Ductwork Fun – Obsession or Advantage?
You ever see those ads for getting the ductwork cleaned in your house? The ones that promise to help reduce allergens, mold, and dust mites?
I actually had the work done before moving into a house in South Florida over four years ago, a few months after my daughter turned five and her lung function had achieved a small measure of normalcy. Because we were very, very gun-shy of setting off the kid’s hair-trigger respiratory system after years of severe flares, doctor trips, and ER visits, we were as careful as possible with that new house. Not only did I schedule ductwork cleaning, but I also bought a house completely devoid of carpeting and spent hours scrubbing not just the floors, bathroom, and kitchen, but also the walls, windows and every other flat surface I could access
The previous owners had cats, see, and while AG isn’t allergic to cats, at that point in her life everything seemed to set her spazzy lungs off and I didn’t want to jinx her health, which I had finally, slowly, started to improve. I also really liked the idea of starting to sleep through the night on a regular basis without having to get up and give her breathing treatments.
And also? I won’t like to you. I had turned a teeny bit obsessive by this point. Because–and this bears repeating for those of you battling uncontrolled asthma in a little kid right now–as livable and manageable as asthma can become, spending your nights sleepless and sunk in worry, waiting for that next hacking asthma cough from your three or four year-old and running nebulizer treatments in the middle of the night feels like it’s never going to end. And if your kid has never breathed well, regularly–and that was AG from about 10 months forward–you wonder if life will ever fit into a regular, recognizable pattern again and whether you’ll ever get to relax, breathe deep, and actually enjoy your daughter’s childhood.
Or maybe that’s just me. In hindsight, I recognize my reaction to her asthma as a little extreme, and that’s probably a result of both my high-stress personality and the shock of it all.
But back to the subject at hand.
While searching for something else entirely, I found this great article over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Ask the Inspector” feature. In it, Bill Garwood explains whether ductwork cleaning for your HVAC actually makes a difference in health, what symptoms may indicate dirty ducts, and what factors (smoking, pets, water and/or mold around the system and ducts) could contaminate them in the first place. The short conclusion: who knows if ductwork cleaning actually helps anyone?
But if you’ve got an asthmatic living in your house, there’s a wealth of useful information about halfway through to help you decide. First, he tells you how to examine the ductwork yourself for dust and dirt by using a flashlight and a mirror. Next, he explains what to do in your house that will keep dust and dirt out of the ducts so you don’t have to consider professional cleaning in the first place. Finally, if you do decide your ductwork needs some attention, he tells you how to choose a reputable company.
As for AG, I don’t know if the cleaning helped her asthma or not. Her flares had calmed–and stayed calmer–by the time we moved in, but that improvement probably has a whole host of causes, including:
1. A daily steroid inhaler (Flovent) for maintenance for the first time in her life.
2. The move away from a neighborhood close to a high-traffic highway.
3. Her older age.
4. Lack of carpets.