December 1997 Edition

How Do You Clean Flex Ducts

Our old house had rigid heating ducts and we had the ducts cleaned. Our new house has soft flex ducts. Can flex ducts be cleaned?                       

Back in the 1970’s, when energy costs shot up, everyone was telling us to make our homes more energy efficient. We added insulation to our attics, replaced our old inefficient furnaces and some of us even replaced windows and doors to seal out drafts. At one point the federal government was giving “Energy Tax Credits” to people that had the work done. Builders started to wrap homes with vapor barriers before the siding went up and sealed new homes tight so they would be “energy wise.”                       

Your duct system is the “lungs” of your home. It pulls air in and “breathes” it back into your house. If the duct system is dirty, it could breathe dirty air back into your home each time it runs. 


If you have a humidifier on your system, the moisture may be instrumental in growing mold and mildew in your ducts. To have your ducts cleaned is an excellent start at ensuring good indoor air quality.                        

The second area to address is air filtration. One of the most important things you can do is install a good air filter. Most disposable air filters are 7% efficient which means 93% of all dust and other impurities go right through them. There are four main types of air filters: 

Disposable or Fiberglass

  7% efficient

Washable or Electrostatic

30% efficient

High Efficiency Media

80% efficient


95% efficient

Both rigid and flex ducts can be cleaned. However, not all homes need their ducts cleaned. One way to tell is to remove your return air grill and look inside the duct with a flashlight. A heavy buildup of dust and lint is a good sign that the system needs cleaning.  For a list of companies specializing in duct cleaning, look in the yellow pages under “Duct Cleaning." 

Adding A Stone Fireplace

Our fireplace has a small marble surround around the opening. We want to add stone to make it an accent to the room. We are afraid of the extra weight on the wood floor system. Is it possible?                       

The solution to your problem is “Cultured Stone." Its light weight (8-12 lbs/sf) and quick adhesion allows for fast, easy installation as an adhered veneer with no additional footings or wall ties required. Cultured stone can be applied over most structurally sound wall surfaces, including wood frame or open studs, concrete block or other masonry materials.


Cultured stone looks like the real thing. Many of the new homes in Atlanta are using cultured stone instead of real stone.  Most people cannot tell a difference even when you go up to it and feel the surface. Most products come with a 30 year warranty.                        

For more information, look in the yellow pages under “Stone” for listings of contractors and suppliers. 

Christmas Lighting Safety

Christmas is the time of year when we pull out lights and all types of decorations to celebrate the season. It is also the time of year that we have many fires associated with Christmas trees and lighting. Here are some tips. 

Make sure the lights you use are labeled “UL-listed." Lights rated for outdoor use can be used indoors or outdoors, but do not use lights rated for indoor use outside. All UL-listed indoor light sets will have a green UL label and outside light sets have a red one.                       

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions that came with your holiday decorations.                       

Replace any electrical decorations that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections.

When hanging light sets around the outside of your house, use only plastic electrical staples to hold the wires in place. Do not use nails or metal staples.                       

Do not run too many lights on one circuit. A typical 15 amp household circuit can handle up to 1,400 watts. Do not forget that anything already running on the circuit counts in the total watts. The packaging the lights came in should give you the number of watts per light or light set. If you do not have the package, check the tag on the light string.                       

Do not leave the lights on when you go to bed or leave your house.                       

If you still have the large lights that get very hot, consider replacing them with the miniature lights that do not get as hot (you will save on your electric bill too).                       

When you run extension cords outside, make sure they’re rated for outdoor use and none of the plugs are lying on the ground. Connections that are lying on the ground could allow moisture inside, causing a short.                        

When you decorate the tree with lights and decorations be
sure the main extension cord you use is large enough to carry the load. Do not plug four or five light cords into an extension cord that is the same or smaller size because you will overload the capacity of the cord. Always try to use a larger size or gage cord. If you are not sure if it is adequate, just touch the cord after it has been in use for 20 to 30 minutes and feel if the cord is warm or hot to the touch. If it is, then you will need to replace it with a larger gage extension cord. The undersized wire could heat up enough to melt the insulation and cause a fire.

We hope each and every one of you have a very safe and enjoyable holiday season. 

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at We reserve the right to edit questions for length. 

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