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chisue

Input on Duct Cleaning & Mold Testing

chisue
last month

This is in aid of trying to solve DH's problem with sore eyes -- that he thinks is associated with the air in our house. (He's been checked by an optometrist with conclusion being 'dry eyes'.) This problem started two weeks ago and is making it difficult for him to read for as long as he has usually done.


Duct Cleaning: I've lived in homes with gas forced air heating/cooling for 80 years. None of these houses ever had duct cleaning. Our present house has two furnaces in the basement, each with an Aprilaire filter and a flow-through humidifier. In summer, we run two dehumidifiers in the basement. We also have a small boiler that heats north-facing rooms in winter and two water heaters. (All properly vented.)


Yesterday I spoke with a professional air testing person who said ducts should be cleaned every 4 - 5 years. He recommended only ONE area service and said that duct cleaning has gotten a bad reputation due to fly-by-night services that are 'quick and cheap'. He said it should take about four hours to do a good job, but that many places schedule only an hour or two to make the service cheap enough to appeal to more customers. He also said they can leave a big mess.


RE: Mold. Our old fridge leaked for many months before we knew about that. When the new fridge was delivered in March and Abt pulled out the old one, we could see mold on the floor beneath the fridge and a about a 2 X 2 section of the drywall behind the fridge. It was dry back there because I'd been running a fan 24/7 for a month before we were able to obtain the new fridge. We sprayed everything with bleach water before placing the new fridge. (What to do at 1 p.m. with four men standing there, ready to install a huge 42" Monogram fridge?)


Whole house air testing runs $500. I can buy a mold test with petri dishes and lab results for $50.


Your opinions, please?



Comments (32)

  • crazybrunette64
    last month

    I don't know about duct cleaning, but I have a bit of anxiety about mold. My father ended up with issues that eventually caused his death because of mold - they discovered it was throughout his house. I would definitely so some sort of mold testing since you've already seen signs of it. We never saw the mold in my dad's house.

  • amylou321
    last month
    last modified: last month

    No clue on the duct cleaning but bleach DOES NOT KILL MOLD. In fact, in can make it much worse.

    I would focus on having that professionally removed first.

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  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!
    last month
    last modified: last month

    If I had a problem with dry eyes, my first stop would be the ophthalmologist.

  • maifleur03
    last month

    If you had mold that long it infiltrated the wall and floor. You could use one of the recovery services that do clean-ups after floods and fires but often they just treat the surface and the next time it is humid the mold grows and can break through any untreated areas.


    When you have the Aprilaire serviced does the tech always replace the filter or tell you that it does not need replacing? Each time I have used a different service the first time, summer or fall, the filter is changed after that I was told it did not need changing. The light finally dawned that if the filter did not need changing the machine was not working properly.


    My eye doctor suggested a heavier lubricating drops to be put in at bedtime with the use of either saline drops or mild lubricating drops during the day. You might have your husband call his eye doctor's office. I did try the ointment but after putting it in I had difficulty seeing for a while.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    last month

    The main purpose of ordinary flow through HVAC air filters is to keep dust and debris out of furnace or air handler air passages. Unless beefed up equipment is added, they do not really filter inside air. On the topic of different filter choices, it seems the current thinking is that on older existing HVAC systems, the thinner the filter (lower the MERV number), the better. The notion is that the thicker, more resistant filters needlessly impede airflow, and in doing so reduce system efficiency, and put needless stress on the blower motor.

    In the last 5 years I've had furnace and AC equipment replacement projects done in two different homes. One involved extensive duct and boot joint sealing done on the external side of the sheet metal. For neither job did the credible HVAC contractors suggest "duct cleaning" was necessary.

    I think mold is a different topic. If you have concern, call out a mold expert.

    I also think dry eyes is also another matter. As Zalco suggested above, he should see an ophthalmologist.

    Good luck on all fronts.

  • chisue
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks, Amylou. I was amazed to see that. It was the people from Abt (appliance store) who suggested spraying with bleach water.


    Zalco -- DH did go to a full service eye MD's office. They have a tech do the drops and first testing, and only if she sees something does the patient get passed on to an MD. DH was passed along to the optometrist, who said his current reading glasses are fine.


    Maifleur -- DH was told to use lubricating drops. He now uses one heavier one at night and a lighter one during the day, but nothing has helped the soreness.


    Crazybrunette -- Thanks for the word to the wise regarding seriousness of mold.


    I'm going to contact a Servepro or similar service to just 'get 'er done' by pulling the fridge and doing whatever is needed behind it. If that doesn't help DH, we can always try the duct cleaning.

  • Alisande
    last month

    I did the mold test and report via Mold Armor. It sounds like what you mentioned. Several kinds of airborne mold were detected. None sounded particularly harmful, but as we know, different people react to different degrees. I ran my air purifiers at a higher speed than usual and made sure I turned on the mold-killing UV light option, and I noticed an improvement in my breathing.

    If your husband has dry eyes, is he using lubricating eye drops? Bausch & Lomb's Soothe XP is great, but it contains mineral oil and has to be shaken before using--and it blurs your vision for a few seconds, so it's not good to use while driving. I also like TheraTears and Blink. Just make sure the drops are for lubricating. Not all eye drops are intended for that purpose.

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!
    last month

    WRT eyedrops, you know nobody should be using Visine.

  • Judy Good
    last month

    We have had our ducts cleaned and ready to do it again. Far less dust, yes it does work. Not really that expensive for what you will achieve with it. Locally it is about 300.00-500.00 dollars. I would do it with that old of a home.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I remain skeptical about the need for duct cleaning. I just rechecked the websites of the two different, highly rated HVAC contractors I recently used (homes in two different towns) and neither offers that service. Though they both build ducts, seal ducts, replace existing ducts, and can recommend and install indoor air quality equipment - namely humidifiers, filtration systems, UV equipment, and the like. But no duct cleaning.

    Duct cleaning has always reminded me of add-on services of questionable value. Remember when furniture stores offered to Scotchgard new couches and chairs for an added cost? Car dealers sold that too with fabric seats, and also pushed after-market undercoating of new cars. Like that. But maybe there's something to it.

  • Judy Good
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Elmer you are incorrect in our area. Our furnace and/or ace runs year round. Have you ever looked inside your vents? I mean taken off the wall panel and looked? The difference may be that you don't have forced air heating and cooling? We do.

  • Lindsey_CA
    last month

    Have you considered getting an air purifier for your home? We have two of the MinusA2 air purifiers from Rabbit Air. It's the same model that is in the waiting room of my husband's pulmonologist's office.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    last month

    "Have you ever looked inside your vents? I mean taken off the wall panel and looked? The difference may be that you don't have forced air heating and cooling?"


    This was an interesting comment. Other than places like remote mountain cabins and rural old houses, and sometimes even then, single family homes in my region other than those at the low end of the market. have predominantly forced air ducted heating. And also for other than low end homes, ducted central air conditioning. There's little else. What would make you think it would be otherwise?


    I'm not sure what you mean by "take off the wall panel" but the supply feeds in the house I'm at now are in the floors, other than those in the bathrooms that are low on the walls. I removed two supply grills and reached my hand down to the sheet metal boot. Neither was dusty or dirty. The equipment was replaced here in 2016 and the ducts were sealed with many worker-days of effort How could they be "dirty"? Air flowing at pressure blows through them every time the equipment is on.


    A source of dust and dirt in forced air ducts is leaky connections. Especially on the return side, and especially if wall cavities, door grills, or so-called "duct board" are in the airflow pathways. I've read that on average, ducted systems leak 20% or more. And especially in older houses where ducts have been in place for a decade or more without specific attention. If you haven't been HERS tested or done duct sealing lately, rather than spending your money on questionable cleaning, make an effort to have your ducts sealed with brush on liquid mastic or mastic tape. As one HVAC guy (who was doing sealing for me) said, "Duct tape is a very useful product. It can be used anywhere for many things, except it should never be used on ducts"

  • OutsidePlaying
    last month

    A word about the mold behind your refrigerator. A friend and her DH bought a newly constructed house. Their chosen refrigerator wasnt available yet, so the contractor gave them a loaner to use. When their chosen refrigerator was ready a couple of months later, the6 discovered the water had not been connected properly in back and the walls and floor had mold. I saw her photos and it was ugly. The contractor replaced the drywall and flooring, no questions asked. I would expect nothing less than replacement, not spraying with bleach.

    A high quality Omega 3 fatty acid capsule a couple of t8mes a day might help with dry eye. Mine improved greatlty. Nordic Naturals is one brand. And a good eye drop such as Systane or the one-use ones are good.

  • chisue
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks to all! I decided to skip the mold testing and called a local service to come and take care of what I already know is behind the fridge. I was amazed to see how *many* water damage outfits there are 'out there'!. I knew water was a powerful force of nature. Didn't realize how much damage it can do in just everyday circumstances -- no floods required.


    If DH's eye problems don't clear up, we'll reconsider the duct cleaning -- or maybe the air cleaners Lindsey mentioned. We have hardwood flooring and wool area rugs; no heavy drapes/dust catchers. Hmm...maybe it's time to have the rugs cleaned; have to check the bank balance first (expensive).


    Ally De -- Thanks for the EPA tract on duct cleaning. Pretty much what most here already concluded.

  • arcy_gw
    last month

    "Dry Eyes" that just appeared needs more medical investigation. Everything your duct cleaning technician told you is to be expected from someone SELLING this service. Mold in porous surfaces like wood/dry wall cant' just be wiped away. It isn't ON the wall it's IN the wall--possibly.

  • provogal
    last month

    When we had mold after a hurricane here in the Turks and Caicos, we used Combrodium to kill the mold. You can buy it at Canadian Tire or Home Depot. it works.

  • chisue
    Original Author
    last month

    Roseann Roseannadan (sp) here. The fridge/mold situation is a Never Mind.


    A mold remediation man was just here. He said to just leave the fridge situation alone. When I said we were concerned about any effect on DH's eyes he said mold would NOT be causing eye irritation. Also, he said that, because the Monogram compressor is on top of the fridge, and the mold was on and near the floor, the fan wouldn't be pushing air around to disturb any mold.


    I'm going to believe the guy. He's been in business for a long time.


    WHEW! That's one thing off my plate. Supposedly the panels for the fridge are now ready to be painted and delivered...to be installed by my trusted local guy.


    (I'm hoping that if DH will give it more time using the lubricating drops regularly he may not be concerned. We are looking for a 'second opinion' from a different eye doc.)



  • vgkg Z-7 Va
    last month
    last modified: last month

    "RE: Mold. Our old fridge leaked for many months before we knew about that. When the new fridge was delivered in March and Abt pulled out the old one, we could see mold on the floor beneath the fridge and a about a 2 X 2 section of the drywall behind the fridge."

    I highly recommend (again) to anyone who has a fridge with ice & water dispenser to invest $12 in a water alarm to place behind the fridge underneath the water line connection. My neighbor had the same slow drip problem behind his fridge for a long time before realizing that his floor was warping and rot had destroyed the floor & subfloor under the fridge. Also recommend placing these alarms in other potential problem areas such as around water heaters and under sinks & toilets. A 9-volt battery lasts for 5 years.


  • Bookwoman
    last month

    Roseann Roseannadan (sp) here.

    I think you mean Emily Litella. :-) Roseanne's tag line was "It just goes to show you, it's always something."

  • chisue
    Original Author
    last month

    Oops. Wrong character. Can I use 'Never Mind' twice in one thread?



  • Deb_Ab ;)
    last month

    My sisters kids all make air ducts for a living. They say that duct cleaning is the biggest rip off in the business. Cleaning your ducts can cause more harm to your home than anything. DO NOT CLEAN them. My father always said the same thing but it wasn't until my niece and nephews started in the business did I realize dad knew what he was talking about. He's a steam engineer by trade, so I should have listened.... ;)

  • chisue
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks for the support, Deb. I've just set DH to vacuuming the air returns; did the supply vents not long ago. The 'sore eyes' continues to be a mystery. I'm hoping consistent use of the lubricating drops will pay off for him.

  • petalique
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Chisue, I am a dry eye know it all. My dry eyes came on quickly and fiercely. I used lots of those preservative-free single-use ampules— Refresh by Allergan.

    Dry eyes or dry feeling eyes can be from a number of things. Sometimes people with dry eyes actually tear (reflex tearing). Sometimes an infection or inflammation or clogging of the little meibomian glands along the margin of the eyelids (blepharitis — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blepharitis ). People may experience dry eyes with age. I suspect my eyes were always somewhat dry because I always wore a brimmed hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and could never adjust to those hard contact lenses.

    My eyes are much better now (knock on wood), but there were days upon days, year after year when I was in agony — hell from pain.

    You need to have an ophthalmologist or optometrist examine your DH.

    If your DH spends a lot of time reading, he may not be blinking as often. Or forget to instill eyedrops regularly. He can set a timer to go off and remind him to instill preservative free eyedrops every so often, perhaps hourly.

    I don’t think that all mold from water leaks is the same.

    I grew up in a leaky house with hot air heat through ducts. There was a huge filter that periodically got vacuumed or replaced. Not a HEPA filter, just something like spun fiberglass in a frame. Our house was built over damp ground. But it also was not well built or well insulated. I could watch as smoke from cigarettes moved with the air currents from one side of the living room to another. My father was I lot like Deb’s. He was an engineer and jack of all trades and master of many. No one ever cleaned our air ducts. They were probably not sealed either.

    I don’t know what area of the country you live in, but around our neck of the woods, ragweed is in full swing. Not everyone is bothered by it.

    I hope your fella gets evaluated soon by a competent eye doc. There are some options for those with dry eyes. At one point, I had tiny plastic punctal plugs inserted in some of my tear ducts (drain holes) and that helped preserve some of my tears/tear film. (Caveat—I would caution against laser cautery to permanently close the tear ducts. That ablated tissue is one way. My eyes now have almost enough moisture, so I’m glad I did the plastic rubbery plugs). Punctal plug

    Hope your DH feels better soon.

  • petalique
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Something else I just thought of — have you recently (~ cooinciding with your husband’s eye issue) brought anything new into your house that might be outgassing?

    Plastics, foam, new furniture, flooring, cupboards?

    When my eyes were in dry crisis, I could not get near (and gave away) my Olfa self healing cutting mat. Invisible fumes. Ditto certain types of cats or fumes, air fragrances, even slight. People might have thought I was imagining or ”hysterical” because I was the only one bothered. I have a keen sense of smell and could also detect an odor. Now that my eyes are better, I am not bothered by those mats. Oh, and entering a department store with sizing or whatever is on new clothing would also makes my eyes and throat feel dry and burning.

    When the eyeball doesn’t have enough lubricating, dry spots can develop and the epithelial cells on your eyes’ surface are rich in nerves. That’s why it can sting like a son of a gun if something even lightly brushes across your eye’s surface.

  • mariagrazia
    last month

    You keep using the phrase 'sore' eyes. Could your husband maybe have scratched his cornea? That can really hurt and be sore. I wouldn't normally think of dry eyes as being sore, but they could have been so dry that the inside eyelid stuck to the eye and scratched it. It would be a good idea to see an ophthalmologist to be sure there isn't a different issue.

  • Ed(Edwina) and Stephen Ci
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Deb_AB- Would you elaborate on WHY is is not healthy to have ductwork cleaned?? Metal fines? Putting mold in the air? Dust? I expect temporary junk in the air- then more cleaning with damp/wet clothes. I ask because I am allergic to EVERYTHING GREEN. Plus molds that developed from heavy flood irritating. Cats. Dogs. My parents were both 3 pack a day smokers. Unfiltered. History of psittacos. Asthma. Many pneumoniae starting as young child. Lung scarring.

    I have had a few different pulmonologist over the years from living in different parts of the country. Each has insisted on duct cleaning. One house did not have ductwork. All different parts of the country. I also have extreme dry eye from Lasik. Move to humid climate helps the eye but there is always something blooming which causes allergy problems. I have tried many respiratory drugs with minimal effect. Eosinophils are dangerously high. Would appreciate your duct info.

  • Yayagal
    last month

    I've had dry eyes for years, I have allergies and have to turn down the ac in the car as it blows in one's eyes and, eventually, they will dry up and burn. Even the wind and pollen can cause it. I put in drops every morning.

  • Deb_Ab ;)
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @Ed(Edwina) and Stephen Ci Cleaning the ducts damages your air ducts. You may end up having holes poked into them that YOU can't see. The tin is not very thick. Vacuuming out the vents is all you need to do. I have replaced my return air duct covers with ones that hold filters. They can vacuumed out monthly as does my furnace filter. Which also are also replaced 2 or 3 times a year. All those photos you see online from all those duct cleaning businesses are scare tactics to make you feel like your house will burn down if you don't get them done. Most of the companies use photos found online.

    Thinking of cleaning your air ducts? Think again.

  • claudia valentine
    last month

    I am not sure why air ducts would be the considered culprit causing dry eyes.

    I agree with Elmer and others about the supposed need for cleaning air ducts. It doesnt seem to be really a needed thing unless you have some unusual circumstances, maybe. Maybe like if you got some kind of critter infestation, for instance. Or, maybe if you had some some structural damage and got water leaking in there. Unless there are other indications, I agree that it seems to be not a necessary thing

    I sometimes will run the vacumn hose into the open floor registers because junk falls in there, being that it is on the floor. But the air if blowing out of the register, not pulling in.

    There is some dust that accumulates just inside the return ducts but it gets filtered through the furnace filter before it gets into the air blower. That is what the filters are for and they work pretty well. I vacuum the return air grill as a regular cleaning.

    I agree that duct cleaning is a pretty unnecessary thing unless there is some unusual problem or reason.

    If someone came to my house and spent hours making a show of cleaning my air ducts, that would really send up red flags for me.

    I found that I had to quit reading the print newspaper some years ago because it made my eyes sting and itch. After a couple of minutes, I could not stop sneezing. This happened only if I tried to read the printed paper and happened every time, so the evidence is pretty convincing .