A Breath of Fresh Air Maintaining Vents, Ducts & Garbage Chutes

In a multifamily building with scores, possibly hundreds of people living under one roof, cooking, cleaning, dusting and breathing, it’s no surprise that the airways, chutes and garbage rooms of these buildings can get clogged and dirty over time. Waste material, debris, and allergens can build up in a building’s airways and passages, causing everything from noxious smells to pest issues to bona fide health problems for residents. Air conditioning, climate control and proper handling of waste play a huge role in maintaining not only quality of life, but health as well.

Maintenance and Upkeep

How often should a Chicago residential building have its garbage chutes cleaned? That depends on who lives in the building and how big it is, says Donald Weckel, a controller with Nu-Recycling Technology in Naperville.

“It also depends on the amount of usage,” he says. “We have an automatic system in a couple hundred buildings throughout the city that cleans their chutes once a week. The system uses a microorganism that eats trash off the walls. It’s dispersed at the top of the chute, and the air activates the organisms. Once the food source is gone, they’ll eat each other and fall into the chute and die. It’s on a timer and runs automatically, usually late Sunday night/early Monday morning. The solution is biodegradable and it won’t hurt anybody, but we still don’t want anybody using the chute during that time because no one wants to stick their hand in and get wet. We go in every seven weeks to fill up the solution.”

Weckel also notes that lots of buildings like to power wash garbage chutes but finds that method to be ineffective because the next day the chute is not clean anymore.

Donald Weekes, CHI, CSP, and president of The Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) in Ottawa, Ontario says that ventilation systems in multifamily buildings should be cleaned on a building by building basis.

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