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NJ AIR QUALITY BLOG

Air Duct Cleaning Service Call During The Coronavirus Pandemic

ByAllen Czermak

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Paige Roberts is a sixty-five year old homeowner in Cranford, New Jersey. She had begun to notice the build up of dust within the grates of the floor register. When she would do her weekly chores which included vacuuming, Paige kept on wondering as to why the dust kept on building up. With the warmer weather coming, she had wanted to turn on her central air conditioning system but was hesitant to do so due to the constant build up of dust on the floor registers.

Just three years ago, her husband Brian passed away from heart complications. Their only son Gary was living in Freehold, New Jersey, and was married with a family of his own. After the funeral he had promised his mom that whenever there was something needed he would always be available for her. With that in mind, Paige picked up the phone and called her son and explained to him the constant problem of the buildup of dust on the ac grills and registers. He responded to her, “Mom, I think it’s time to get your air ducts cleaned”. Gary called up a local air duct cleaning service in New Jersey, and scheduled an appointment for early June.

Gary told his mother that all was taken care of and someone would be coming to clean the air duct in her home. At that point, Paige asked her son, “Is it safe to have an air duct cleaning service call during the coronavirus pandemic?”. Gary wasn’t really sure and had made up that he would pick up his mom during the home air vent cleaning. The air duct cleaning company had told him that the service guy would be wearing protective gear and had recently tested negative for COVID-19. Once the HVAC system was thoroughly cleaned and the men had left, Paige would return home.

Am I Allowed To Have a Home Service Call During COVID-19?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer of yes or no. What we do know is that following the CDC guidelines has led to flattening the curve in NJ. This would include proper social distancing when the technician comes to make a repair or clean the ducts in your home. It’s about keeping each other safe, both the homeowner and service provider. With the proper safety precautions taken and no one is infected with the virus, one needs to assess the risk versus benefit.

Does The Repair or Service Need to Happen Now?

Some of the questions homeowners have to ask are, “How vital is it that this repair takes place now?” or “What happens if I push off this installation until next year?”. If you are dealing with a broken HVAC system or appliance, then obviously it needs to be taken care of now. But if you are thinking about whether or not to splurge on a new appliance when the current one is still working, I would say to hold off.

I myself am contemplating whether or not to get a new HVAC system and water heater installed. Both of them are more than twenty years old and have little life left. But they are currently functioning at their best capacity. Yes, we do sometimes run out of hot water and on a very hot day it’s a little difficult to cool the house but generally they work. With this said, I am going to try and hold out to avoid having extra people in my home. Everyone needs to make their proper risk assessment and determine if the house service call is really necessary.

Homeowner & Service Provider Are At Risk

Hopefully, during the coronavirus quarantine, we all work on ourselves and have begun to start thinking of others first. In the case of a house call, let us do our best to make sure our home is safe for anyone to walk into.

  • Ask the company if the service man is symptom free.
  • Clean the area thoroughly with a disinfectant cleaner.
  • Always wear gloves and a mask.
  • Clear the area from obstacles to make the least amount of touch points.
  • Make a path for the person as to where they can and cannot go.
  • Have hand soap and hand sanitizer readily available.
  • Maintain a safe six foot distance throughout the visit.
  • If you plan on tipping the worker, leave it on the floor in a sealed envelope.
  •  Don’t unnecessarily hang around the technician.

Now that we did our best to protect the service man, it is time to protect ourselves. All of the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 can be found at CDC.gov and are updated daily. Once the technician has left your home, let the area sit for a couple of hours and then begin the disinfection process. Take off your gloves and face mask and throw them in the garbage and don on a new set. Clean all floors and surfaces with disinfectant cleaner and open the windows to air out your home. Go over the workplace a few times and the area should now be disinfected.

What Happens When a Home or Commercial Space Undergoes an Air Duct Cleaning?

Unlike appliance repair men, air duct cleaning experts always need to be in protective gear during the cleaning process. This was true before COVID-19 and will be the case well after the whole pandemic is history. When cleaning HVAC ducts, lots of dust and bacteria are exposed to the service workers and breathing them in can be harmful to their respiratory systems. That is why they are required to wear a protective N95 mask during the air vent cleaning process. Not only are they protecting themselves but they are protecting customers like you as well.

Guidance From The AIHA For At Home Service Providers

The country is antsy to get back to work and the American Industrial Hygiene Association has published a journal of guidance for these workers. The AIHA is not affiliated with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) but is still used as a resource for these tradespeople. Some of these home service providers include electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, carpenters, landscape workers, household cleaners/maid service, painters, pest control specialists, computer repair technicians, appliance repair technicians, telecommunications technicians, and air duct cleaners.

Tradespeople Need To Be Aware of High-touch Surfaces

When a service repair man enters a home they are bound to come in contact with high-touch surface areas and need to be cognizant to sanitize before and afterwards. The best situation would be if the customer would keep a clear path to allow the tradesman to come in without needing to touch these high-touch surface areas. This is highly challenging when electricians come into a resident’s home to make an installation or a fix. Light switches, and outlets should be wiped down prior to the technician arriving at the home. Just in case, carry some disinfectant wipes, and have the repairman do it themselves.

Make Use of Electronic Payment Systems

Service providers all need to get paid when completing their job. We are used to writing them out a check, giving cash, or handing a credit card to pay the bill. This can all be avoided by making use of electronic payment systems. QuickBooks by Intuit, allows users to send an invoice from one mobile device to the next. The customer could enter their credit card or bank information without interacting with the service man. If some paperwork needs to be signed, make use of applications like DocuSign, that allow users to sign documents without handling any hard paper. It may take some time for older people to adapt but those are the ones that need the most protection.

Final Words

We are all living in challenging times during the coronavirus pandemic. What’s happening behind the scenes is truly something amazing, we are all beginning to care for one another. Perhaps this is a silver lining and would help better a society which was once all self centered. For a young family to stay home and out of school is a gesture of kindness to the elderly lady down the block who is an asthmatic. Chances are that the self-imposed quarantine has not only flattened the curve but has saved lives. With a booming senior population it’s more than just a nice gesture not to expose them to COVID-19, it’s about keeping them alive. This was a generation which helped America prosper and we all need to be grateful to them. The least we could do is to maintain a safe distance during the reopening of our economy.

Just because we need to be socially distant does not mean we can’t wave to a senior and let them know how much we care about them. If you have a neighbor who can’t get out to the grocery store, give them a call and ask if they need anything. Chances are they could use some bread, eggs, and milk. They were always there for us and now it’s our turn to be there for them. Stay safe, we will all get through this together.

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