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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    8

    Ducts just cleaned today... Flex duct inner lining ripped and making noise. :(

    Hi guys. Looking for advice on which direction to go next here. We just had COIT out to clean our ducts in our house. The house was built in 2008, so they shouldn't have been very dirty, but we suspected that the builders had left a lot of junk in the ducts, like sawdust, chunks of drywall, etc. Before COIT left they showed us what they pulled out of the ducts, and we were right. Plenty of drywall, some pieces of copper wiring, and worst of all, bits of fiberglass insulation. Anyway I was happy for about 2 minutes after they left, until I went around examining the ducts they had cleaned.

    I heard a noise coming from two of the overhead return ducts that I had not heard before. Sounded like something was loose inside the duct and rolling around. So I took the grill off one of the returns and stuck my hand in there. There are holes in the plastic inner lining of the flex duct that are "flapping in the wind" so to speak, making that noise. I can stick my hand through the holes in the lining and feel the paper backing of the insulation on the outside of the duct.

    And of course, this is only the part that I can see/hear. There could be more rips in the lining further back that I just am not aware of.

    First of all, how big a deal is this? Should I call COIT and demand they replace my ducts? Or should I just put some packing tape over the tears to keep them from flapping and making noise? I'm just not sure how big an issue this is, but needless to say I am not happy regardless. Before the cleaning I had perfectly fine, intact ducts, just in need of a cleaning. Now I have clean ducts that are obviously damaged and possibly in need of replacement. What to do...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    SE Washington
    Posts
    495
    id call them, show them, insist they repair if in fact they are responsible
    Total Energy Management, inc

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Savannah, Ga/H.H. Island, S.C.
    Posts
    1,276
    This is a prime example of why I am not a supporter of duct cleaning. The ducts end up in worse shape than prior due to an untrained/impatient duct cleaning tech. The inner flex liners are about as think as a trash bag and can easily be torn by the brushes if used incorrectly. It sounds as if your flexible ducts are now damaged. I would call the company who performed the cleaning and get someone back out to inspect.

    In most states, you don't even have to be licensed in HVAC to perform duct cleanings. That is ridiculous. That's like letting a truck driver perform a colonoscopy!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Arizona
    Posts
    4,235
    They should NOT be using brushes in flex ducting, they should be doing an air sweep with the system under negative pressure.
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    Make your influence uniquely far-reaching.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    8
    They used an air compressor, with some sort of whip-like attachment on it. Basically as the air left the hose, it whipped around like a firehose out of control. I think it was made of soft foam or something.

    However the air compressor hose itself was very heavy and very stiff. The air return ducts in the ceiling are elbowed at 90 degrees before they attach to the flex duct. I think what happened was when he tried to feed the hose up there, the hose itself grabbed onto the inner lining and ripped it. I took a video with my phone, if I can just figure out how to post it. I'll probably just link it here in a few.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    8
    Well I got videos on my phone, but I can't get them to upload to YouTube.

    Anyway, COIT sent some people back today. They came in, went straight to the attic. I asked them if they wanted to see the damage, and one of the guys said sure, so I showed him the two returns that were making noise. I was going to show him the video on my phone but he didn't seem interested--just took my word for it, apparently. The guy in the attic looked at what size flex ducts were used, and said he would order the necessary sections and replace them. The entire visit was probably 3 minutes. I'm sure that was on purpose.

    Now I'm thinking that instead of letting COIT replace just those two ducts, I should have ALL of my flex ducts professionally inspected and replaced by an HVAC company that knows what the hell they are doing, and then send the bill to COIT. But of course this will cause a confrontation with COIT, as I'm sure they'd rather save a ton of money and just replace the two return ducts themselves.

  7. #7
    They don't sound like a very professional outfit. Try to get what services they will perform on paper, let them do their job, and if they don't do it right to where you have to go to someone else to do it, keep that original contract so you can get COIT to pay the other company for doing something they couldn't.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    8
    Yeah, COIT called today to say they were on their way with the replacement ducts. I told them to hold off. Called the general manager, and told him I wanted to have an HVAC company inspect and replace the ducts. We discussed it a while, and I agreed to give COIT an opportunity to do the inspection/replacement. However I will be there for the inspection to see what they see, because that is an obvious conflict of interest, inspecting your own work for damage. Also I told them I would have an HVAC friend of mine look at their work after they are done, and if it's not done right, I will not be satisfied. But the general manager said the guy they sent out yesterday was a certified HVAC guy.

    What do you think, should I let COIT try to fix it? The manager said if we went with an HVAC company they would have to submit a bid to COIT for the work.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    8
    Also, how difficult is it to replace just the flex duct part of an existing installation? For my own peace of mind, I would actually feel better if I did the installation myself instead of letting them do it. Is this feasible? I'm pretty handy... Built my own shed from the foundation up.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Citrus County, Florida
    Posts
    1,399
    Flex duct must be installed so that it is stretched out, sealed with mastic or approved tape. This tape is not the regular tape you see in the hardware store. Flex duct must not sag. There are specs that must be followed. I am not a proponent of duct cleaning flex ducts.
    Doug

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Savannah, Ga/H.H. Island, S.C.
    Posts
    1,276
    Now you want all ducts replaced? That's a little much. Sounds to me as if the company is being fair and is trying to rectify the issue at hand. Let them at least attempt to repair, if you still have issues - then call another company.

    Duct work should be installed by a trained professional only. Improper installation could result in air flow problems that could lead to other component failures. Not a DIY job.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    8
    I never said I wanted all the ducts replaced; I want them all inspected to see which ones were damaged, rather than just assuming that only the two I heard are the only ones that were damaged, which is the way things were going before I talked to the manager today. I am giving them the opportunity to fix it, but I will inspect their work as it's being done and afterward.

    Interestingly, the manager I spoke to was not surprised this happened. He said it is a rare but regular occurrence, affecting about 1% of all cleanings they do. I'm not sure how much I believe that statistic, and a lot of it probably has to do with owners not being as diligent or observant. If I hadn't heard that faint rustling sound in the return I would have never suspected anything was wrong. He said the only sure way to avoid damaging flex duct liners would be for COIT to refuse to clean flex ducts, which would be "throwing the baby out with the bath water," as he said. In other words COIT considers the possibility of damaging and having to replace your ducts an acceptable risk.

    Or more accurately, COIT considers the possibility of an owner noticing that a duct has been damaged and complaining about it as an acceptable risk.

    So if you have flex ducts and have had them cleaned, check them out. I found I could stick my cellphone video camera up into a vent and look down a good portion of the flex duct, which clearly showed me the damage.

    I do know that after this experience I will never have the flex ducts cleaned again. If I feel that they get dirty enough to warrant it, I will simply have them replaced. May cost more but if they're going to be damaged during cleaning anyway, then may as well go that route to begin with.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Arizona
    Posts
    4,235
    That's what happens when a carpet cleaning company does duct cleaning. We have been doing duct cleaning for nineteen years and have never damaged ducting.
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