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HVAC and Duct Cleaning: Getting Rid of Soot and Ash

Posted on March 21, 2022
by Vinay Panday

Soot and ash can cause major issues in HVAC systems and ducts. Here’s how to deal with it and help your system work at its best.
After the fire and cleanup, many people don’t realize that soot and ash could still be inside their properties or homes. These two products can build up in our HVAC systems and ducts, causing major issues to the system itself and the people inside the property. That is why most people who experience fires need to contact an HVAC expert to see if soot and ash are lurking in their systems.
Today, we walk through everything you need to know about soot and ash in your ducts and HVAC system: how it gets there, the problems it causes, how to clean it out and what can be done to help your HVAC system recover and work properly after fire damage.

What Causes Soot and Ash Buildup
Soot and ash buildup is most commonly associated with fires. Of course, when a fire rips through a house or building, the resulting ash, smoke, and soot can go everywhere, especially into our HVAC systems and ducts. Even if the fire is only in one part of the building or home, the HVAC system can actually move it around the entire space without the occupants knowing.
Fires inside the building aren’t the only cause. In fact, many homes and buildings today are experiencing a lot of buildup due to wildfires that don’t even reach their properties. The smoke from these fires can easily get into our HVAC systems and ducts, which can cause a similar buildup that will need to be addressed.

Why Soot and Ash are Dangerous
The most immediate danger that comes with buildup is the health risk. Breathing in these compounds can cause major issues, including asthma and bronchitis, coronary heart disease and even some cancers. Because of their immune systems, the elderly and infants are at particular risk for these health complications.

Because our HVAC systems move air, they can actually be part of the problem instead of the solution if they aren’t maintained after being exposed to a lot of soot and ash. The compounds can get moved around the building or home, causing exposure even in places that might not have experienced the fire directly. It’s one of the main reasons why you should always get your ducts cleaned after a fire. It’s the best way to keep the people using the building or home safe.
Of course, soot and ash aren’t just bad for us. They are bad for our HVAC systems and ducts as well. In fact, HVAC systems that aren’t properly cleaned and maintained after a large amount of soot and ash have gone through them can encounter many problems. This is true even if the system hasn’t been exposed to fire directly.

When soot and ash get into your system, it can clog up everything from the filters to the coils in your air conditioner units. Even a thin layer of dirt or grime on coils specifically can lead to major drops in efficiency. That will drive up your monthly bills. If the filters are dirty, they will be rendered ineffective and make the air pass through them more slowly, leading to even bigger drops in efficiency. This is on top of failing to properly filter the air.

Finally, there is the issue of higher refrigerant pressure, which can lead to failing components. Soot and ash lower air quality, compounded by people closing windows to run their air conditioners. The result is more pressure on the air conditioners, and that leads to part failure.

How to Clean Your HVAC System & Ducts
A simple inspection by a trained and certified expert can help you determine if your HVAC system is in need of a good cleaning. HVAC professionals understand the complexities of your system and can see what damage has occurred and what needs to happen to reverse any potential damage due to soot and ash.
Once the damage has been assessed, your HVAC professional can perform some maintenance and duct cleanings. This will help clear our all of the buildup inside the system. They can also ensure that the filters in the system are cleaned out or replaced as well, improving the air quality to keep the occupants safe.

How to Keep Your Ducts and HVAC System Clean

Now that your HVAC system and ducts have been cleaned by professionals, you will need to get regular maintenance to keep it working at its best. This can be set up with many HVAC professionals offering duct cleaning. They can create a schedule for regular maintenance and cleanings. The added benefit is that your HVAC professional can get ahead of bigger issues, catching them early before they become expensive repairs.
Your HVAC professional can also perform regular maintenance like replacing filters, ensuring your system works at maximum efficiency to keep your monthly bills down. They can even recommend upgrades to improve that efficiency further, especially if parts of your system were damaged in the fire or particularly old.
One final tip: if your home has experienced fires or wildfires, you should help your system by opening the windows for at least an hour to get some proper ventilation. This can help get a head start on filtration and air quality before the system starts to run.

Soot and ash are two byproducts of fires and wildfires that we often don’t think about after the flames have been extinguished. Yet the buildup of both in the ducts and HVAC system of any property can cause major issues, including health problems.
If your property has recently experienced a fire or been near a wildfire, no matter how seemingly minor, it’s important that you contact trained HVAC experts for inspection and duct cleaning. They can help determine the extent of the damage and do the necessary cleaning, repairs, and replacements needed to get your system working at its absolute best. By using trained HVAC professionals, you are ensuring the safety of the property occupants and preventing major issues with your HVAC system in the future. That means you can keep people safe and save money in the long run, all at the same time. Airtek is an experienced indoor air services contractor that has been creating a healthy efficient indoor environment for buildings and properties across the West Coast for 30 years. If soot and ash has created VOC’s and affected your living area, schedule a service now

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