ductwork. Mould can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed by breathing spores or other tiny fragments.

Symptoms of mould may be nasal and sinus congestion, asthma, sore throats, wheezing, skin and eye irritations or upper respiratory infections (including sinus), although one person may have a completely different reaction from another.

The spread of infection via air duct systems can be a particular hazard in buildings such as hospitals, schools and residential homes for the elderly, where there are likely to be many people who are susceptible because they are already ill or frail so that their ability to withstand infections is not as robust as it would be if they were healthy.

Regular attention to air duct cleaning will reduce or eliminate such risks and an air duct cleaning company will do a thorough inspection of the system to identify any particular areas of vulnerability. It will then recommend the frequency of cleaning and perhaps also suggest ways in which the system can be improved to help make access to the whole system easier, which will help ensure it is cleaned efficiently.

All the component parts should be checked for deposits. Where applicable these would include filters, heat exchanger surface, the cooling coil, blower blades and compartment, return air plenum, access points, grilles and surfaces of the ductwork.

Not only should they be able to run freely but all should be clean and dust free. Checks should also be made to ensure filters conform to HVAC standards and that there are no tears or damage to any of the ductwork to ensure there is no leakage.

Having established and tested the system a professional air duct cleaning company should recommend a programme of cleaning and maintenance to ensure that the system is kept contamination free and running as efficiently as possible to minimise energy costs.

The frequency of cleaning and maintenance recommended depends on the activity carried out in the building and scheduling should be both as cost effective as possible and arranged at times that will cause the least disruption to the normal running of the organisation.

It is always wise to check on the equipment and cleaning materials the company uses and the level of training, not only in safe and efficient cleaning techniques but also in Health and Safety before agreeing a contract. For cnfidence in the company a good indication to look for is whether it advertises that its methods conform to the HVAC best practice guidelines.