Cleaning Air Ducts: Why & How Often Should You Do It?

Air ducts are passages that supply hot or cold air from your HVAC system. The ducts that collect air are also considered air ducts, and in most cases, they need to be cleaned more frequently than the supply air ducts. 

As the air ducts are subjected to continuous airflow throughout the year, frequent inspection and cleaning of these vents are recommended for a number of reasons. In this article, we’ll discuss the details that you must consider when cleaning air ducts. 

What Is Air Duct Cleaning

The practice of air duct cleaning often stretches beyond the ducts to grills, diffusers, coils, drain pans, motors, and housing components. As most HVAC systems work on forced air systems, cleaning the components that support the operations becomes equally important to supplying cold or hot air. 

Moreover, the ducts often are considered secondary as constant moving air is passed through them—cleaning them in the process. Only if a reduction in efficiency or increase in energy consumption is noticed, the ducts are processed accordingly. 

However, in most cases, cleaning the ducts regularly guarantees an increased lifespan of the unit and reduced energy bills. The purpose of cleaning the ducts is also important to find any leakage or damaged insulation. 

How to Check Air Ducts

The air receiving ducts often get clogged due to dust and debris. As the power of the suction isn’t as profound as the output, the dirt often clogs the airflow and reduces the efficiency of the machine. To check the air ducts, professionals often get inside the hard-to-reach spaces to physically check them. However, you don’t need to be that thorough. 

Checking for Dust

Accumulated dust and debris can cause reduced airflow to the HVAC. It can hugely impact the proficiency of the machine and affect the bills. See if there’s a huge variation of temperature between rooms, if the suction vents are making noises, or if some vents aren’t discharging enough air. Consider contacting professional HVAC services if any of these are deemed true. 

Checking for Damaged Insulation

Air ducts should be covered in insulation to keep the temperate within the ducts constant. As the ducts are mostly made out of metals, the outside temperature can hugely affect the inner conditioning if the insulation is somehow damaged.

A major cause of damaged insulation is pests. They burrow through the insulation to find warm ducts in the winter or to make their shelters with the insulating materials. Physically check the ducts to ensure there are no gaps. If gaps are present, it’s better to consult HVAC repair services to take care of that as soon as possible than do it yourself. 

Checking for Leakage

Leakages are much more frequent than clogged ducts. As the air ducts are joined to each other through welding, leakages can appear at any time. Not only the joints but the metals can also be oxidized and damaged due to the presence of moisture in the air. If you’re noticing reduced efficiency and uneven conditioning, consider checking for leakage. 

  • Most air ducts are present in the attic. Climb into your attic or basement to physically check the ducts. Thoroughly check each accessible section for obvious gaps, holes, and tears. If any previous repairs were done on the ducts, consider rechecking them for leaks. 
  • Place your hair over the metal and joints while the HVAC system is turned on. See if the air is leaking through the ducts. Most leaks appear on the joints. Move an incense stick along the ducts to ensure no air leakage. Mark these areas to facilitate the patching process. 

Why Should You Clean the Air Ducts

The 3 major operations of HVAC systems include: 

  • Conditioning the air
  • Filtering the air
  • Ventilation

Damaged or clogged air ducts jeopardize each of these purposes. Although weekly maintenance may not be necessary, keeping regular inspection routines can save you and your family from contracting complex diseases, heat waves, and cold weather. If you live in a moist location, clean air ducts can save you from sweating while working or doing exercises. Here is why you should check and clean the air ducts. 

Remove Dust and Mold

Dust comes in all shapes and sizes. It can contain pollen, toxic chemicals, microplastics, and any type of hazardous material. HVAC units often filter these toxins out before pushing clean air into the rooms. However, if your air ducts are clogged, the airflow is disrupted and the unit can’t efficiently filter out the potentially harmful elements. 

If you live in moist conditions, molds building up in the ducts can also negatively affect your health. Molds often cause allergic reactions like watery eyes, coughing, breathing troubles, and many more. Therefore, it’s important to keep your ducts clean and dry for your safety and comfort. 

Improve Indoor Air Quality

HVAC systems filter out all the toxins and moisture from the air to present fresh dry air in your rooms. As the duct cleaning procedure involves cleaning the filtration system, it can decrease potential health complexities for most of us. Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule helps many breathing-related troubles limited to a minimum. It also keeps your children from developing long-term lung diseases from occurring. 

If heat waves are considered, an increased moisture content indoors can promote the growth of fungi like Aspergillus, Acremonium, and Alternaria, which are extremely dangerous for children and pets.    

Saving Energy

Dust in ducts, oxidation of connections, and reduced motor efficiency can exponentially increase your energy bills. If the ducts are clogged, the HVAC unit will have to do more work to reach and maintain a particular temperature.

The same goes for dysfunctional motors—contributing to the wastage of energy. Consider regularly examining your HVAC unit professionally to avoid paying more than you should. 

How Often Should You Do It?

As per recommendation, it’s enough to clean the air ducts every 4-6 years. However, there are no limitations to it. If need be, you can professionally clean your air ducts every year or so depending on your location, climate, and usage. 

The Bottom Line

Cleaning air ducts in your HVAC system is necessary to maintain healthy air quality, save on energy, and avoid health hazards. To check the ducts, move your hands over the pipes to check if there is any leakage or gaps.

If you feel air coming out of the ducts, consider patching them up for a better output. Although it’s advised to clean air ducts every 4 years, you can do it as frequently as you may like.