Vac Systems

Selecting the right air duct cleaning tools for the job!

0

Courtesy of Vac Systems

Part 1 – Cleaning Tools for Residential/Light Commercial Projects

Residential air duct cleaning contractors face the challenge of cleaning a wide variety of ducts; sheet metal, flex duct, ductboard, internally lined ductwork, etc. Unfortunately with this many different types of ductwork there is no one magic cleaning tool that can clean every type and size of duct.  Selecting the right cleaning tool(s) is important because 95% of the cost of air duct cleaning is your labor cost. Your goal is to achieve the desired level of cleanliness (source removal) as fast as possible. The more productive you are the more profitable you will be.

Before we look at the different cleaning tools we need to look at the different levels of cleaning that can be achieve.

Level 1 - Air Washing: Air washing is the use of high-pressure air that comes from the air compressor through an air hose to an air nozzle. This air nozzle delivers streams of high-pressure air, which dislodges the accumulated dirt and debris found in the duct.

Level 2 – Air Whips: An air whip is the combination of air washing (high-pressure air) with agitation from the whip(s). The high pressure of the air and whipping action dislodge the accumulated dirt and debris found in the duct. Air whips achieve a higher level of cleaning than air washing.

Level 3 – Brushing: Brushing (both manual and powered systems) makes physical contact with more of the interior surface of the duct. This brushing action effectively dislodges the accumulated dirt and debris found in the ductwork. Bushing achieves a higher level of cleaning than both air washing and air whips.

Level 3 – Contact vacuuming: Contact vacuuming makes physical contact with more of the interior surface of the duct. This contact vacuuming action effectively dislodges the accumulated dirt and debris found in the ductwork/furnaces/air handlers. Contact vacuuming achieves a higher level of cleaning than both air washing and air whips.

Now let’s look at the most common residential air duct cleaning tools

Air Washing Tools

Air washing tools use the high-pressure air that comes from the air compressor through an on/off control, through an air hose/rod to an air nozzle. This air nozzle delivers streams of high-pressure air, which dislodges the accumulated dirt and debris. Normally the forward and reverse skipper line is 25’ long but some systems could be longer. The blowgun normally has an on/off control and 10”-14” copper tube which supplies a single high pressure air steam. We recommend (at minimum) an air compressor that has up to 175 psi, 18 cfm of air and 20 gallon receiver tank. This will give you acceptable air washing productivity

Description: The most common types of air washing tools are the:

  • Forward skipper line (for blowing dirt/debris forward)
  • Reverse skipper line (for blowing dirt and debris backward)
  • Blowgun (for more precise air washing)

Pluses: Easy and quick to use, fits through a 1” hole, can negotiate turns and drops in the ductwork.

Minuses: Does not clean as well as air whips or brushes.

Where best to use: When you have light to medium dust in small and medium ductwork.  

Air Whip Systems

Air whips use the high-pressure air that comes from the air compressor through the on/off control, the rods and then to the whip head. The whip(s) thrashes around inside the duct making contact with some of that duct surface as it blows air forward. The single whip head gives you the most aggressive whipping action and the octopus whip head gives you the least aggressive whip action. If you don’t have enough air pressure (psi) and volume (cfm) the whip(s) will not thrash around properly. We recommend (at minimum) an air compressor that has up to 175 psi, 18 cfm of air and 20 gallon receiver tank.

 Description: A typical air whip system includes:

  • Three or more whip heads (single whip, tri whip and octopus whip heads)
  • Set of five foot flexible and non flexible rods
  • Forward and reverse air nozzles
  • Duct ball support assembly
  • On/off control (ball valve or trigger valve)

Pluses: Easy and quick to use, agitates and blows in one pass, will work in most ducts, cleans better than air washing alone, can negotiate turns and drops.

Minuses: Do not clean as well as brushes or contact vacuuming.

Where best to use: When you have light to medium dust in small and medium ductwork. 

Flexible Cable Brush Systems

You select the right size brush for the duct and conditions, attach it to the brush end of the cable, attached the other end of the cable to a portable drill. Insert the brush into the duct, pull the trigger on the drill and clean the duct as you push the cable/brush back and forth into the duct.   The nylon brushes can be use on most any duct surface while the silica carbide brushes are designed for aggressive cleaning on hard surfaces only.

Description: These systems normally include the following:

  • 15’ or 25’ flexible cable
  • (3) nylon brushes (8”, 12” 18”)
  • (3) silica carbide brushes (8”, 12” 18”)

Pluses: Easy to use, makes contact with most of the duct surface, cleans ducts with turns and drops, cleans better than air washing and air whips. More productive than manual brushes.  Some flexible cables now have a bearing in the drill end of the cable. The bearing reduces the internal friction/resistance in the cable which will minimize the twisting/kinking outside the duct and most important it will give you longer cable life

Minuses: Not repairable, not recommended for ducts larger than 16” x 16”.

Where best to use: All types (sheet metal, flex, ductboard, etc.) of small and medium size ductwork.   

Solid Core Cable Brush Systems

You select the right size brush for the duct and conditions, attach it to the brush end of the cable, attached the other end of the cable to a portable drill. Insert the brush into the duct, pull the trigger on the drill and clean the duct as you push the cable/brush back and forth into the duct.   The nylon brushes can be use on most any duct surface while the silica carbide brushes are designed for aggressive cleaning on hard surfaces only.