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7 Common Air Duct Problems

air duct vent having a problem

Air conditioners and furnaces circulate air throughout our homes by way of a network of supply and return ducts. Which is great, but over time, these ducts can develop problems that affect the quality of the indoor air we breathe as well as the efficiency of our HVAC systems.

With an estimated 90% of time spent in either private or public indoor environments, it's important to think about the air that we are breathing in. It may not have a huge effect on your immediate, but with 90% of your time breathing in that air, if it's full of contaminants, over time, it can have serious side effects on your health!

With that being said, let's take a look at some of the most common air duct problems so that you can ensure you're home's indoor air quality is healthy.

7 Common Air Duct Problems & What to Do

One of the most common issues HVAC technicians are called to address is air duct problems, which can be things such as leaky or dirty ducts.

The following are the seven most common air duct problems...

1. Leaking Air Ducts

Over time, seals around the joints and connections in your ductwork can break down, allowing conditioned air to escape into attics, crawl spaces, and other unoccupied areas.

It can also allow air outside of those ducts from places such as the attic into the ductwork... spreading it throughout the home. Which if you have mold growing in your attic, which many homes do, this could be a serious problem.

Not only does this pose a problem, but it also causes wasted energy and drives up your utility bills. In addition to that, it can also decrease the performance of your HVAC unit.

When airflow is restricted, your system has to work harder to maintain the set temperature, putting unnecessary strain on the components and shortening its lifespan.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to fix this problem.

air duct vents in home

Identify the source of the leak: A professional can help you locate the source of the leak and repair it.

Install insulation: Adding insulation to your air ducts can help improve the efficiency of your unit.

Seal the ducts: Applying a sealant to the seams of your air ducts can also help prevent leakage.

Replace the ductwork: In some cases, the only way to fix a serious leak is to replace the entire section of ductwork.

If you’re having trouble with leaks in your air ducts, we recommend contacting a professional HVAC company for help. They can assess the situation and recommend the best course of action to take to fix the problem.

2. Dirty Ducts

Another common air duct problem is dirt and debris buildup. Over time, dust, pollen, pet hair, and other allergens can accumulate in the ductwork, eventually causing the system to become clogged.

This not only decreases the efficiency of your HVAC unit but can also cause a variety of health problems for people with allergies or respiratory illnesses. In extreme cases, a clogged air duct can even cause a fire.

There are a few things you can do to prevent this problem:

Change Your Air Filter

One of the best ways to keep your air ducts clean is to change your air filter regularly. Depending on the type of filter you have, you may need to change it every month or two.

Clean The Vents

Another way to reduce the amount of dirt and debris in your air ducts is to clean the vents. This is usually done with an air hose and blows out all dust and debris.

Hire A Professional

In some cases, the only way to thoroughly clean your air ducts is to hire a professional. They have the tools and experience to safely and effectively clean your ductwork.

Dirty Air Ducts Means You Have an Issue

It's important to note that if you have air ducts that are dirty, this is a sign that you have an issue with your ductwork. Air ducts shouldn't become dirty, the only way this happens is a problem, such as a leak in your ductwork.

Although we recommend that you clean out your ducts, we also highly recommend having a professional fix the problem. Otherwise, you'll need to hire someone on a fairly regular basis to clean them!

Sealing your ducts and repairing any damages will prevent you from having dirty ducts!

dirty air ducts in home

3. Increased Energy Consumption 

If you’ve noticed your energy bills going up, even though your usage hasn’t changed, it could be a sign of an air duct problem. Over time, leaks and clogs in the ductwork can cause your HVAC unit to work harder to maintain the set temperature.

This not only drives up your energy bills but can also cause your unit to break down prematurely. If you’re concerned about increased energy consumption, there are a few things you can do:

Check For Leaks

One of the most common causes of increased energy consumption is leaks in the ductwork. Look for obvious holes, kinked ducts, and loose connections in the ductwork to check for leaks and holes. This may be done with the naked eye or using a flashlight for leak detection more easily.

Clean The Ducts

Over time, dirt and dust can build up in the ductwork, leading to clogs. This not only decreases the efficiency of your unit but can also cause it to overheat. To clean the ducts, you can hire a professional.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

One of the best ways to prevent duct problems is to schedule regular HVAC maintenance. Since a professional will be coming out to inspect them on a regular basis, they can clean the ducts, identify any potential issues, and prevent problems from happening in the first place.

So, by taking these steps, you can help reduce energy consumption and keep your HVAC unit running smoothly. If you have any questions or concerns, contact an HVAC professional for help as they can advise you on the best course of action.

woman relaxing on couch

4. Sounds & Loud Noises Emanating From Ducts

If you’re hearing sounds emanating from your ducts, there could be a serious problem. These noises can be caused by many things, such as loose parts, clogs, or leaks. In some cases, the problem may be an infestation problem.

Check for loose parts: First, check to see if there are any loose parts. If you find any, tighten them up.

Check for clogs: Next, check for clogs. Clogs can be caused by dirt, dust, and debris build-up.

Check for leaks: Finally, check for leaks. Holes or cracks in the ductwork can cause leaks. To repair the leak, use duct tape or sealant.

Check for any blockage: Remove any blockage in the path of the ductwork. This could be something as simple as a piece of furniture or a curtain.

Check for an Infestation: If you don't find any loose parts, clogs, leaks, or blockage, your issue could be pest related. At this point, either contact an HVAC professional or pest control to find out for sure.

5. Odors, Smells & Signs Of Mold Or Mildew

If you notice any odors, smells, or signs of mold or mildew coming from your air ducts, it's important to take action right away. These could be a potential health hazard for your home and family.

Being exposed to larger amounts of mold spores can cause allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, headache, fatigue, and much more. If you breathe in mold over a long period of time, it can lead to more serious health issues.

Here is what you should do if you suspect mold is flowing through your air ducts.

mold growing in home

Identify The Source

The first step is to identify the source of the odor. This could be coming from your attic, crawlspace, or just about anywhere else. Think about areas that may be wet or damp first though, as this is where mold will typically grow.

Remove The Source

Once you’ve identified the source, it's time to remove it. If it’s dirt and debris, a simple cleaning should do the trick. If it’s mold or mildew, you may need to use a stronger cleaning solution.

Prevent Future Problems

To prevent odors, smells, and signs of mold or mildew in the future, it's important to keep your air ducts clean and free of debris, but more importantly, fix the issue. You most likely have a leak somewhere in your air ducts and if you don't want this to happen again, you'll need to repair or replace them.

As we mentioned before as well, regularly scheduled HVAC maintenance can help to ensure that your air ducts stay in good condition.

6. Poor Installation, Poor Design

Next, your problem could be due to poor installation. Having your air ducts installed or designed poorly can decrease the performance of your unit and cause issues. This can cause restrictions in airflow and lead to increased energy usage as your system tries to keep up.

There are a few ways you can improve this situation.

Check Ductwork Installation

Make sure that your ductwork was installed properly. If there are any bends or kinks, this could be causing the problem. A professional can also come out and do a quick inspection to let you know whether they have been installed correctly or not.

Fix Ductwork Design

If your ductwork was poorly designed, it may be possible to have it redesigned. This could help to improve airflow and decrease energy usage.

air vent surrounded by floral wallpaper

Is Air Duct Cleaning Necessary

Yes, air duct cleaning is necessary to remove dirt, dust, and other debris that can accumulate over time from leaks. This accumulation can cause your air ducts to become less efficient, which can lead to higher energy bills and reduced indoor air quality.

However, it's important to note that this is only necessary because of another issue, such as a leak in your ducts. If you want to prevent this from continuing to happen, you'll need to repair or replace the cause of build-up.

Can Dirty Air Ducts Make You Sick

If you have dirty air ducts, it's possible that they could make you sick. Dust and other contaminants can build up, and when these particles are circulated through your home, they can cause respiratory problems.

If it's mold, then it can cause serious health issues for anyone breathing it in.

If you or someone in your household has allergies or asthma, this can be especially troublesome. So, if your air ducts are dirty, it's best to have them cleaned by a professional. This will remove the build-up of contaminants and help you breathe easier.

hvac professional working on hvac and air ducts

Stop Wasting Money on Substandard Services!

It is important to invest in an HVAC professional when it comes to your air ducts. This is because substandard services can end up costing you more money in the long run. By working with a professional, you can avoid common air duct problems and ensure that your home or office is comfortable and efficient.

Thomas Service Company is the best in the business and has a proven track record of providing quality services. We've been providing our HVAC services in Huntsville, Alabama for over 15 years. When you work with us, you can trust that your air ducts will be in good hands!