Air Duct Maintenance

What to do When an Animal Dies in Your Air Ducts

It isn’t something most homeowners like to think about, but it is more common than you might think.. From time to time, small animals work their way into your home’s duct work. Attics, basements, and wall spaces are attractive places small animals to hide, and air ducts are perfect pathways for them to move around and even nest.

These animals can wreak all kinds of havoc on your air ducts. They often scratch and chew holes in the duct walls, allowing air to escape. These holes will negatively affect the energy efficiency of your system and drive up your heating and cooling bill.

Many small animals also leave behind feces in your air ducts. This can cause a breeding ground for mold and disease that could negatively impact your family’s health.

When an Animal Dies in Your Ducts

However, if one of these small animals dies inside your duct work, it can be an incredibly unpleasant experience. The smell of the rotting animal will circulate through your home every time the system kicks on.

Decomposition of the body will take about a week for small animals like rats or mice, although it may take even longer for a larger animal like a squirrel or possum, with the smell lingering for up to a month. Not only is the smell of a rotting carcass difficult to bear, it also attracts maggots and insects, and promotes mold, mildew and other fungi that are harmful to your health.

The good news is that the body can be removed and the area affected cleaned and sanitized. While this process is unpleasant, it is often a job you can easily do yourself. If you just can’t stomach it, however, you can hire a professional to take care of the problem for you. Consult your local HVAC professionals and explain the situation. Most companies will send out a technician to help you right away. If the case is serious, however, they may refer you to animal control.

Locating the Carcass

To locate the body of the dead animal, all you really need to do is follow your nose.

First, turn off your HVAC system, open your windows and allow your rooms to air out. Since your HVAC system circulates the air inside your home, it can distribute the rotting smell into every room in the house. By shutting off the system and allowing fresh air in, you can isolate the offensive smell to the area that is generating it.

After you have allowed your home to air out a bit, walk around the house and follow your nose, Find the room or areas of the home where the odor is strongest.

You may have to smell each individual air register and return in the affected area in order to closer pinpoint the location of the dead animal. The carcass will be closest to the vent with the strongest odor.

Removing the Carcass

Once you have located the dead animal, you can either call in the professionals or remove it yourself. If you decide to take matters into your own hands, you’ll need a screwdriver, flashlight, garbage bag, rubber gloves, paper towels, and disinfectant cleaner.

First, use a screwdriver to remove the register cover. Next, use your flashlight to look inside the air duct to see if the carcass is visible. If you are unable to see the body, you may need a telescoping inspection camera to maneuver the twists and turns of your duct work.

If you can see the carcass, but it is outside of your reach, you may need another tool to get to it. This might be as simple as a bent clothes hanger, or you might need a long hose attachment for a shop vacuum cleaner.

If the carcass is out of reach, you will need to hire a professional to assist you with removal. They will have specialized equipment to locate and remove dead animals from awkward, hard-to-reach places in your air ducts.

If the offending animal is within easy reach, carefully use a gloved hand to grab the carcass and place it in a plastic garbage bag. Immediately remove the dead body from your home. If the animal is large, like a raccoon or possum, you should contact your local waste disposal authorities to ask about specific policies regarding disposal of dead animals.

Cleaning Up The Mess

After you have removed the source of the smell, clean the area and all areas the carcass touched with disinfectant cleaner. If the animal was initially out of reach, this process will be slightly more difficult. Use a small mop with a long handle to reach all the affected surfaces of your duct work. This will help prevent the growth of dangerous mold and bacteria.

After the animal has been removed and the area cleaned, there are a few follow up steps to take. To ensure another animal doesn’t crawl up inside and cause more damage, your duct work should be thoroughly inspected.

You can schedule a regular inspection with a HVAC technician to find and seal any holes the animal has made in your air ducts.

You may also consider scheduling a professional duct cleaning. This service will clean any feces or other animal waste from your ducts, as well as further disinfect the surfaces, scrubbing away any lingering odors or bacteria.

While removing a dead animal from your ducts is usually easy, it is never pleasant. If you have any concerns or need help from a professional, contact your local HVAC experts immediately.

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Spring Cleaning for Your Air Ducts

Spring cleaning is a tradition shared by many cultures around the globe. When the trees begin to bud and the birds start singing, many people feel an urge to shake off the dreariness of the winter months by clearing cobwebs and giving their home a good scrubbing.

You shouldn’t neglect your heating and cooling system while you are sweeping and dusting and sprucing up your home’s interior. Keeping your air ducts clean can help control airborne dust, reduce seasonal allergies, and help your cooling system run more efficiently.

Signs Your Air Ducts Need Cleaning

The easier it is for air to flow through your home’s ductwork, the easier it is for your cooling system to deliver cool, comfortable air to your living spaces. If there are any major blockages in your air ducts, it could hinder air flow, straining your system and increasing your energy bill.

Air duct cleaning may not be warranted in every home. However, if you see any of these signs, it may be time to give your ductwork a good cleaning.

Rodent Droppings or Insect Carcasses

If you see dead bugs or rodent feces in your air ducts, they probably require immediate attention. Not only will byproducts enter your home, potentially causing health problems for you and your family, they could also be a sign that insects have nested in your ducts. Rodent droppings usually mean there are rodents present, and these critters can cause serious damage to your air ducts if not kept in check. If you see these contaminants, you should call an exterminator first, and then contact a professional to help clean your ductwork.


Mold can be a serious problem for your health and for your HVAC system. Excess moisture trapped in your air ducts will cause mold to develop and grow. Excessive moisture could be damaging your entire HVAC system. Consider any signs of mold a serious issue. If you detect a musty smell coming from your air vents, contact a professional to inspect your system.

Excessive Allergy Symptoms

If you or a member of your family suffers from excessive allergy-related issues, you may want to consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned, especially if you have taken other steps to decontaminate your home without success.

Dust and Dirt

If you notice significant amounts of dust and debris in your vents, it could be a sign your ducts need to be cleaned.

Will Cleaning My Ducts Make a Difference?

For most homeowners, complete professional duct cleaning is unnecessary. In some cases, the process can loosen packed down dust and debris may cause even more particles to enter your home.

Unless your ducts are contaminated with mold or harmful pests, or your ducts are significantly clogged with dust, negatively affecting the efficiency of your system, you probably don’t need a thorough, professional cleaning. Instead, a few do-it-yourself chores and regular system maintenance should be more practical and effective.

Before you call a company to professionally clean your home’s ductwork, try completing these simple tasks.

  1. Change your air filters. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines to help you choose the proper filter for your system. Change filters regularly to keep your system clean.
  2. Clean around your condenser unit. Keep the area around your outdoor condenser free from tall grass, trash, and other yard debris. The system needs clear space to maintain proper air flow. Also, a qualified HVAC technician will perform regular maintenance and cleaning of your whole unit, including the condenser.
  3. Keep indoor vents clear. When you are cleaning your home’s interior, be sure to vacuum dust and any debris away from indoor supply vents. Also, make sure your vents are clear of furniture, draperies, and clutter. This will help ensure your system can maintain proper air flow.
  4. Use interior fans and dehumidifiers to reduce humidity. Be sure to use exhaust fans when showering. Also, consider a basic dehumidifier to help keep mold from developing and spreading in your home and HVAC system.
  5. Have your home checked annually by a qualified HVAC technician. He or she will perform regular maintenance to keep your system running smoothly and effectively. Regular maintenance will also detect any potential problems that may be developing.

If you notice poor airflow or excessive dust in your home, you should request an evaluation of your stem by qualified local HVAC technician. Properly installed air ducts seldom need professional cleaning. However, be sure to hire an experienced technician to do the job properly when it becomes necessary.




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