Three adjacent, exposed rooftop vents for industrial air duct system

When it comes to ductwork, the easiest to clean for most consumers are those you can see, like wall or floor registers or the kind necessary for dryer vent cleaning. But there is different ductwork you cannot see which may be challenging to clean: Flexible Ductwork, Rigid Ductwork, and Semi-Flexible Ductwork.

Flexible Ductwork

Most homeowners associate flexible ductwork with air duct cleaning around dryer vents, but they are popular because they are inexpensive and provide more options for integrating ventilation into homes with unique or challenging designs. Common flexible ducts are made with a spring steel wire helix, wrapped in a dual-ply, polymer plastic exterior.

Flexible and rigid ductwork are often combined to make a system that fits the house’s layout. If you are thinking of using flexible ductwork for new construction or a remodeling project, remember that it should not bend more than 90-degrees and needs proper support if installed in an attic ceiling, for instance. Roof beams and extra support are one way to make sure flexible ductwork does not sag or bow.

You usually never see flex ductwork in a home’s living space, unless the homeowner or builder wants a bare, industrial appearance. Even in spaces where ducts might be installed, like closets, you normally see rigid ductwork. But attics, crawl spaces, and roofs are the “sweet spots” for flexible ductwork. Plus, you shouldn’t see good ductwork anyway.

What is flexible ductwork made from? PVC, polyurethane, rubber, silicone, stainless steel, and neoprene-dipped polyester fabric are common types of flexible ductwork.

Rigid Ductwork

Rigid ductwork is made from different materials which are then jam-packed with insulation. Unlike flexible ductwork, it traps loud noises as air moves through it. Typical installation requires more pieces, meaning it can be a little more expensive to install and difficult to achieve vent cleaning. Types of rigid ductwork include:

Sheet Metal is the most common rigid ductwork, constructed from galvanized steel or aluminum. It is lightweight and mold resistant but can leak in areas where other pieces have been connected to it. Fiberglass ductwork is made of a central shell of sheet metal which is lined by fiberglass pieces inside and out. This helps the ductwork maintain a consistent temperature and deadens noises when the heating and cooling system operates. This kind of ductwork can be hard to clean thanks to its elaborate construction. This means it is more susceptible to trapping mold and spreading allergens.

Some rigid ductwork is made from fiberboard which uses compressed fiberglass fibers to trap air inside. The outside is normally coated in foil to combat moisture. It is very affordable, but its design can result in mildew issues. Its tough fibers may also cause friction in the air system, affecting HVAC efficiency.

Semi-Rigid Ductwork

Semi-rigid ducting is often considered to be the best type of ventilation ducting on the market and offers installers and DIY enthusiasts using semi-rigid ducting in their ventilation system many benefits. Good quality semi-rigid ducting will help your ventilation system operate at peak performance because it is known as a “zero leakage” ventilation system.

Semi-rigid ducting systems offer the installer more options by allowing them to switch between round and oval ducting without loss of hydraulic pressure or reduced system performance. Some homeowners and professional service technicians swear by semi-rigid ductwork because of its anti-static and antibacterial lining and it is extremely easy to clean once installed.

The ideal application for semi-rigid ducting is when you are using a whole-home ventilation system such as a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery unit, or MVHR. An MVHR is a system that constantly ventilates a property, prohibiting everyday moisture from settling on surfaces when it is vented to the outside, lessening the risk of cosmetic and structural damage that results from condensation and mold. The typical homeowner does not have an MVHR installed at their residence because of the added cost, but the price may be offset by health benefits and potential energy savings.

Which Air Ducts Are Easiest To Clean?

For professionals, all types of air ducts are "easier" to clean when compared to the average homeowner, but this is due to knowledge, years of experience, and access to tools and supplies. While flexible ductwork is all the rage today, they are a bear to clean. Dust, dirt, and other particulates naturally grip onto the ribs and material used to make the duct flexible, making it a challenge to clean them properly.

In most cases, rigid air ducts are easiest for vent cleaning, followed by their semi-rigid cousins. Flat, hard surfaces and 90-degree turns are easier to work with.

Can You Clean Air Ducts Yourself?

Nothing is stopping a homeowner from cleaning ductwork on his or her own. With effort, you may find one or two worthwhile tips online to help you through the process, but the fact of the matter is DIY duct cleaning is problematic due to:

  • Lack of Knowledge
  • Lack of specialized equipment
  • Lack of time, and
  • Lack of needed cleaning supplies

In virtually every case, it is always a better idea to go with trained professionals.

Go With a Professional Service

If you suspect you need air duct cleaning – perhaps your allergies are acting up, or you find yourself sneezing or coughing – then it is time to call a professional. For more than 40 years, Steve’s Carpet Care & Restoration has served homeowners in Boulder, Westminster, and elsewhere, offering expertise in vent cleaning, carpet cleaning, and other services at reasonable prices. Drop us a note or call us today at 303.530.4900 to arrange a home inspection.

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