In most homes that use forced air systems (if you have vents rather than baseboards or radiators, then you have a forced-air system) ductwork is hidden behind walls, making It something few people think about.
But “out of sight, out of mind” isn’t an approach you should take when it comes to maintaining your ductwork—in fact, keeping your ducts in top shape is super important not just for energy efficiency’s sake, but also for the longevity of your equipment and the health of people living in your space.
In this post, we’ll look at some ductwork basics, including some of the problems and solutions that will help keep your ductwork working for you rather than against you.
Ductwork is a critical part of a forced-air heating and cooling system that carries cooled or heated air from your central air conditioner or furnace to vents in your living space. Ductwork is most commonly made from either galvanized steel or aluminum, but it can also be made of fiberglass or fiberboard.
Most of the challenges that arise from ductwork stem from the fact that ductwork can either leak air or accumulate dirt, debris, and even microorganisms — like mold — within its tubing.
Problem #1: Dirty Ducts
According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), the accumulation of pet fur, dust, mold, cigarette smoke, and other contaminants can dramatically affect the function of your ducts, reducing the efficiency of your heating and cooling system and reducing the quality of your indoor air.
Cleaning your ducts can reduce improve HVAC efficiency by as much as 30%, according to the NADCA, while also preventing harmful contaminants from circulating throughout your home and potentially posing health challenges. (This is especially problematic in households where people with respiratory conditions live.)
Solution: Duct Cleaning
Of course, dirty ducts can and should be cleaned—about once every three to five years—according to experts. Most homeowners can expect to pay between $300 and $500 for a professional duct cleaning, depending on the size and complexity of your home. DIY duct cleaning is also possible using a special vacuum machine you can rent from your local hardware store.
Problem #2: Duct Leaks
The second problem with ductwork is that it’s prone to leaks— the result of either small holes in the ductwork itself—improper installation or failed joint sealing (or, most commonly, a combination of the three).
According to ENERGY STAR®, about 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, which results in higher energy bills and less comfort; common signs of leaky ducts include rising bills and rooms that are stuffy or difficult to heat and cool. Leaky ducts can also cause a dust problem in your house by drawing in dirt and particles from within your walls and distributing it throughout your home.
Solution: Duct Sealing
Much like duct cleaning, duct sealing can be approached by either hiring a professional or doing the job yourself. You can learn more about the benefits of duct sealing here.
If you choose to go the professional route, always look for a NATE-certified or otherwise qualified duct-sealing professional. If you plan to tackle duct sealing yourself, ENERGY STAR® offers some great D.I.Y. duct sealing tips.
Your ductwork is a key to healthy indoor air and lower heating and cooling bills, so be sure to keep in in top condition! Want to know another key to lower heating and cooling bills? Choose the right home energy provider. Contact Discount Power today to learn more about money-saving electricity plans for your home!