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Museum Duct Cleaning Case Study

Posted on September 12, 2017
by Melissa Asplund

Air duct cleaning is not just about cleaning.  Ensuring that proper care is taken to protect articles in the room and surrounding areas is vital to a successful air duct-cleaning job.  Recently, Airtek Indoor Air Solutions performed an extremely sensitive duct cleaning operation at a museum, including two storage rooms where rare and antique artwork is preserved. The Airtek team had to efficiently clean the air ducts without contaminating the artwork.  

Fine artwork has to be maintained at a certain humidity level and temperature; therefore, the air handlers could not be shut down for cleaning purposes as a normal air duct cleaning would entail. When the Airtek crew arrived on site they met with the museum on-site staff and contractor to discuss the process and ensure that the client’s concerns were met. The team began by preparing the space, including draping plastic over all freestanding objects so that they were protected.  However, the rooms contained cabinets where artwork was preserved. These cabinets could not be completely covered with plastic as this could cause the temperature to rise to a dangerous level for the artwork. To address this, Airtek suspended the plastic draping, leaving a one-foot gap all the way around to allow for air circulation. Since the air conditioner had to remain running, Airtek isolated reoccurring air by zoning off at the fire dampers. Manually shutting the damper blocked the airflow in that section. They worked in 15-minute sections, but had to wait another 15-minutes before moving onto the next section to make certain the temperature did not rise. They alternated between the return side and the supply side to give breaks to the system and keep the circulation normal. After closing the fire damper on the supply side, they cleaned about six feet of ductwork then re-opened the damper before going to the other side. They did the same thing on the return section by closing off the damper, cleaning six feet of ductwork then re-opening the damper.  They went back and forth between the two sides until the job was complete. The team cleaned 20 feet in each of the two rooms in the preservation area.

During the entire cleaning process, the ductwork was put under negative air pressure. This, combined with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum, allowed Airtek to capture even the smallest possible dust, debris, or contaminants. The team agitated the square ducts with rotor brushes by hand as the HEPA filter in the vacuum used negative air to catch the particles. The entire unit consisted of multiple smaller systems within, and the crews had to work around the AC humidifier systems. There were moisture tech detectors wired throughout the room, which were essentially alarms for the moisture system. An alarm would set off if elevated levels of moisture were detected. The Airtek team was not permitted to bring any water or liquid into the room – even drinking water. The cleaning procedure took six hours to complete.

After the cleaning, all plastic containments were removed and the registers from the ductwork were taken to a wash area outside. The registers were then dried using pressure air. The finishing touches of HEPA vacuuming the floors and final wipe down of the area concluded the project. Total tear down and final inspection took an hour and a half to complete. The Airtek team was commended for their precision and care during the pendency of this project.

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