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Robert Lamoureux: The ins and outs of air duct cleaning

Your Home Improvements

Posted: April 9, 2010 10:53 p.m.
Updated: April 10, 2010 4:55 a.m.
We have designed a custom, full color Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt that we will send to you, with our compliments, if we answer your question in our column.

I have lived a full and complete and long life without ever having heard of air-duct cleaning.

However, in the past five years I've been inundated with ads from companies wanting to clean my air ducts.

If my ducts were OK before, why are they now a raging cesspool of allergens and infections? Is this a pseudo-scam, or a service that truly needs to be done occasionally - like chimney sweeping?

Since (like many in the SCV) I do have allergies, would you comment on the current thinking regarding air duct cleaning? Also, how do we find a reputable air-duct cleaner, since I cannot imagine that there is a separate license for this specialty? Thank you very much.

Carol M.

Hi Carol,
Personally, I've lived in my current home for 18 years and have never had the ducts cleaned.

As long as you're continuously changing your filters - that minimizes the amount of dust in your ducts. How often you should change the filters depends on several factors including if you have pets that live in the home, if you leave the windows open as well as the type of equipment you have - but at $2 a piece, change the filters regularly. I replace mine every six to eight weeks.

Dirty filters will allow dust, dirt and lint to build-up around the A-coil, resulting in decreased efficiency. Dirty A-coils are expensive because they are hard to get to and difficult to clean. Also, they cool much slower so the equipment runs longer creating more wear and tear and using more electricity. The bottom line is replace your filters.

Another question would be: Do you have allergies? Are they severe enough to warrant having the ducts cleaned? Usually, any dust sits on the surface of the ducts and adheres and dries. It's a matter of personal choice.

If you've had leaks and suspect there is mold; or have allergies and feel like it is a good choice for you, then absolutely. Let me know if you detect any air quality change within your home.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned."

To find a reputable duct cleaning service, I would ask someone you know that has used this service in the past. Check the Better Business Bureau or just take your chances. Depending on the size of your home, rates can range anywhere from $400 to $1,000. There's nothing wrong with meeting with different companies and having them explain what they are going to do, for how much and how will it benefit you.

There is an organization that provides training programs and certifications for air duct cleaners. NADCA, The National Air Duct Cleaners Association, was "formed in 1989 as a non-profit association of companies engaged in the cleaning of HVAC systems.
Its mission was to promote source removal as the only acceptable method of cleaning and to establish industry standards for the association." NADCA offers several training programs including the Air Systems Cleaning Specialist (ASCS) Exam Training Course; Ventilation System Mold Remediator (VSMR) Exam Training Course and the Certified Ventilation Inspector (CVI) Exam Training Course.

Dear Mr. Lamoureux,
My daughter is going off to college in the Fall and will be living in an on-campus dorm room that prohibits the use of nails in the walls for such convenience as hanging pictures. Is there an alternative method for hanging pictures on walls that will not disrupt its integrity? Curious and thankful,

Hi Jay,
There is a product called Command Hooks. First use rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt from the area where you will attach the hook. Place the hook against the wall and pull the tab located underneath the hook and release. This activates a very strong adhesive and the tab goes back under the hook. Let it sit for one hour and you are good to go. You can find them at any hardware store and come in a variety of sizes.

To remove, pull the tab again and it releases, leaving no marks on the wall. It's a great idea and perfect for dorm rooms or anywhere you don't want nail holes.

Hi Robert,
We see your questions and answers in The Signal and this last week it was talking about permits. We would like to ask you a question regarding adding on a porch. We want to build a roofed front porch on our house. The house and garage will have a 3-inch thick face from the wall with bouquet rock laid on edge. The porch floor will be 10 feet wide by 23 feet long. The roof will overhang by at least 2 feet.

Our questions is: will this put our property taxes higher if we do the above? Your help is greatly appreciated.

Hi R.N.G,
For this, we called and spoke to the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor's Office. They spoke of Proposition 13, and how it substantially reduced property tax rates.

As a result, the maximum levy cannot exceed 1 percent of a property's assessed value (plus bonded indebtedness and direct assessment taxes). Increases in assessed value are limited to 2 percent annually.

Only four events can cause a reappraisal:
1.) Ownership change

2.) Completed construction

3.) Partially completed construction (by the lien date)

4.) Market value decline

With your new construction of a porch, the Assessor's office would send someone out to view the improvement. They then examine the quality of the improvement and assess a comparable value. In this case, they would simply find how much a 230-square-foot porch would typically cost to build.

Some people are owner/builders and do it themselves saving the labor costs; others choose to hire a contractor. The costs for each would be completely different. The county works with cost manuals that lists typical costs and averages to find the taxable improvement rates.

Let's say your home has a value of $100 per square foot and you want to add a 230-square-foot porch. This does not mean that you are adding $23,000 worth of improvements because the porch would not have the same value as the rest of your home.
For example, there will be no foundation, drywall, plumbing, etc.

At $20 per square foot, the new porch would add $4,600 in improvements. This amount would then be taxed, generally speaking, at a 1 percent general levy and direct assessments (not to exceed 2 percent) plus bonded indebtedness.

The actual tax rate you will be paying is calculated by the auditor and comptroller, but based on the examples given would result in about $50 annually.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia.

His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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