It stands to reason that your HVAC system needs regular maintenance and upkeep. Having a technician out once a year to inspect your air conditioning unit and make sure it’s working properly can save you from costly breakdowns, or from having a hot and stuffy house in the middle of summer. Maintenance of your home’s furnace is important, too, to ensure safe and efficient heating during the cold months. When it comes to HVAC maintenance and care, though, many homeowners overlook two of the essential components: the ducts and vents.
Why Do Your Ducts and Vents Need Cleaning?
The reason for maintaining your AC unit and your furnace is because key components and parts can fail. If something goes wrong with your air conditioning system’s compressor or fan motor, it isn’t going to work correctly. Some people assume that, since ducts and vents don’t have any moving parts, there’s no risk of breakdown or operational problems.
On the one hand, this assumption is technically true: your ductwork and venting installations aren’t going to “fail” in the same way that your AC unit might if you fall into the trap of deferred maintenance. However, something much simpler will happen to the vents and ducts, and it can cause problems for your HVAC system as well.
The bottom line is that ducts and vents become dirty over time. These installations are magnets for dust, dirt, pet dander, and other debris or contaminants. If someone in your home smokes, the smoke can get into the ductwork. If you renovate your home, you can expect a wealth of drywall dust to drift through the vents and accumulate in the ducts.
In turn, dirty vents and ducts can cause significant problems for your home’s indoor air quality. As the HVAC pulls in contaminants, it will also re-circulate them in the air throughout your house. In essence, you will never be breathing fresh air. Poor air quality of this ilk can cause significant problems for people with allergies, respiratory conditions, or autoimmune disorders. Even for healthy people, poor indoor air quality can take its toll. You might wake up every morning feeling stuffy and congested, or find that you’re having headaches with increasing frequency. Cleaning your air ducts and vents can help clear up these issues and make your home a healthier place to spend time.
Air quality isn’t the only reason to invest in regular vent and ductwork cleaning. Statistics have shown that between 25 and 40 percent of the energy used to maintain a home’s temperature (either through heating or cooling) ends up wasted. Dirty air filters, vents or ducts can exacerbate this issue by making the HVAC system work harder to circulate air and maintain interior temperature. A clean system will work more efficiently, saving you from unnecessarily high energy bills. Contaminants and debris in your HVAC system can also damage the components of your furnace or air conditioning system, leading to costly repairs down the road.
How to Know When It’s Time to Clean Your Ducts and Vents
So how can you know when it’s time to call a professional to clean your HVAC system? There are a few warning signs you can watch for that reveal a problem. The most obvious of the symptoms are visual evidence of dust or debris. Look at the vents. Do they look dusty? If you run a cloth over them, does it come back dirty? If so, you can safely assume that the ducts’ interior is dirty as well. You can also remove the vents and look inside, to see if there are any visible dust or debris buildups there. There could also be mold buildup somewhere, which is an even more dangerous issue.
Even if you can’t see any visual signs of HVAC blockages, there’s still a chance that the ducts and vents need cleaning. Other indicators aren’t as easy to spot, but you should still be on the lookout for them. For instance, if you start noticing unexplained increases in your monthly energy bills, that’s not happening for no reason. There is likely some HVAC issue at work, and it could well be built-up debris in the ducts. Even if you aren’t sure what’s causing the price spikes, it’s always wise to call an HVAC professional to take a look.
The same is true if you or your family members start to develop strange respiratory problems. Are you coughing or sneezing more often than usual, or wake up every morning feeling stuffy and congested? A dirty HVAC system could be the culprit. Again, a timely call to an HVAC professional to inspect the ducts and vents (and clean them if necessary) could save you from months of suffering. Remember: poor interior air quality is no laughing matter, and the best way to resolve it is often with a thorough HVAC cleaning.