In a multifamily building with families who are cooking, cleaning, dusting and breathing, it's no surprise that airways, chutes and garbage rooms can get clogged and dirty over time. Garbage, debris and allergens build up in a building's airways and passages, eventually contributing to problems ranging from noxious smells to potential health problems for residents. To maintain the environmental health of your building, it's vital that the HVAC system, garbage chutes and collection areas—in short, your building's respiratory and circulatory systems—remain clean, sanitary and stench-free.
An Issue of Maintenance
"A lack of maintenance and an increase in debris can cause problems because the systems haven't been properly maintained—sometimes since they were installed," says Phil Sullivan, vice president of Soundview Air Care in Port Jefferson, New York. "It causes physical problems and slows down your systems. Today, houses are built more airtight than ever before, and they don't allow for the natural flow of fresh air. All the carpeting and furniture inside can give off odors and chemicals unless the air is exchanged in the house."
Maintaining your building's respiratory system may also reduce the danger posed by fire, says Craig Berlin, president of Union, New Jersey-based environmental services company ChuteMaster Environmental, Inc. "An obstructed air duct can cause a real safety problem in a building," he says. "Should a fire break out, it's important that the air react as designed by the architects. There are cutoffs in the building that need to be maintained—which are sometimes encrusted with grease—and there are dampers that are sometimes not operational. Cleaning restores their operational value."
Another reason Berlin gives doesn't have as much to do with physical safety as it does with the bottom line. "Duct-cleaning also has to do with the vanity of the building. [Maintaining clean ductwork] is important for resale value and also for tenant satisfaction; it's important to keep a building clean so prospective tenants—as well as those who are already there—are satisfied that the management is maintaining a well-managed building."
The Meaning of Clean
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "duct cleaning" generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems. Those systems include the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers, heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing.