With a baby on the way, you're probably busy doing all kind of prep work. You're likely installing cupboard locks, bumper boards, corner cushions, and window safety kits, but have you considered the risks your ductwork might pose to your newborn child? If you've got fiberglass-lined ductwork and a baby on the way, you need to take the time to read this article.
The Dangers Of Your Ductwork
Fiberglass-lined ductwork has long been used as an economical way to insulate the airflow and limit the noise of heating and cooling systems. Recent findings, however, suggest that the health concerns outweigh the benefits of this insulation choice.
Fiberglass particles, when released into the air via your heating and cooling system, can cause skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation. Fiberglass is also a known carcinogen, and when exposed to moisture, acts as a great breeding ground for mold, mildew, and other bacteria.
This stuff is pretty bad news, and worse yet, children are especially vulnerable to its effects.
Cleaning Isn't Enough
There is no safe way to mechanically clean fiberglass-lined ductwork. The material is so fragile, that even the gentlest of brushing or rubbing could crumble off bits of it, leaving the inside surface of your ducts rough and scaly.
Once the lining begins to wear away, it releases dangerous fiberglass particles into your home's air supply. Also, the surface of the ducts that have been roughened by cleaning provide all kinds of new nooks and crannies for microbes to hide and multiply in.
HVAC contractors have special vacuum tools that they can use to clean your ductwork, but because of the many associated health risks, most of them will suggest either encapsulating the fiberglass lining, or replacing it altogether.
Encapsulation -- The cheapest solution for baby-proofing your fiberglass-lined ductwork is encapsulation, but this is only an option if the lining shows no signs of wear or mold growth.
During encapsulation, your HVAC contractor will apply a durable coating over all the surfaces of your fiberglass lining. As long as the coating is compatible with the face material of the lining and meets your local building code requirements, it will effectively prevent any fiberglass fibers from entering your air supply. Encapsulation also works to block moisture out of the fiberglass liner, preventing the formation of mold and/or mildew.
Replacement -- If, upon inspection, your fiberglass-lined ductwork does exhibit signs of wear or mold, it's best to have the ductwork removed and replaced with a safer option. Removing just the fiberglass lining from your ductwork isn't an option because it will increase the risk of fiberglass particles being released into your home.
When choosing safe-for-baby ductwork, opt for bare sheet metal ducts with exterior insulation.
Fiberglass is a good insulator, and it's considered safe when applied to the outside of your ductwork. The material can be wrapped around the perimeter of your ducts, and overlapped where ducts adjoin for complete protection.
If you want to completely eliminate fiberglass from your home, though, you can choose to have your ductwork insulated with bubble wrap or a fiberglass-free foam. To boost noise and temperature control, your HVAC contractor can add additional layers of both of these options, or even use them in conjunction with one another.
While you're busy doing everything you can to protect your soon-to-be-born baby from accidental falls and bumped noggins, take the time to think about your ductwork, too. Fiberglass ductwork can have devastating health consequences and should be encapsulated or replaced before your little one arrives. Contact an HVAC specialist or go to websites today to discuss more information on ways to insulate your heating and cooling system.