Disaster Loss Remediation – Insurance Restoration Duct Cleaning

Insurance restoration duct cleaning is a complicated process. Absolute removal of contaminants such as smoke, mold, soot, fire extinguisher dust and water from the duct work is crucial to the restoration of the duct work. This is a necessary step to return the home to its pre-disaster condition.

The following is the list of steps we use to complete insurance loss remediation:

  1. Investigation
  2. Evaluation
  3. Remediation

The above three steps apply to every type of loss remediation.

Fires

Removal of soot and smoke odors located throughout the HVAC system is a necessary step to bring the ductwork back to proper working condition.

Step one in the process is investigation; trying to find out what was damaged by the fire. We need to determine whether the fire was in the duct work itself, such as the blower motor or a booster fan in the duct work. If this were the case, it would cause soot to blow throughout the duct work.  Did the fire occur in the walls? Wall cavities are commonly used as a cost savings measure by heating contractors as a return air duct for the HVAC system. Ceilings in commercial buildings are used for return air, commonly known as plenum ceilings.  Or a fire could be in wall near where the duct work is located.   Was it a kitchen fire? A fire place burning out of control or a damper left closed? Could it be a dryer vent fire caused by a clogged exhaust vent or defective dryer? As you can see, the list can go on and on.

Step two in the process is to evaluate what actions are necessary to mitigate the problems caused by the fire.

Step three is the remediation.  Soot removal and removal of smoke odors located throughout the system is crucial to the restoration of the heating and cooling system. In situations where charred wood remains as part of the structure, it is important to fully remove these charred areas. This is a necessary step to return the home to its pre-disaster condition.

Fire Extinguisher Dust

Removal of fire extinguisher dust after a fire or accidental discharge of fire extinguisher is very important. According to major manufacturers of Fire Extinguishers Material Safety Data Sheet, the following is listed as the results of exposures:

Inhalation of dusts may cause respiratory irritation.

Avoid contact with the skin. May cause skin irritation.

Why is insurance restoration duct cleaning so important in this situation?

The dust and soot located inside the duct work, much like insulation, absorbs odors. When a fire occurs, the smoke odors are absorbed by the dust. The only way to remove these odors is to remove the source, in this case, the layer of dust.  Removal of soot left inside the duct work by the fire is another reason to get the ducts cleaned. The soot will continuously blow out of the vents into the air you breathe for months to come. It will coat everything, the furniture, the walls, clothing, everything, basically contaminating the home every time the heating system comes on. Also the airborne soot is inhaled by the occupants. Soot is known to aggravate asthma and the lungs of children and the elderly.

Dry Ice Blasting of Duct work

Burnt ductwork- if duct work is extremely damaged and soot is not removable through standard methods, through the process of dry ice blasting, we are now able to bring duct work back to like new condition. In the past, this would have had to be removed and completely replaced at exorbitant cost.

Dry ice blasting –This process is especially good at removing soot, burnt plastics and other buildups left in duct work after a fire.  Return duct work in residential and commercial systems use wall cavities and open ceiling plenums to convey air back to the air handler unit. After a fire where wood has been charred, it is important to remove any damaged wood from the airway to totally mitigate the odors that permeate the air stream.  There have been numerous cases in the past that required the removal of duct work or walls be restructured to remove this damaged duct work. With the innovation of dry ice blasting, we are now able to use duct work that in the past had to be replaced. This is a huge savings to customers and insurance companies.

Floods and Sewage Backups

The major concern with flooding is to remove any water inside the duct work before mold grows, causing a health hazard. Sewage backup introduces another host of issues, odor, viruses, bacteria and solids that must be addressed.

Step one in the process is investigation. Has the water migrated throughout the duct work? Is it limited to the flood area or has it traveled to other areas? Has any water entered the actual air handler unit or the return lines? Are the trunk lines insulated and has the water penetrated the insulation? Has water penetrated to the insulation of the flex duct? Any areas where two pieces of flex duct come together or any damaged areas are particularly vulnerable to water infiltration. Once the insulation between the layers that make up the ducting material become exposed to water, it becomes impossible to clean and must be replaced. All the same concerns listed above also apply to sewage back ups with a couple of additional concerns. Are there paper products, or solids, etc that have migrated into the duct work? Has the gray water gotten into the air handler unit which can cause problems with the electrical system?

Step two, evaluation, requires us to physically open the duct work and determine whether water or sewage has actually penetrated the duct work and air handler unit. If the flex duct has been compromised, what sections need replacing? What is the actual amount of water or solids that are present in the ducts? If solids are present in the flex duct, it is more cost effective to remove and replace the lines than to attempt to clean them?

Step three is the remediation. All water must be removed from the duct work via pump or dehumidification and the duct work must be dry before the actual duct cleaning procedure can begin. All solids must be removed also.

Why is duct cleaning so important in this situation?

When water or sewage enters the air conveyance system of a home, all existing dust and debris inside the duct work becomes a breeding ground for hazardous mold, bacteria and viruses. Any dust or debris that was present in the HVAC system before the loss occurred must be removed from the system. These materials become contaminated immediately and pose serious health issues, aside from the issues created from the sewage itself.  Simply removing the water or gray water does not eliminate the threat of these contaminants. The importance of sanitizing in this type of loss is paramount. Sanitizing will not only neutralize any odors, but the product is a biocide. It kills any germs, bacteria and viruses present in the ducts. Many homeowners are not aware that heating contractors commonly use wall and floor cavities as part of the return air “ducts” for their HVAC system. This is an accepted practice, unfortunately, when water damage occurs, these cavities easily flood creating ideal conditions for microbial growth.

Furnace Malfunctions or Puff backs

There are five things that cause furnace malfunctions and puff backs.

  1. Delayed ignition is defined as fuel entering the combustion chamber before the ignition starts. This allows excess fuel to build up and when ignition finally occurs it results in an explosion generating soot.
  2.  Pressure issues occur when the fuel pressure is either too high or too low. If the pressure is too high, it causes excessive fuel buildup in the combustion chamber causing a rich fire. If the pressure is too low, the fire is too lean, causing incomplete combustion.
  3. Clogged chimneys are caused by excessive soot build up or animals nesting in the flue which causes soot and carbon monoxide to back up into the home.
  4. Smoke pipe can become disconnected from the chimney or furnace due to vibration or improper installation causing soot and carbon dioxide to back up into the home.
  5. A Clogged heat exchanger is caused by improper burning of fuel or a clogged chimney which results in soot buildup.

 Step one in the process is investigation.  All of the malfunctions listed above result in the same problems relating to the duct work. They cause soot to be exhausted from the furnace that is drawn into the blower section and blown throughout the duct work.

Step two in the process is to evaluate how far the soot has permeated into the system and how severe the deposit levels of soot are inside the duct work. If the smoke pipe is the problem, has the pipe rusted away or are the screws missing? Can it just be screwed back together or is replacement necessary? If the chimney is clogged, we will inspect for the problem.  Is there a nest that needs to be removed and is it necessary for a cap to be installed? Is there an access panel for the heat exchanger or will one have to access it through the burner assembly?

Step three is the remediation. If the chimney is clogged, it is necessary to clean the chimney first before any ducts can be cleaned.  The smoke pipe must be reconnected before the ductwork can be cleaned also.  The other issues listed above must be addressed by a heating and cooling contractor before any duct cleaning is begun.

Why is duct cleaning so important in this situation?

It is important to remove all soot from the duct work. Soot can do a lot of damage to electronics, as a carbon based residual,  it  can short circuit computers, televisions, appliances and especially the computer controls in the furnace.  Inhalation of soot causes health issues as well.  It aggravates asthma and the lungs of the elderly and children.  Soot inside the ductwork will not just go away on its own. The soot will continuously blow out of the vents into the air you breathe for months to come. It will coat everything, the furniture, the walls, clothing, everything, basically contaminating the home every time the heating system comes on.

Advanced Furnace & Air Duct Cleaning, Inc.

Since 1964, Advanced Furnace & Air Duct Cleaning has helped over 90 restoration companies eradicate air contaminants. Our experienced team of professionals and modern equipment makes us a trusted partner for insurance companies statewide. When disaster strikes, count on us to be there with our fleet of 11 vacuum trucks with a super 16,000 CFMs of suction to eradicate all types of air contaminants. We’re approved by all insurance companies, so give us a call before you get started on your next job. We’ll make sure your customers are breathing easy once again.

We have serviced homes and businesses associated with the following Insurance Companies:

Aetna Casualty & Security

All State Insurance

American Reliance

Atlantic Insurance

C.N.A.

Chubb Group

Continental

Cumberland Mutual

Excelsior

Factory Mutual

Farm Family Mutual

Fireman’s Fund

Fitchburg Mutual

Foremost

Franklin Mutual

General Accident

Great American

Hanover

Harleysville

Hartford

Home

Ina-Cigna

Kemper

Liberty Mutual

Maryland Casual

Mercer Mutual

New Hampshire Insurance Co.

NJ Insurance Underwriters

NJ Manufacturers

North River

Ohio Casualty

Prudential

Reliance

Royal

Selective Insurance

St. Paul Fire Marine

State Farm

Travelers

U.S.A.A.

U.S.F. &G.

Warwick, Crum& Forster