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July 8, 2021 • In Heating & Cooling • 4 Min Read

Air Duct Systems 101: What Can Go Wrong and How to Prevent it

Haller Enterprises

By Haller Enterprises

Your air ducts can look and feel like a maze behind your walls And while it’s nice to have your ductwork out of sight, avoid keeping it out of mind, especially when problems arise. Maintaining your air ducts   is  key to a comfortable, healthy, and energy-efficient home.

Don’t take your home’s heating and cooling for granted — knowing why and how to maintain your HVAC system as a whole will keep you comfortable year round.

Breaking it Down: What are Ducts?

You can think of your air ducts like the roads and highways we travel on: heated and cooled air uses them to reach their destinations (the rooms in your home).

Your HVAC system pulls in air from your home through intake vents where it will get heated or cooled. That air then travels through air ducts to be dispersed throughout your home.

Does air duct type matter?

While all air duct systems serve a similar purpose, some may operate better in your home than in others. There are several different types of air ducts, including:

  • Sheet metal – rigid, durable ductwork made of galvanized steel or aluminum.
  • Fiberglass – sheet metal ducts with an added fiberglass lining that limits heat loss and reduces noise.
  • Fiberboard – made of fiberglass strands with foil added to the exterior for insulation and moisture protection.
  • Flexible ducts – tube shaped ducts made of steel spring coil and covered in thick, durable plastic making them easier to fit in tight knit spaces.

Having the right ductwork is important when it comes to saving energy and keeping your home comfortable.The choice ultimately depends on the design of your home, your needs for noise reduction or heat retention, and budget, and can be determined by an HVAC professional.

Even with the right ductwork for your home, there are numerous symptoms that could indicate things are going wrong.

What Can Go Wrong With Air Ducts?

Knowing what problems to look for will help you keep your ducts in a row, and more importantly, improve the overall health of your HVAC system.

Symptoms to watch out for

There are a number of signs that can indicate an issue with your ductwork system. Some common ones to look out for are:

  • Hot and cold spots as you move from room to room. These can be traced to leaky ducts that allow air to escape.
  • Unpleasant odors coming from your HVAC system can be a result of mold growth, rodents, or dirt and debris in your ducts.
  • Poor airflow can bring stuffy air, uncomfortable temperatures, or a weak stream of air from vents. Often, this is due to leaking or clogged ducts.
  • Strange sounds like whistling or popping coming from your HVAC system can be attributed to cracks and leaks in your ductwork or air pressure changes.
  • Clogged filters that occur often could happen if your ducts are loaded with debris, pollutants, or other particles.

Fortunately, you can spot and resolve many of these issues before they become a much larger problem. Let’s take a look at how you can avoid them in the first place.

How to Prevent Air Duct Problems

In order to prevent serious issues with your air ducts, it’s important to have a maintenance routine.

Keeping things clean

One way to maintain the well-being of your air ducts is to have them cleaned professionally in the following circumstances:

  • You can spot visible mold growth inside of your ducts upon inspection or the presence of unpleasant odors.
  • You see or suspect vermin like rodents or insects inside of your ducts.
  • Your ducts are clogged with excessive dust or debris. You can identify this issue by checking to see if you have weak airflow or clogged filters.
  • You’re experiencing recurring allergy related illnesses that may point to poor air quality.
  • You’re undergoing home renovation.

If you suspect you’re dealing with one of these circumstances, but aren’t completely sure, an HVAC professional can inspect your ducts for you. In the meantime, there are some simple things that you can do to keep your air ducts clean: 

  • Change the filters in your HVAC system according to manufacturer recommendations.
  • Keep your registers and grilles maintained by removing vent covers and cleaning them.
  • Remove as much dust as possible.
  • Avoid leaving behind any treats for mice.

Unless the underlying causes of these air duct conditions are addressed right away, they’ll likely harm your HVAC system. Find out how to tell it’s time for an inspection and cleaning.

When to call the pros

Besides having your air ducts professionally cleaned, there are a few other circumstances that should be handled by the pros:

  • Inspections: It’s worthwhile to have yearly inspections on your whole HVAC system or inspections on your air ducts every 3 to 5 years.
  • Design and sizing: Recurring airflow problems may be due to improper air duct design and sizing. If this is the case, an HVAC professional may need to inspect your system to see if it has been properly installed.
  • Repairing leaks: You can provide a temporary fix for small air duct leaks with duct sealing tape, mastic duct sealant, or aerosol duct sealant (avoid using regular duct tape). However, it’s best to hire a  professional that will  identify, repair, and prevent any leaks in your ductwork to make it last in the long run.

Unsure if your  air ducts are in tip-top shape? One of our Remote Assist experts can lend you a virtual helping hand — we can walk through your system and spot any problems right on a video call!

Ready To Talk To A Haller Home Services Specialist?

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