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Which is Better at Cleaning Your Ductwork? Roto Brush or Truck Mounted Vacuum Systems

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Roto brush or truck mounted? Which is better at cleaning your duct work. We have the answers starting right now.

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Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning proudly serves Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding areas. Our service area includes Bexley, Blacklick, Canal Winchester, Columbus, Delaware, Dublin, Gahanna, Galena, Galloway, Grandview, Grove City, Hilliard, Lewis Center, New Albany, Obetz, Pataskala, Pickerington, Powell, Reynoldsburg, Sunbury, Upper Arlington, Westerville, Whitehall, and Worthington.

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Video Transcription

Roto brush or truck mounted? Which is better at cleaning your duct work. We have the answers starting right now.

Hi, I’m Isaac from Fire & Ice. As an indoor Air Quality technician, I have helped hundreds of Central Ohio homeowners breathe cleaner, healthier air inside their homes. And if you’re watching this video, you’ve probably come across an ad online or come across a duct cleaning company offering duct cleanings at a bargain. At Fire & Ice we believe in giving our customers as much information as possible and, in this video, we’re going to compare the difference between portable brush vacuum systems that are commonly used and our truck mounted vacuum system.

We’re also going to give you a live demonstration of both systems so that you can see the difference for yourself.

What’s included with a portable brush vacuum system?

A portable duct cleaning system is a self-contained vacuum consisting of three parts: the vacuum, rotating brush head, and hose. The unit is carried room by room and cleans the ductwork by inserting the roto brush into each vent. The issue is that the hose itself is 4-inches thick and cannot get into tight spaces or ductwork with a lot of bends and turns. When the brush is activated, it spins, violently stirring up all the debris inside the ductwork that the weaker vacuum won’t be able to capture. Not to mention it can even damage your ductwork as well. Even the largest portable system has a suction powered around 5,000 cubic feet per minute and will only go so far to suck up all that debris. When it’s all said and done, you’re likely left with the dust that was in your ductwork floating around in the house and not collected by the system. This is especially true if all the vents and registers aren’t covered prior to the duct cleaning.

What’s included with a truck mounted vacuum system?

At Fire & Ice we use a truck mounted vacuum on all of our duct cleanings. Why? Because it’s simply the only way to clean ductwork properly. A truck mounted system includes a 12,000 CFM gas powered vacuum mounted to our truck. Attached to the vacuum is a 10” hose that gets attached to your ductwork. The goal with this system is to put your entire ductwork system into negative pressure so all the dust and debris inside is sent directly to the vacuum on the truck. 

To do this, each vent is sealed and compressed air is shot into each vent and duct run to agitate and push the debris towards the vacuum. We also go the extra step with our duct cleanings to clean the evaporator coil and furnace blower which are known harbingers of bacteria and other nastiness. Not only will your ductwork be cleaned in the end but all dust and debris will be 100% removed from the home since the entire system will be under negative pressure during the entire cleaning. And a disinfectant can be added afterwards to take the cleaning to the next level.

Now that we know the difference between a portable brush vacuum system and a truck mounted system. Let’s put them to the test and see how they compare.

Live Demonstration Portable Vacuum System

What we have here is just sort of an example of what a duct system would look like. So imagine here on this side, this is the main supply trunk that is attached to your furnace. And then towards the end of this is going to be our six-inch round pipe, which is pretty typical for a standard home.

This six inch round pipe runs all the way to the vents that are sitting at the bottom of your floors. The goal is to get everything sucked up here through this hose and out to our roto brush. So we'll go ahead and start this demonstration now.

So here at the very end is our hose where we see the vacuum pressure. Now, it's not very high, but it is pulling air. Let's see how it works.

The typical issues that we find here, is that as we're operating the roto brush, we have the hose going, the vacuum going, and we have the brush going. So as I continue to try and push here, we have this issue where we're stuck and I can't get to the full extent of the end of this round pipe.

And we do hear the vacuum. And we can tell that there is still some debris that is being pulled by the vacuum. What we see here is that the roto brush in reality, what it's doing is just really pushing the debris towards the trunk line and not really pulling anything through the vacuum. And then now, again, finding ourselves in a situation where we're kind of stuck at this corner.

And because of the excess force that we have to use, there's a potential to damage your ductwork as well, because right now we're stuck at a corner and I had to use excessive force to be able to pull this out. So this can cause a potential issue with your ductwork.

Special Considerations: Dampers in your ductwork

Another thing that we wanted to do in this demonstration is that although we did not have this in the round pipe, typically what you will see in duct work in your home are these dampers. A lot of times you'll see this little lever right here sticking on the outside of the round pipe when you go down into your basement and see your ductwork.

It's attached to this circle here, which is a damper, basically allowing it to change the airflow. You can either have it parallel with the duct work itself, which is allowing the airflow to go through, or you can have it turn so that you can stop the airflow. The reason why I bring this up is because you will typically find this in your home, in your ductwork.

And if we're trying to move a very large hose just like this one, which is four inches in diameter, if you're trying to move a large hose into your ductwork, we will run into this situation where we we run into a damper, either damaging the damper and damaging your ductwork or not being able to get to the full extent of the round pipe, meaning that the job is not being done properly.

So now that we've given the demonstration and shown you what this looks like inside the round pipe itself, and I've given you the issue, the fact that what it does, it really just pushes everything backwards towards the trunk line. Obviously, we would want to focus on the trunk line and try to remove everything out of the trunk line. Let's see how the roto rush behaves with this space and see if it actually pulls up all this debris and dirt that's inside.

And now that we have the roto brush inside the trunk itself, let's go ahead and rotate the brush and see if we can pull anything inside the vacuum. Okay. So I'd like to point out the fact that yes, we had the vacuum going in there and yes, we had the brush moving. But really all we're doing is just pushing everything backwards. 

As you can see, the dirt went back into the round pipe that we just finished pushing into the trunk itself. And on top of that, there are all these crevices. And even through this hole that we've cut into the trunk line, we actually have dirt and dust actually being pushed back, again, into the living space. It was even coming back through the vent itself. So really what we're seeing is that the roto brush itself is really just helping push the debris back everywhere. Except for the vacuum itself. 

Special Considerations: Excess Ductwork Contamination

Now, one of the things that I would like to point out and all transparency in all honesty, is that we don't run into too many houses where there is this much dust in one particular area and one house.

But there are several occasions where. Yes, and very older homes that have never had any dust cleaning whatsoever and places that have had a lot of pets, a lot of people living there over the years. Yes. We run into situations where, yes, sometimes the ductwork is like this. 

The reason why I bring this up is that, yes, in the cases where we do run into ductwork, where it is this contaminated, when you have large clumps like this, what it's actually creating is it's actually just kind of plugging up the vacuum itself, meaning that we're really not doing a whole lot of work in there except for just moving debris around.

We want to get rid of that debris. We don't want to spread it everywhere. We want it to go into a vacuum system, a real working vacuum system. And clearly, this is not doing the job that we want to see done in your home. Now we want to show you our truck mounted system and its effect on the dust debris inside your ductwork.

Live Demonstration Truck Mounted System

What we have here right now. Is basically what would be set up in your home. We have an eight inch hole that has been cut into the duct work so that we can attach our vacuum hose, which is right here. Basically, this vacuum hose is going to go and attach directly to your duct work, your trunk, and we will hook it up like so.

With us having this connected to the trunk line here, the other thing that we would do is that we want to cover all your vents with this clear blue tape here. That way, when we actually start blowing the compressed air inside, it's not being pushed back out into the living space, but actually being pushed forward directly towards the direction of the vacuum. 

We also have a one inch hole cut into the side of our duct work here at the trunk. Where we can put our agitation tools. And be able to sweep everything backwards towards the direction of the vacuum. Now that we have everything set up, let's go ahead and turn our truck on and show you just how powerful our truck mounted system is.

Alright, so we have our vacuum and just to kind of show you how powerful a vacuum is, I've got some nasty dirt in my left hand and we'll see how powerful the vacuum is, where it's just like that. So now with the vacuum being on, we want to attach it directly to the trunk. 

Now, even though our vacuum is extremely powerful, we don't only rely on the power of the vacuum, but we also rely on the power of compressed air. So the second part of our ducting process is using compressed air so that we can blow all the debris that's sitting at the bottom of the vent through the round pipe and then from the round pipe all the way back to the trunk. We will sweep the trunk line and we get everything through the vacuum. So let's take a look at how powerful our compressed air is.

So now what we want to do, now that we've blown the compressed air through the vent, we want to continue pushing everything that's inside the ductwork, inside the round pipe and get it all the way through to the trunk line. 

Attached to our compressor line. Here are two five foot air rods that allow the compressed air to flow through the rod itself.  And it's going to go to the end of this tip here, which is a forward air pushing head. So basically, it’s been designed so that the air could be pushed forward. And our goal here is to get all of this dirt and debris pushed directly to the direction of the vacuum itself.

All right. Now, as you can see, we pushed everything that was sitting into the round pipe. We've blown our compressed air and shot it back towards the direction of the trunk line itself. Now, what we have to do is agitate whatever's left sitting inside the trunk line and make sure that we get that back into our vacuum. For this portion of our cleaning, what we want to use is what's called our agitation whip. 

Basically, we will attach this directly towards the end of our rods, and when we use the compressed air, these fingers are going to fly about agitating all of the dust that's inside the ductwork and allowing it to be pushed back towards the direction of the vacuum itself. So let's take a look and see how that works.

What we're going to do now, because we don't only focus on one spot, we're going to move in different parts of the trunk itself to make sure that we get to everything. So now I'm going to go towards the front of the trunk line and start pushing everything towards the direction of the vacuum.

All right. So we've shown you the difference between our roto brush and our truck mounted system. And I think it's pretty clear which system actually is the most thorough system for your duct work.

What are the next steps?

I hope by now you have a better understanding of the differences between the portable brush vacuum systems and the truck mounted system we use here at Fire & Ice. If you’d like to schedule a duct cleaning for your home, click the schedule service button at the top of the screen. Thank you for watching and we look forward to making your day better.

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