What Is Residential Ductwork and When Does It Need Repairs?

May 15, 2020

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If you’re like many homeowners, you don’t think of your residential ductwork until there’s a problem needing repairs. Homeowners often have a slight knowledge of how and why ducts and vents function in the home but often don’t realize the importance of properly sized ducts in good repair.

Residential ductwork distributes airflow through various HVAC appliances to interior and exterior vents. Damaged, leaking ducts put added wear and tear on your furnace and air conditioner, leading to premature failure, while also spiking your home’s utility bills. Dirty ductwork results in poor indoor air quality.

While high-quality residential ductwork installed properly might not need repairs for years or even decades, it is vital that a homeowner schedule ductwork inspection and cleaning on a consistent basis. Timely repairs also ensure improved indoor air quality and reduce the risk of wasted utility costs.

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To ensure you’re keeping your home’s HVAC system in good repair, including ducts and vents, you might note some vital information about these pieces and that system overall. You can then discuss any needs for ductwork cleaning and repairs with an HVAC contractor near you, and know that you’re not wasting energy through leaking ducts or breathing poor-quality air because of dirty, neglected ductwork!

What Is Residential Ductwork?

So you better understand the need for keeping residential ductwork in good repair and know when it’s time to call an HVAC contractor near you, note some added details about ducts, vents, and other HVAC system fixtures and features.

  • As with plumbing pipes and tubes, ducts allow air to travel through the home starting from the home’s furnace to connected vents.
  • Furnaces and air conditioners require a certain amount of airflow, measured in cubic feet per minute, to function properly and ensure proper temperature maintenance throughout your home.
  • Ducts also connect to exterior vents, releasing stale or circulated air and venting fumes and emissions created by the home’s furnace.
  • Ducts connect to curved or bent pieces, to work around corners or push air upwards or downwards. These pieces connect with bolts and fasteners that might come loose over time.
  • After some time, ducts themselves might suffer rust and other corrosion, or bend out of position and pull away from connecting pieces. This is especially true of improperly installed ductwork, such as pieces not meant for high humidity areas including kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Once ducts pull away from connectors or rust through, they then allow forced air to escape as it travels through the home. In turn, your furnace or AC needs to work harder and longer to maintain desired temperatures.
  • Damaged, leaking ducts also allow in surrounding air, which then warms cooled air from the air conditioner or cools heated air forced from the home’s furnace!
  • As air circulates throughout your home, it picks up dust and other debris. These irritants settle into ducts and then continue to be circulated, settling onto interior surfaces including carpets and furniture.
  • Ductwork might also hold dead insects, insect and rodent droppings, pollen and other irritants from outside the home, and trapped cigarette smoke.
  • As ductwork gets dirty over the years, that debris slows down the flow of forced air. Your furnace and AC then need to work harder to push air through the ducts and nearby vents, adding to their overall wear and tear.

Why Choose Residential Duct Cleaning

As said, ductwork tends to hold lots of dirt, dust, and other debris. While you might not think of the irritants trapped in your home’s ductwork, remember that those irritants get circulated throughout your house every time the air conditioner or furnace cycles on! If you notice that your home seems stuffy, dusty, or otherwise irritating and less than clean and fresh, this might be a sign of needed duct cleaning.

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Dust and other irritants trap and hold heat, warming up cooled air originating from your home’s air conditioner. In turn, the AC needs to cycle on longer in order to maintain your desired temperature. Trapped dirt, dust, and other debris also slows down air circulation so that your furnace, AC, and air purifiers also work harder to push air through ducts and to nearby vents.

Duct cleaning also allows an HVAC contractor to examine ductwork for leaks and other needed repairs. As he or she pushes air through to clean ducts, your HVAC contractor can note where that air leaks out around connectors and other areas. You can then schedule needed repairs or ductwork replacement and ensure your home’s HVAC system is in good repair.

When Does a Home Need Ductwork Repair?

Since ducts are located behind walls or are covered with construction materials, it’s often easy for a homeowner to overlook signs of needed ductwork repair. Ignoring damaged or worn ducts, however, means higher energy costs and poor indoor air quality. Note a few signs that it’s time to call an HVAC contractor near you for needed ductwork repair in your home.

  • While a furnace or air conditioner might make a slight humming sound while in operation, your home’s HVAC system shouldn’t be overly loud. Banging noises especially often indicate damaged ducts in need of repair or replacement.
  • Keep track of your home’s energy bills! While a rate increase or new, power-hungry appliances and electronics might mean higher costs from one month or year to the next, if you notice a sudden spike in your utility costs this often indicates damaged or leaking ducts or other needed HVAC repairs.
  • A home’s HVAC system should maintain consistent heating and cooling throughout all its interior spaces. A room with poor insulation and lots of sun exposure might be overly warm during summer months but otherwise, uneven heating and cooling often indicate an HVAC system struggling to push air through ducts properly.
  • If you live near a busy roadway, airport, or production facility, you might notice higher levels of dust around your home than average. However, note that dirty ductwork or damaged ducts don’t filter dust and irritants through the furnace filter as they should. In turn, your home might see more layers of dust than usual.
  • Along with dust around the home, dirty ductwork often deposits dust and other debris onto interior vents. If your home’s vents are always covered in dust or you notice lots of pet hair and other such debris clinging to the vents, you might consider a ductwork inspection and needed cleaning.
  • Poorly installed or insulated ducts often allow for mold and mildew growth. If you notice a moldy or musty smell in the home and cannot trace it to dirty carpets or other similar causes, it’s time for ductwork inspection!

It’s also good to note that older homes or those that have gone through DIY renovation projects might have old and damaged ducts or ductwork running through areas it shouldn’t, such as garages or crawlspaces. If you’ve upgraded your home’s furnace or air conditioner or had an air purifier installed, these appliances might be too large and powerful for older ductwork. In these cases, it’s good to have an HVAC contractor near you examine that ductwork for needed repairs, removal, or replacement, to ensure ducts are in good condition and your home is protected from poor air quality.

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Does a Home Need Residential Ductwork?

While ductwork is needed to push heated and cooled air from an HVAC system to interior rooms, a home doesn’t necessarily need ductwork installation. For example, a home might be heated with radiant heating under the floors or radiators in each room. Homes in very warm environments might also forego installed heating altogether, with homeowners relying on space heaters when needed!

Split system air conditioners, such as those used in hotel rooms, also allow for needed cooling without ductwork. A split system air conditioner installs in a wall or ceiling, with an exhaust vent connected to an exterior wall. Cooled air is pushed through the front panel of a split system unit rather than ductwork.

While these options allow for heating and cooling of your home without ductwork, note that they might not offer the consistent temperature control you desire. Radiators and split system air conditioners also offer heating and cooling to a limited space so areas of a room away from these systems might get overly warm or cold throughout the day. To enjoy consistent temperatures and humidity control throughout your home, consider ductwork installation as needed.

Related Questions

Can a homeowner install ductwork themselves?

As with plumbing pipes, ductwork installation is often more complicated than homeowners realize! Ductwork is connected with boots, collars, end caps, and duct reducers, all of which need proper installation for needed airflow and to reduce wear and tear on a home’s HVAC system. Ductwork installation also involves proper load calculation and sealing. To protect your home and appliances, rely on an HVAC contractor near you for ductwork installation.

How do you increase airflow in the home?

You might not need new residential ductwork installation to increase airflow in the home. Instead, consider ductwork cleaning and ensure all vents are cleaned thoroughly as well. An air purifier also helps remove airborne dust and debris, allowing for improved air circulation throughout the house.

 

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