How Can I Tell If My Air Ducts Need To Be Cleaned?

There are some home maintenance tasks you know should be handled right away, while others may be put off for a little while. However, it’s the unseen tasks that are usually put on the back burner the longest, because you don’t realize they need doing. A home’s air ducts fall into this category for a few reasons. Air ducts do an important job as they move heated and cooled air throughout the house. Though you can’t see them, they have ways of letting you know they need attention. Learn the signs that suggest it’s time to schedule an air duct cleaning in Montgomery AL. It is also important to understand the dangers of dirty ductwork and the professional ductwork cleaning process.

What Is Ductwork and What Does It Do Within My Home?

Ductwork is the home’s circulatory system. It allows the conditioned air to flow throughout the rooms in your home. Most systems are limited to the walls or ceiling of a home for aesthetic reasons. There are two duct types: rigid and flexible.

Flexible ducts are typically made of wire coils covered in plastic and an insulating layer. These ducts are best for spaces where flexibility is important, and they’re easier and less expensive to install than rigid ducts.

Rigid ductwork is made from a range of materials such as fiberboard, fiberglass, and metal. As implied by the name, rigid ducts do not offer as much adaptability as flexible ducts. These ducts come in numerous sizes and shapes, and they are known for their durability and strength.

Warning Signs Your Home’s Duct Work Needs Attention

If you’ve noticed any of these following symptoms occurring inside your home, it may be the ductwork sending an SOS;

  • Unexplained increases in utility bills: If your monthly heating or cooling bill is increasing and there’s been no mechanical trouble or increase in usage, you may have a leak or a clog in the ductwork. Leaks and clogs reduce the HVAC system’s efficiency. Your air conditioning service technician will inspect ducts for these problems and take the necessary steps to seal and clean the ducts as required.
  • Infrequent filter changes: As a local homeowner, you should not let your HVAC air filter remain unchanged for more than a month or two. During a hot summer, the system’s air filter works hard to trap dust, pollen, debris, pet dander, and other airborne pollutants. Once the filter fills up, such particles may accumulate in the ductwork or the air conditioning unit itself.
  • The presence of dust: When the HVAC unit turns on and the air begins to flow, you may see a puff of dust come from the air register. If this happens, it’s a reliable indicator of the need for duct cleaning. During normal operation, air ducts won’t emit visible debris. Dust may be due to dirty air registers, but if you clean them and the problem persists, it is likely to be due to dirty ducts.
  • Foul odors: One sign of the need for duct cleaning is the presence of a foul odor in the home. If there’s a bad smell in your home and you can’t figure out where it’s coming from, your HVAC ductwork may be to blame. Do a quick test by getting close to an air register and inhaling deeply; you may be able to confirm your suspicion. Another easy way is to ask an HVAC technician to examine the ducts for debris, mold, and mildew, which can all emit odors.
  • Mildew or mold growth: Sometimes, it is possible to see gray, brown, or black mildew or mold growing on, around, and inside your system’s air registers. Unfortunately, if this happens, it usually indicates a widespread problem with mildew or mold and may require a costly remediation project. However, if the mildew or mold is limited to the air ducts, you can avoid having to treat your entire home by cleaning, sanitizing, and deodorizing those areas.
  • Visible debris: If you remove one of the system’s air registers and notice that pet dander, dust, and debris are accumulating inside the duct end, the ducts themselves may be clogged. The easiest way to tell is to remove the debris and dust you see. If it appears again later, it’s probably a good time to call a pro for a thorough duct cleaning.
  • Signs of insect or rodent infestation: If you smell or see evidence that insects, rodents, and other pests are making a home in your ductwork, it is definitely the right time to schedule a cleaning. Debris from pest infestations will cause severe damage to your heating and air conditioning system, reducing its lifespan and its efficiency. With time, the smell of debris and animal droppings will become very unpleasant.  Furthermore, contamination from rodents and insects circulating through the air will cause serious sickness.
  • Clogged filters: A good indication that debris and dust are building up inside the HVAC system is a dirty reusable or disposable air filter. If you find the problem early and get on a set schedule of filter cleaning or replacement, this may stop the issue and minimize the need for further duct cleaning services.
  • Dirty AC coils and other internal parts: If the system’s coils and internal components are full of mold, mildew, debris, dust, and other contaminants, this indicates that there is dust gathered somewhere else in the system. You’ll want to give the unit a deep cleaning, but if the debris comes back, you will need to get the ducts cleaned as well.
  • Inconsistent airflow: When it seems as if the airflow in some rooms is stronger than that in others, it may be because of debris and dust blockages forming in the ductwork. It may also be due to leaking ducts that have deteriorated or become damaged, so don’t forget to ask your technician to look for both problems during the system inspection.
  • No proof of previous duct cleaning: It’s only within the past few years that modern indoor air quality tech has become common knowledge. If your home is ten years old or older and you have no record that the air ducts have been cleaned, it’s time to schedule a deep cleaning.
  • Dusting too frequently: If it seems like a layer of dust has gathered on every surface in your home, even though you dust often, it may show that the air conditioning system is pushing out more debris. With duct cleaning, you won’t have to dust every time you turn the system on.
  • Hearing noises in the ducts: After you have had your air conditioning system for a few months or even a few years, you probably know the sounds it makes and the things it does. What you may not realize is that the ducts themselves shouldn’t make any extra noise. If you’re hearing anything besides an airy whooshing noise or the blower motor, it’s a sign that your ducts may be blocked by dust, dirt, and debris.
  • Continued poor health: Sometimes the earliest sign of the need for duct cleaning shows up in your (or a family member’s) respiratory system. Coughing, fatigue, mental fogginess, allergy attacks, asthma, sneezing, and wheezing are all indicators that there’s dirt, debris, and pollutants circulating through your home’s HVAC system.
  • A new home or a major renovation: Even if the construction crew is very diligent about clean-up, dirt, dust, and debris will inevitably find its way inside your ductwork. If the heating and air conditioning system is covered and turned off, the debris will get deep inside the system. Some forms of construction dust are toxic, so it is best to have the ducts cleaned after the project is finished.

Rather than attempting to solve these problems yourself, it’s better to call an expert. With their years of on-the-job experience, your HVAC technician can tell you if your system needs ductwork cleaning, routine maintenance, replacement parts, or other work. Do not try to guess whether you need a duct cleaning; call today to schedule a service visit.

The Consequences of Dirty Ductwork: They’re Worse Than You Think

If you fail to give your system’s ducts the care they deserve, the results can be disastrous. Dirt and dust spread much faster in homes with dirty ductwork. Even if you dust and clean your home regularly, small airborne particles and allergens will quickly move from room to room, covering tables, chairs, curtains, and everything else.

Dust doesn’t just contain small dirt particles. It also contains dead skin cells, pet dander, toxoplasmosis, mold, pollen, rodent droppings, and fungi. When dust is left to pollute the home’s HVAC system, the ducts become a breeding ground for bacteria, dust mites, and other harmful pests.

The longer a dirty system is left to run, the more unnecessary tear and wear it will endure. Extended operating times might shorten the lifespan of motor bearings, compressors, burners, hydro pumps, and other components. 

Dirt and dust also limit airflow. Let’s say the system is doing a great job of heating and cooling the air inside your home. However, if the fan or the blower motor can’t run because it’s clogged with dirt, or if the air filter is full of debris, the system can’t circulate the air throughout the home. It will run longer and use more energy.

Dirt, dust, and debris inhibit the system’s heating and cooling processes. During the winter, a clogged heat exchanger can’t properly warm indoor air. During the summer, a clogged condenser coil won’t be able to cool the air effectively. These problems increase the system’s run time and energy consumption.

How Professional Duct Cleaning Works From Start to Finish

A duct cleaning expert will provide a detailed cleaning that goes significantly beyond what you can do as a homeowner. Heating and air conditioning service and maintenance technicians have the training and tools to remove almost all contaminants and dust from a home’s ductwork, even that in difficult-to-reach places.

When a duct cleaning professional visits your home, they will begin by inspecting the ducts and the unit. They’ll use a small camera to inspect inaccessible areas. After the inspection, the tech will use special tools and brushes to get the debris out of the ducts.

Next, they’ll use a special vacuum to remove debris and dirt, and they will probably clean the blower motor and the coils. The technician may sanitize the ducts with odor- and germ-killing chemicals. Along with cleaning the ducts and other system parts, the technician will also clean the vents, registers, and grilles.

If the HVAC technician finds leaks in your home’s ductwork, they might offer to patch those leaks. Ductwork sealing is a worthwhile investment, as the Department of Energy suggests that up to 30% of the air moving through the system may escape through ductwork leaks. A well-sealed duct system reduces air loss and makes it easier for your HVAC system to keep indoor temperatures comfortable.

Taking care of your home’s ductwork will cut your power bill and increase the lifespan of the HVAC system by cutting its workload. A new heating and air conditioning system may cost thousands to install, so keeping your existing system running well longer will help you save money. Regular professional duct cleaning will not only do that, but it will also improve the quality of the air inside your home.

Low-quality indoor air has been linked to a range of serious illnesses, and modern energy-efficient design techniques have made it more difficult to maintain proper indoor air quality. With regular duct cleaning, you can keep pollutants like mold, dirt, dust, pet dander, and mildew from circulating throughout the home, and you can keep your family well. Visit the company’s website for additional details on its products and services or call today to schedule a seasonal duct cleaning.