Despite routinely replacing filters, your home’s heating and cooling system gets dirty with regular everyday use, and unfortunately, your air ducts are a favorite hiding place for dust, dirt, and allergens to linger. That dust and dirt are filled with contaminants and air pollutants that can not only harm your indoor air quality, but can also cause your system to work really hard. All that hard work not only increases your energy bills, but it can significantly shorten the lifespan of your HVAC system.
Just like your car or any major appliance, your home’s heating and cooling system will perform better with regular maintenance, and air duct cleaning is just one of the services to consider to ensure the longevity of your entire HVAC system.
Want to know if you need to have your ducts cleaned? Here are 5 dead giveaways of dirty air ducts!
While we all know how dust can negatively affect our health, mold is a whole different ballgame! Not only can it exacerbate allergies and respiratory problems; it also can spread quickly throughout your home.
Your heating and cooling system can develop condensation, leading to the growth of mold in your ductwork (especially if you live in a humid climate). You may spot mold around your vent covers, but unfortunately, many components of your heating and cooling system aren’t easily accessible or visible, so mold in your air ducts is especially difficult to detect. However, while mold can be difficult to see, it usually presents itself in the form of a musty odor.
If you do have mold in your air ducts, it’s important to take action quickly to preserve your home’s indoor air quality. An air duct cleaning technician will be able to identify and remediate any mold issues, and also help prevent its return. In addition to duct cleaning, you should take additional precautions against excess moisture in your home, such as installing a whole-home dehumidifier or by optimizing settings on your thermostat. Keep in mind that if the conditions causing mold in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.
Is your home dusty, no matter how often you clean? While dusting isn’t a fun task, it’s something we all have to do from time to time. If you notice that every flat surface in your home is coated with dust almost immediately after you’ve put away your cleaning supplies, you probably need to have your ducts cleaned!
Even the cleanest homes can have dirt, dust, pet dander, and all sorts of harmful contaminants lingering in the air ducts. You may even notice dust coming out of the vents every time the HVAC system kicks on! Take a look at the air supply and return vents around your house. Are they visibly dirty or dusty? If so, carefully remove a vent cover and/or filter and take a look into the ductwork. Is the metal covered in dust? If you see dust and dirt both inside and outside — especially by the vents that blow warms or cool air out — your ducts most likely need to be cleaned.
To prevent future dust buildup, make sure you replace your HVAC system air filters frequently. You can also run an air purifier. Both filters and air purifiers work with your HVAC system to trap a variety of airborne particles like dust, tobacco smoke, and bacteria before they enter the ductwork.
3) Ducts are Infested with Rodents or Insects
From time to time, mice, squirrels, and insects can make their way into your air ducts. Naturally, these vermin leave behind all sorts of bacteria. When rodents find their way into your ductwork, they make nests and leave droppings behind, sending tiny fecal spores sweeping along the ducts. These spores can then make their way into your home and contaminate the quality of the air you breathe.
Unfortunately, rodents like to take up residence in ductwork, and will chew their way in, or find some sort of unsealed access. Once they move in, your home’s duct work becomes a personal highway for rodents, as they make their way all around your home. If rodents are in your ductwork, they will leave some telltale signs — not only will you see droppings, you may find chewed up materials or unpleasant smells, all of which indicate an infestation.
Keep in mind that a rodent infestation might require more than air duct cleaning! If you ignore the issue, it could lead to serious structural damage, not to mention an HVAC system that doesn’t work efficiently, leading to higher energy bills.
4) Your Home was Just Built or has Undergone a Major Renovation
Construction is messy. Even when contractors are diligent about cleaning up and closing off work areas to keep the rest of the site tidy, dust and debris will always find their way in. Unless the HVAC system is not turned on and kept completely covered during the entire construction process (which isn’t typical), that dirt and dust will most certainly make its way into your ductwork.
Construction and remodeling dust can contain some pretty nasty particulate matter that you really don’t want to breathe, so it’s best to get this issue remedied quickly before respiratory problems develop.
5) Rising Energy Costs
Your heating and cooling costs should be relatively predictable from year to year. If you receive a bill that is noticeably high, especially compared to the same time a year ago, dirty ductwork might be to blame.
At times, ductwork can become so dirty that air isn’t able to flow freely and efficiently through your home’s HVAC system. When this happens, both your furnace and air conditioner are forced to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature. This added energy expenditure means higher utility bills for you and your family.
You also may notice that a bathroom, bedroom, or other room in your home doesn’t receive the same level of airflow as other rooms. In most cases, vents that are fully open should deliver relatively consistent airflow from room to room. Inconsistency could be the result of dirty air ducts.
Worth noting, it isn’t always the accumulation of debris in your air ducts that causes your system to have to work harder. Any leaks you have in your ductwork is lost energy, decreasing the efficiency of the system, and ultimately increasing your energy bill. Hiring an air duct technician to clean your ducts won’t only remove harmful contaminants, but can also rule out potential leaks.
Need Air Duct Cleaning? Hire a Professional!
Cleaning your home’s air ducts isn’t something you should ever attempt on your own. It’s a complex process that requires advanced knowledge of HVAC systems, as well as specialized tools. Professional air duct cleaners use commercial-grade vacuum systems and powered brushes to loosen and remove dirt and debris from your home’s HVAC system. Air duct cleaning professionals are also trained to spot other problems in an HVAC system that the average homeowner may not know to look for.
Like many other trades in the home improvement industry, air duct cleaning is subject to scams. Be wary of air duct cleaning companies that offer unusually low rates or promise a super-quick service. Trust your instincts — if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
When you’re ready to tackle those air ducts, make sure you choose a qualified contractor to ensure the job is done right. NADCA makes it really simple for homeowners to find a certified air duct cleaning professional. All it takes is a zip code to search our online directory to find a NADCA member in your area.