When our HVAC comes to mind, we tend to think most about our seasonal heating or cooling. We’re mainly concerned with a furnace that properly functions in winter and an air conditioner that does so in summer.
With the attention we give to keeping warm or cool, sometimes it’s easy to forget about the quality of our indoor air. The Environmental Protection Agency considers indoor air quality to be a public health risk. Studies show that the air inside today’s tightly built homes can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air.
Much of air quality at home begins with the condition of the ductwork. The ducts are the HVAC system veins that carry the cooled or heated air to your rooms. They also help remove toxins and contaminants from your interior air.
Because they do all of their work out of sight, the ducts might be moving air for many years before they are checked and cleaned. With enough time, they can become filthy, compromising both indoor air quality and HVAC system efficiency.
What Causes Dirty Ducts?
Because large amounts of air move through them for long periods, ducts can be dirtied in many ways, such as by the following common sources.
- Dust. It will unavoidably build in the ducts over time. Eventually it will appear on grilles and registers, and as it circulates in rooms, it will settle on surfaces. If it collects and builds long enough, it can become matted dust, which is harder to clean. Hair, fur, smoke, pollen and pet dander are other materials than often join dust in the ducts.
- Clogged or dirty filter. If the air filter is not replaced with proper frequency, the dust and debris that build on it will extend to the ducts, as well as interfere with the airflow.
- Build-up inside the unit. Sometimes dust and dirt can accumulate inside the furnace or the air conditioner, such as on the fan, motor, and coils. If the units are not cleaned periodically, the dust and dirt can make their way into the ducts.
- Mold. Moisture and humidity can enter the ducts, where spores can develop.
- Vermin and rodents. Outdoor creatures such as roaches, rats and squirrels may access ducts for shelter and nesting. Scratching or shuffling sounds will often alert you to their presence. Once in the ducts, they can make a mess as well as spread disease.
What Are Signs of Dirty Ducts?
As the ducts become dirty over time, they will provide signs they’re no longer clean. Those indicators might include any of the following.
- Rising energy bills. Dirty or clogged ducts will often increase strain on the HVAC system. That will force the furnace or air conditioner to work harder and draw more energy.
- Agitated health problems. If air quality becomes compromised by dirty ducts, it may irritate conditions such as asthma, allergies, sore throat, and sinus or respiratory infections. Poor air quality might also aggravate dry or itchy skin.
- Rapidly gathering dust. If you dust a room and then find that it’s dusty again or that returning dust is heavier, this is often a symptom of dirty ducts. It’s also possible that the ducts could have a leak in them, in which case might be drawing in extra dust.
- Dusty vents and registers. If you notice build-up around them, it can be a tip-off to ducts that need cleaning.
- Frequent filter changes. Because your airflow cycles through the ducts and the return air vent, the filter traps whatever might otherwise get into your HVAC system. If you find you’re replacing the filter more often than you normally do, you may have dirty ducts.
- Visible mold. If you see mold or traces of it near vents or around the ducts, this is a serious issue that should be attended to right away. Mold or mildew might also emit an odor.
- Airflow issues. If you start to notice that air is flowing slowly or differently from the vents in any rooms, this can suggest a duct problem. Warm or cold temperature variances can be an indicator as well.
When Should Air Ducts Be Cleaned?
On the average, ducts should be cleaned every three to five years. They should especially be inspected:
- if you notice any signs of dust and dirt such as those we’ve discussed
- after you move into a home (either new or existing)
- after a remodeling project at home
A professional duct cleaning will include clearing the ducts with powerful high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) equipment with built-in filters. A separate cleaning using equipment with a HEPA filter will then follow to clear the air of any particulates introduced or loosened during the primary cleaning.
By having your ducts cleaned, you contribute to:
- helping to remove particles and airborne contaminants you may have been breathing
- decreasing dust that settles throughout your home
- reducing obstructions to airflow, which also helps lower the system’s energy draw
- ensuring a more comfortable indoor atmosphere
Indoor Air Quality: Beyond Duct Cleaning
If you need or desire better air quality at home, you can reinforce it beyond cleaning your ducts. This can be particularly beneficial if someone has allergies or health problems, or if you prefer to breathe and live in air that is more comfortable and purified.
Air Dynamics specializes in improving air quality. Our N.A.T.E. certified technicians can start by testing and evaluating your indoor air, including a count of the particulate matter within it.
We also offer state-of-the-art air filtration systems, whole-home humidifiers and de-humidifiers, and UV lighting systems and ventilators that incapacitate airborne pathogens.
Our high-efficiency air filtration can:
- remove 99% of mold and pollen
- eliminate 98% of dust and pet dander
- kill 98% of bacteria and fungi
- neutralize 98% of tobacco smoke and smog
- kill 80% of viruses and ultra-fine particles
Contact Us Today
At Air Dynamics, we care about the quality of the indoor air at our customers’ homes in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield. If you ever start to notice signs of dirty ducts or simply want to know more about improving the quality of air you breathe and live in, we will be glad to hear from you and answer your questions. Just give us a call at (630) 731-1550!