Air ducts can be incredibly dangerous. Not only is the dust collected highly flammable, but air ducts themselves provide a place where a fire can smolder and spread. During the chilly winter months, many homeowners will be taxing their HVAC systems to the limit. A dust-covered heating system could quickly become a hazard.
Dust and Debris in Air Ducts
Regardless of how clean your home is, it's very likely that your air ducts have been collecting dust. Most homeowners will change their air filters fairly frequently, but air filters don't catch everything. If you have children or pets, it's likely that there's even more debris caught up in the vents. As dust and debris collects, it essentially creates a layer of flammable material throughout the interior of the ducting. This material is easy to remove with professional equipment, but very difficult to clean out otherwise.
Furnace Heating and Air Ducts
The winter months are when the furnaces are turned on -- and, as with any heating implement, the risk of a fire is there. Furnaces (especially improperly maintained furnaces) can easily ignite the dust around their ducts. This is especially true of gas furnaces, which can leak if they haven't been properly serviced.
Fueling Fires through Air Duct Dust
Fires very rarely originate directly within a duct -- though it can happen. Instead, fires may occur through electrical issues, candles, or even children playing with matches. However, even though the fire doesn't start in the air duct, it can be fueled significantly by the air duct. Once the fire reaches into the air duct and ignites the dust within, the fire will quickly propagate throughout the structure. A small electrical fire and heat on the outside of your duct could quickly combust everything within the duct, making an easily contained fire into something much larger.
Do you need an air duct cleaning? There are a few ways that you can tell. If the filters of your air ducts have been changed several times -- and they seem to be dirty -- then it's likely that the inside of your ducts are dirty as well. If you remove the filter and look into the ducts and you see significant dust and dirt, it's likely that the dust and dirt is situated throughout the vent. If you still aren't sure, Dust Doctors can help you with an at-home consultation, to determine whether your vents may need cleaning.
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