DIY Air-Heat Duct Cleaning - Free

Back in December we noticed that when we were at home we seemed more stuffed up.  The first thing i did was to replace the furnace humidifier filter.  According to my digital thermometer/humidity gauge it was only around 30% humidity in the house.  The new filter helped, along 2 humidifiers we put in our bedroom, but not completely.

I looked online and didn't really find anything about cleaning your own air ducts.  There was a ton of information about companies that will clean them for you.  As well as a Dateline episode which uncovered a common scam that furnace cleaning companies did.  Dateline set up some hidden cameras in a house and then called a company that said they would clean your heating ducts for some low price like $60.  The workers came out, said it would be only $60 then went into the basement.  They pretended to do something then came back up and told the woman pretending to be the homeowner that unfortunately her ducts were too bad and it was going to cost $430.  Even after she payed, the company never did clean the air ducts, they just put up some fake repair plates.

And that's the thing.  With heating ducts you can't really tell what condition they are in, most of the pipes are hidden from view.  Even if you take off the covers and look into the large cold air returns with a flashlight, you can only really see a few feet.  But luckily Karrie's dad used to clean duct-work years ago and he said i could do it myself with a leaf blower and a shop vac.  I would be basically doing the same thing as the pro's, just with different equipment.

The way in which professional companies clean heating ducts is that they cut a large hole in the ducts near the furnace.  That is where they hook up their large vacuum tube.  They then cover all the heat and cold air return vents and run compressed air "brushes" throughout your houses duct-work, which loosens all the dust, blows it toward the vacuum tube, and it is sucked out.  Here's a small portable professional version with the brushes.  They also have the larger vacuum running to their truck.
professional air heating duct cleaning equipment

I would be doing the same thing, except instead of the industrial size vacuum i would be using a shop vac.  And instead of the compressed air brushes i would be using a leaf blower.  After covering all the vents but 1, i would turn on the leaf blower at that open vent and blow the dust toward the shop vac in the basement.  Then i would work my way down the line with the leaf blower.  I would have to do this with all the heat vents and cold air returns in the entire house.  Here was the equipment i would be using.
diy heating air duct cleaning equipment, do it yourself, free, how to

In case you don't want to continue reading i did make a video of the entire process.  The video will probably do a much better job of explaining  what i am doing.

DIY - Clean Your Air Heat Vents 

But the first step was to turn off the furnace.  That was as easy as flipping the switch on the side of it.  Next i had to figure out where i was going to connect the shop vac.  Normally this would mean cutting a hole in the duct-work.  But luckily i already had access holes cut out.  I'm not sure if this means that my air ducts have already been cleaned, i think it does.  So instead of cutting a big hole i was able to just remove a few sheet metal screws.  There were access holes for both the heat vent (hot air blowing into the house) and the cold air return vent (cold air returning to the furnace).

I set up the shop vac with the hose in the vent and used some old insulation as a barrier to block the dust from getting to the furnace.  It's a little hard to see from this picture because of everything on the shelf in the background.  But it's my shop vac with the hose running up to the heating duct.
connect shop vac to heating duct, suck dust

 Here's a close up of the hose and the insulation blocking the back side toward the furnace.
heating air vent dust collector, vacuum

Next i had to go around to each heat vent and cold air return vent in the house and remove the covers.  Some of them were really stuck on and painted over, but after an hour or so i got them all off.  That's when i learned that the dust in the cold air returns was probably twice three times as bad as the heat vents.  That kind of makes sense, the cold air returns were always located along the floor and as the air gets sucked back toward the furnace it brings with it all the dust from the floor.  But i was surprised at how bad some of the cold air return vents were.  This was the worst vent in the entire house, it was under the step from the living room to the kitchen.
clean dusty cold air return heat vents, how to, breathe

So i decided that before i did any blowing air with the leaf blower, that i should vacuum out as much as i could reach with the shop vac from the vents themselves.  
vacuuming out heat vents, air vents, shop vac, clean

During the whole air duct cleaning process i always thought that i was going to end up with this huge amount of dust clumps in the shop vac, but that was not the case.  When you vacuum the carpet you are picking up all the big heavy dirt and debris and that stuff does have a lot of volume.  But things that get into your duct-work are the light and airy stuff.  By the end of vacuuming out the vents the inside of the shop vac looked the same, but the filter was completely clogged with dust.  

After all the cold air returns and heat vents were cleaned i covered them with cardboard and paper bags.  That way when i turned on the leaf blower, all of the air and dust would be directed to one place, the shop vac in the basement.  I also had to remember to cover the vents in the basement.
cover heat vents, unused, basement, block

I started with the heat vent furthest from the furnace.  After turning on the shop vac in the basement i went up and started blowing air down the vent with the leaf blower. 
how to clean your air heat vents, house, diy, free, save

During that time i went back down into the basement and listened and looked for which vents the air was blowing through.  It was fairly easy to tell which vents the air from the leaf blower was blowing through.  This is when the pro's use that air brush to snake through the vents and loosen up all of the dust.  I decided to go with the highly technical approach of just pounding on the vent with the palm of my hand.  Hopefully loosening up any of the dust stuck to the side wall of the vent. 

I did this for about 3-4 minutes.  Then went back upstairs, turned off the leaf blower, covered that vent, went to the next vent which was the next down the line closer to the furnace and repeated the entire process.  Half way through the process, while in the basement trying to find the right heat vent to pound on, i realize that there was more than one heat vent exiting the furnace.  There was actually 3 more heat vents on the back side.  So for those i turned the shop vac hose 180 degrees and started vacuuming from that direction.  It wasn't ideal but hopefully i could suck up the dust before it got down into the burners.

After doing all this for the heat vents i then had to do it all over again for the cold air returns. 
do it yourself, clean heating ducts, air, furnace, dust, winter

That meant changing the location of the shop vac.  I had to move the hose and insulation over to the cold air return duct.  Luckily though this was the only point in which the cold air returned to the furnace, which meant that i didn't have to turn the hose around at any point.

So another hour and i had all the heat vents and cold air returns blown out and sucked up.  Again after checking the shop vac it didn't look like i really got much dust, but the filter was pretty clogged with dust.

The final thing was to take off all the cardboard and replace the vent covers.  Then i screwed the sheet metal access hole plates back into place and switch the furnace back on. 

I'm not sure it ended up making a huge difference.  Although some of the cold air returns looked dirty near the opening, i'm not sure that the vents themselves were all that bad.  A couple of times while cleaning, i took out the shop vac hose and saw that it was only a light flow of dust coming out.  Not the huge clumps of gray dust that i envisioned.  But it's been about a month and i think we are sleeping a little better, not waking up from the dry air blowing from the furnace in the morning.

All in all it was a lot of work, it took me about 4 hours in total and a lot of running up and down stairs.  But i'm glad i got all the vents cleaned out and even happier that it didn't cost $450.


Restore-Revive-Zap Old Drill Battery

Years ago i watched a video online about a guy who took an old dead drill battery and brought it back to life using a welder.  He said that the reason that the batteries die has something to do with the aligning of the positive and negative poles.  I didn't completely understand it but it seemed to work.

The reason that reviving an old power tool battery is so popular is because of the cost of them.  If you want to buy a new drill that comes with a battery the cost is around $150.  But if you need to buy a new drill battery, that cost $80 on it's own.
fix a dead drill battery, power tool, ni-cad, nicad, lithium ion, dewalt, craftsman, 12v, 14v

At the time i had an old 12volt DeWalt drill with 2 ni-cad batteries.  The batteries were starting to die and could barely hold a charge.  The batteries were practically worthless since they only lasted a minute or two.  But i didn't want to spend $80 on a new battery, it seemed like such a waste.  There are companies where you can send them your old drill battery, they will take it apart and replace the internal pack with new batteries.  The inside of a ni-cad battery pack is actually made up of what looks like several 'C' rechargeable batteries.  Here's a picture that someone else took.
inside of a dewalt drill battery, battery pack, power tool, xr battery

But even this cost around $40 plus shipping.  Still not worth it to me.

So until then i used an old cord drill, it was a pain but it had tons of power.  Then two years ago Karrie bought me a kit of new power tools.  It came with a drill, saws-all, circular saw and light, which all ran off two 18volt batteries.  They have been great the past couple years.  And since then the old DeWalt 12v drill has sat on a shelf.

But recently i bought a new 90amp flux welder from Harbor Freight.  It is just the cheap 90 amp model, i used it to weld up my car mufflers and exhaust a few months back.

chicago electric welder, harbor freight, 90amp

While cleaning up some of the old junk in the basement i saw the old drill and dead batteries.  I took them out and tried putting the batteries on the charger.  By now they weren't just dead, the quickly flashing light said they were defective, they wouldn't even attempt to charge.  So i thought that this would be a perfect time to try out the battery restoring technique using a welder.

The whole process couldn't be simpler.  You basically just turn on the welder, connect the Ground clip to the negative end and then repeatedly touch the positive end with the welding wand.  This creates a small spark from the high voltage coming out of the welder.  Somehow in the process the higher voltage re-aligns the + and - poles of the internal batteries and brings the entire battery pack back to life.

I made a video of the process of me trying to restore the two DeWalt drill batteries.  It might be quicker and easier to watch the video rather then having me try to describe the process.

Fix a Dead Drill Battery - Won't Charge

But for more detail i try and explain what i was doing and why.

The first step was to check the batteries with the volt meter.  Like i said these two batteries had been sitting on a shelf for two years, so it's no wonder that they read 0.00 volts.  But i was able to determine which were the positive and negative poles.  If i had the + and - connected to the volt meter correctly it would read 0.00 volts, if i had it backwards it would read -0.00.  This would be important when i started sparking it with the welder.
checking a battery, power tool battery, 12v, 14v, dead battery

Next i went to the garage and got out the welder.  I set the battery on a table and got ready.  Now normally when you weld the wire feed will roll out wire as you go.  This wire melts and becomes the "weld" to combine your two pieces of metal.  I did not want this to happen so i disengaged the wire feed tensioner, so that no wire would come out.
release wire feed tension on welder

I put on my welders mask for safety, just in case the battery decide to blow up.  Not sure that would even happen, but it couldn't hurt.  Here's the battery about to be sparked, with the two ends of the welder that i would be using.
spark shock fix battery with welder, how to

Then i touched the ground clamp to the negative terminal of the battery and started "sparking" the positive end with the welder wand.  A few small sparks shot up but it wasn't bad.  I did this about 5 or 6 times, until the small wire at the end of the wand melted off.  Then i used a wire brush to clean off the positive end of the battery which was now blackened and had small pieces of wire weld on it.
corroded end of battery after welding, fix with welder

Back down in the basement i checked the battery with the volt meter and it read 0.12 volts.   I was happy that it wasn't at 0.00, but still not sure what that small voltage meant.  
battery voltage after fix with welder, restore, revive, power

Before even putting it on the charger i snapped it into the drill and it actually worked.  Not very much but i was amazed that it had power without even charging it.  So i put it on the battery charger and left it for a few hours.  Another good sign was that it didn't start flashing 'defective battery'.  It appeared that it was charging correctly.  In the meantime i took the other battery to the garage and repeated the process.

A few hours later i came back downstairs to check and the light on the charger was solid, meaning that the battery was charged.  So i removed it and checked it with the volt meter again, 13.69 volts.  I was amazed.  
voltage of new dewalt battery, craftsman, check

I plugged it into the drill and it worked great.  I wouldn't say 100% good as new, probably more like 65% of it's full original power.  But i was still amazed that it took an old defective battery and got it working again.

I tested the drill and battery out and it seemed fine...for a minute or two.   But pretty quickly it apparent that it wasn't some miracle cure.  Yes it did restore the battery, but only a bit.  The charge quickly went away after just a few holes drilled.

So in conclusion, this does work.  If you have a battery that is not quite as good as it used to be i would highly recommend trying this, it might be able to save it and get it back to 100%.  If you have a completely dead/defective battery i would still recommend doing this.  But know that it probably won't bring it back good as new.


Basement Shelf - Garage Shelves

Well I decided to build another heavy duty shelf for my basement. This was the third one that I built in the past two years. The first shelf I made was for the garage.  That held all of the junk we had lying around.
shelf for garage, how to build a garage shelf, cheap
Garage Shelf Build

The second shelf I built was a little bit shorter and that was to hold all of my wood in the basement.
how to build a basement shelf, organize, wood, 2x4
Basement Shelf Build

For those two projects I took lots of pictures to show how everything was built.  So if you want to see all the individual pictures then click on the 2 links above.  But this time I decided to try and do a video instead.  Lately i've been making more video's that i can put up on Youtube.  I'm still terrible at recording stuff with my camera, taking pictures is a lot easier.  So I recorded short clips as I was going along and eddited them together. I tried to show the different wood that I used as well as the type of screws.  Also it was important this time for the shelves to be tall enough to fit 16" and 18" totes, so i staggered the spacing of the shelves.  They aren't all the same height from one another.

I wanted to also make it clear about why I used a certain type of 2 x 4 joint that would hold the shelves up. And why I thought that joint was stronger than a typical boxed joint which would attach to the upright legs.  I had lots of questions and comments from my last 2 blog posts about the joint.

The final thing I wanted to show was the patterns, this time I actually remembered to keep them from the second shelf I built, instead of throwing them out.

So like I said I don't have a lot of pictures this time but rather one full length video which shows every step of the way. I know I didn't do a great job of explaining everything, I'm used to just taking loads of pictures and trying to make sense of it all afterwards in this blog.  With video you have to have an idea of where you are going and film it along the way.

Storage Shelf - Cheap and Easy Build Plans


All 3 of the shelves i built are basically the same. They are all made from OSB and 2x4's. They are all 8' long and between 7' and 8' tall.  And like I always say, the more you build something the faster you get. For this shelf I could've built in just a couple hours, if it had not been for having to record the steps on the video. The first shelf I did took a few days.