Dirty Air Ducts Impact the Air Quality of Buildings in New York City

New York has the highest population density of any major city in the United States, with over 27,000 people per square mile. To support this many people, the city and surrounding suburbs are filled with millions of homes, schools, offices, and industrial complexes.

In many of these buildings, air ducts play a pivotal role in keeping people comfortable and productive. This critical component of a building’s HVAC system allows for ventilation and a path for warm or cool air to provide a healthy indoor environment. However, if the ducts become dirty and contaminated they may not operate efficiently and could create indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns. This could increase energy costs and lead to respiratory issues and complaints.

To help prevent air duct contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides the following tips:

Use the highest efficiency air filter recommended by the manufacturer of the heating and cooling system.

Change filters regularly.

If filters become clogged, change them more frequently.

Be sure there are no missing filters and that air cannot bypass filters through gaps around the filter holder.

When having the heating and cooling system maintained or checked for other reasons, be sure to ask the service provider to clean cooling coils and drain pans.

During construction or renovation work that produce dust indoors, seal off supply and return registers, and do not operate the heating and cooling system until after cleaning up the dust.

If the heating system includes in-duct humidification equipment, be sure to operate and maintain the humidifier strictly as recommended by the manufacturer.

To prevent ducts from becoming wet and supporting microbial growth, the EPA recommends:

Promptly and properly repair any leaks or water damage.

Pay particular attention to cooling coils, which are designed to remove water from the air and can be a major source of moisture contamination of the system that can lead to mold growth. Make sure the condensate pan drains properly.

Make sure ducts are properly sealed and insulated in all non-air-conditioned spaces.

If replacing an air conditioning system, be sure that the unit is the proper size and that all ducts are sealed at the joints.

“Dust and filth can accumulate, and microbial growth can occur in a building’s air duct system if it was not properly designed and maintained,” said Michael Berrevoets, President, VOETS, LLC. “Air ducts can even spread airborne contaminants and gases from one part of a building into another. At VOETS, we investigate indoor air quality issues in all types of buildings across New York that involve issues associated with air duct contamination, poor ventilation, and other HVAC associated issues. Our ventilation experts have extensive experience and access to the most advanced air monitoring and testing equipment to resolve these types of issues to help ensure everyone has access to healthy indoor air quality.”

VOETS also recently sponsored a video with tips to prevent air duct contamination that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/w9om_GZXJL0

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