If properly maintained, the HVAC ductwork in your Baltimore home can last between 10 and 15 years. However, there are a number of common problems and events that can damage ducting or cause it to break down much sooner. When HVAC ductwork fails, home comfort levels drop, energy use rises and indoor air quality suffers. Knowing the right time to replace this component is incredibly important. Here are several ways to tell when HVAC ducts are excessively dirty, damaged or at the very end of their lifespan.
Your HVAC System Has Grown Loud
You should definitely expect to hear some noise when your HVAC system is on. However, if using this equipment is making it harder for you to engage in or enjoy normal indoor activities, excess noise may indicate a problem with your ducts. You should be able to relax with a good book, hold a conversation with others or listen to your music or the television without your heating or cooling system interrupting.
There are multiple reasons why HVAC systems grow increasingly loud. Heating and cooling equipment tends to become noisier as it gets older or when it’s dirty and poorly maintained overall. When damaged ductwork is the culprit, you’ll likely hear loud rattling and vibrating sounds whenever the system is on. Ductwork is connected by fiberglass or plastic joints. As these joints wear down, connected sections start moving and bumping against one another. Whistling sounds are another sign of aging ductwork. Whistling often means that the ducts have developed holes, cracks or other air leaks. These aren’t problems that will correct themselves over time. The extra pressure and stress caused by these types of damage can expedite wear and make using the HVAC system increasingly disruptive.
Your Walls Are Hot to the Touch
If you have incredibly loud air ducts, turn the heat on and then place your hand on the wall where the ducts are noisiest. If the wall is hot but the actual living environment is still far too cold, this means that air leaks are releasing heated air behind the drywall. Although your furnace is still producing and distributing warm air, the indoor temperature will never rise significantly, and your heater will have to work far longer. Leaving problems like this one unchecked will result in higher home energy bills and a larger carbon footprint. It can also accelerate your heater’s aging and greatly diminish its overall lifespan.
Your Home Energy Bills Have Suddenly Increased
Sudden spikes in your home energy bills are always alarming. Finding the culprit and fixing the underlying problem right away can save you a substantial amount of cash. Your HVAC system is always the first equipment to check when dealing with these increases. However, if you’ve been diligent about changing out your HVAC air filter, and if you regularly schedule annual service for both your heater and your air conditioner, the problem likely lies with your ductwork. Increases in home energy spending that aren’t related to changes in your household size, your general appliance use or the actual building structure often indicate air leaks. Check all windows, doors and other areas for gaps and cracks. Then, schedule a ductwork inspection. Having heated or cooled air escaping behind your walls where no one can actually benefit from it is guaranteed to prove expensive. It might also be that conditioned air is being forced into the attic or into remote areas of the home such as the garage or basement.
Crushed, Tangled or Collapsed Ducts
HVAC air ducts aren’t built to withstand high-impact events. Unfortunately, they’re also often positioned in areas where they can be easily struck by falling paint cans, tools or other stored items. Worse still, until homeowners are cognizant of significant changes in HVAC function, hidden air ducts that have been pinched or crushed can go unnoticed for long stretches of time. Heavy-impact events can also cause ducts to become tangled or twisted. Although small tears or holes in HVAC ducting can often be cheaply patched, taped or otherwise sealed, problems like these generally require full duct replacement.
Hot and Cold Spots
With central heating and cooling systems, all rooms should be kept at roughly the same temperature. If there are certain rooms that remain excessively cold when the heater is on, this is a likely sign that the ductwork feeding these rooms is not providing adequate service. When hot and cold spots throughout the home are caused by duct problems, identifying the exact location of the damage is often much easier. This is one of many ways in which damaged HVAC ductwork can greatly impact resident comfort.
Your Indoor Air Quality Has Declined
Some of the events and problems that render existing ductwork unusable aren’t the result of impact events or wear-related damage. These are often issues that directly impact indoor air quality. For instance, if you’ve recently had a problem with mold infestation, having your HVAC air ducts thoroughly cleaned or replaced may be the only way to ensure ongoing resident health and safety. Once mold spores find their way into these passages, cleaning them out entirely might not be possible. Severe mold infestations in homes can render existing HVAC equipment permanently unsafe.
This can also be the case with severe pest infestations. When insects and animals set up camp in HVAC ductwork, their leavings can have a significant and long-lasting impact on indoor air quality. Fur, insect wings, feces and other detritus can exacerbate problems like allergies and asthma, and they can even create respiratory issues where none existed before. Whenever pest infestations affect HVAC systems, it’s important to have duct cleaning performed. If mold remediation is needed, HVAC ductwork must be a part of these treatments. It’s always important to have the viability of affected ducting professionally assessed before continuing to use it.
Should Your HVAC Ductwork Be Cleaned, Repaired or Replaced?
All of the heated and cooled air that’s produced by your HVAC system passes through your ductwork. Although your air conditioner gets a break during the winter months and your heater is temporarily retired throughout the summer, your air ducts work all the time. This system is constantly subjected to wear, and it’s constantly exposed to dirt, dust, dander and other airborne particulates and contaminants. Thus, having it routinely inspected and cleaned makes good sense.
HVAC professionals can tell you whether or not your damaged or dirty ducts need to be cleaned, repaired or replaced. If your ductwork is 10 or more years old, a replacement will likely be recommended. When entire sections of ducting have sustained significant structural harm, replacing the ductwork will prove to be the best and longest-lasting solution. When HVAC air ducts are severely contaminated and continuing to use them poses a significant threat to resident health, replacement is usually advised.
At HB Home Service Team, we’ve been proudly serving residents of the Greater Baltimore area for over a century. We offer comprehensive heating and cooling services, oil and propane delivery, and air duct replacement and cleaning. You can also count on us for all your plumbing needs from hot water tanks and water treatment to drain cleaning and pipe repair. If your HVAC air ducts are damaged or they’ve reached the end of their lifespan, we can help. Call our office today to set up an appointment.