You might pay close attention to your thermostat settings, change the filters on your HVAC like clockwork once every month, and make it a weekly habit to remove debris from around the outdoor unit of your air conditioner. That being the case, you’ve probably come to think of yourself as a responsible HVAC owner — the kind who doesn’t run into unexpected trouble while operating the system. However, there’s one vital task that many HVAC owners throughout the United States neglect, and it’s one that can cause major problems unless it’s taken care of in a timely fashion. No matter what else you do to preserve your HVAC, you need to arrange for regular duct cleaning if you want to enjoy dependable service.
Do You Truly Need Duct Cleaning? In a Word: Yes
Many HVAC owners are sceptical about the need for duct cleaning. They reason that if they’re diligent about changing the filters in their system and cleaning the area that surrounds the outdoor unit, debris will never be able to enter the ducts and pollute them. However, this line of reasoning assumes that all HVAC filters work with 100% efficiency. The truth is that none of them do. There will always be a certain number of particles that enter the ducting, and over time these particles can settle into substantial deposits of material. There is also the risk (albeit a small one) that animals or pests may climb into the ducts and either settle there or starve to death. Make no mistake about it: duct cleaning is a necessary part of HVAC maintenance.
What Happens if You Don’t Have Ducts Cleaned?
When enough material builds up in ductwork, several things can happen. The first is a reduction in the quality of the air your HVAC system treats. Remember: the air moving through your ducts will carry a little of anything it has to pass through into your home. That could include dust, dirt, animal droppings, or anything else that manages to lodge itself in the ductwork.
The second thing that may occur if enough material builds up in the ducts is that airflow within them becomes obstructed. If the ductwork is only partially blocked, the amount of air that manages to travel into the rooms of a building will be challenging to feel and may have adjusted to the original indoor air temperature by the time any of the occupants can feel it, effectively negating the system’s climate control capabilities. If the ducts are completely blocked, it may be impossible to feel any air coming from the vents at all.
In either case, the system can be put under undue pressure as the thermostat fails to register the desired temperature change and forces the HVAC to compensate by working too hard. When this occurs, essential parts such as the compressor are likely to fail and can cost thousands of dollars in repairs.
How to Recognize that Ducts Need Cleaning Before It’s Too Late
Use the following common signs of trouble to recognize that ducting requires cleaning and arrange for it before dirty ducts disrupt your HVAC performance:
- The air coming from the vents is not the correct temperature: this can indicate that the air is being slowed down by debris as it moves through the ducts and is warming up or cooling down before it reaches you.
- The air coming from your vents smells strange or makes it difficult to breathe: air that smells unusual or seems less than fresh when you breathe it in is a sign that the air moving through your ducts is coming into contact with unwanted materials and carrying particles of them into the interior of your home.
- There is no air coming from your vents: if you are running the HVAC but not feeling any air from your vents at all, there’s a good chance that there is a blockage in the ductwork. Stop using the system immediately and call for professional help.
- You can hear strange sounds coming from your ducts: this could indicate that an animal has made its way into the channel and set up a nest, or that an object has entered the ductwork somehow (children’s toys such as balls are among the most common offenders for this kind of trouble). Depending on the nature of the problem, duct cleaners or an exterminator may be required.
- Your HVAC is losing energy-efficiency: in most cases, you will start to notice higher-than-normal utility bills before you start to experience any of the signs listed above. If you’ve been diligently caring for your system in other ways, there’s a good chance that the loss in efficiency is due to polluted or partially-blocked ducts.
Using the signs above, it’s easy to tell when you need duct cleaning — but why wait for trouble to rear its head? Having ducting cleaned once a year by a licensed professional is the best way to prevent these symptoms from troubling you in the first place.