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Do It Yourself: Duct cleaning can backfire

Q. We made the mistake of having the fiberglass air-conditioner ducts in our condo cleaned. Now fiberglass particles are floating out of the vents and into the air of the rooms.

We have made some inquiries of duct manufacturers and others and have rejected most of the suggestions given as impractical. Do you know of any vent filters we could use to keep out the fiberglass, or do you have other suggestions?

A. Homeowners should be cautious about cleaning any type of air ducts, even metal ones, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

I’m not qualified to discuss the possible health implications of cleaning fiberglass ducts, except to say that there is a long-standing controversy about the possible perils of breathing fiberglass fibers.

As you might know, people working with fiberglass insulation have long been advised to wear dust masks to avoid breathing loose fibers. In my opinion, any kind of treatment that would agitate your ducts might just make the situation worse.

Filters on some of your air vents, in a couple of most-used rooms, could help. Don’t put filters on all your vents, since it might create a damaging load on the air conditioner.

Vent filter sources on the Internet include (use a search engine and the words Air Vent Filters) and WEB Products (visit and use their search feature or 800- number for information).

Remove filters periodically to clean or change them. In addition, a high-quality, filter-type air cleaner would help remove tiny particles. In time, the ducts will probably stop shedding particles.

As for duct cleaning in general, here is a quote from an in-depth EPA report on the subject: “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts.”

The entire document, which answers many questions about duct cleaning, can be read by visiting, clicking on Advanced Search and typing Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?

Q. Can you give us some information on sump pumps operated by water pressure? Our house is 80 years old and we do get water in the basement, so a sump pump seems like a good idea.

A. Most sump pumps are either operated by electricity, which means they won’t work during a power outage, or by water power supplied by the home’s plumbing system.

Your home must be served by a municipal water system, so there is water supply even if the power is out.

Water-powered pumps cost more than electric pumps. Before you consider water power, you should have an experienced sump-pump installer check your plumbing to make sure it is suitable for such an installation.

Some people prefer to use an electric pump, and back it up with a second pump that can be operated by a battery if the power goes out or the main pump has a mechanical failure.

Backup pumps are not needed with water-powered pumps.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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