Most homeowners don’t give the ductwork in their home a second thought. That is, until something goes wrong. Although many don’t know it, the ductwork is crucial to keeping your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system working efficiently.
Just as arteries and veins in a human body branch out from the heart, the ductwork branches out from the HVAC system in your home. If the ducts don’t function as they should, it puts a strain on your HVAC system causing it to run longer and work harder, and costing you money.
Your HVAC system is responsible for 50 to 70 percent of the energy usage in your home. With these figures, it’s easy to see why it’s important to keep your ducts clear and operating properly. Here are some tips to help you do this.
Tip #1 – Check for Leaks
Your entire duct system needs to be checked yearly for leaks. Look for leaks around the joints, near vents and around the air handler. Look for obvious gaps, holes, and seams that are no longer sealed.
Ducts can also become loose and begin leaking due to age. Over time, caulking or sealant erodes and adhesive dries out, allowing the seams to leak.
When your ducts leak 20 percent, it can make your HVAC system work 50 percent harder. Sealing your ducts can help you save significantly on your heating and cooling bill.
If your ductwork wasn’t installed correctly, it’s relatively easy for ducts to become loose or completely disconnected. When this happens, you’re heating and cooling your attic or crawl space.
If you discover leaks, loose connections or gaps in your ducts, fix them or have them fixed by professionals. Ducts should be repaired and connected with sheet metal screws, mechanical fasteners or nylon tie strips then sealed with mastic or acrylic-adhesive foil tape.
Tip #2 – Check for Obstructions
In homes where the registers are in the floor, it’s easy for objects to fall or be dropped into the registers – small children are particularly fascinated with dropping objects in to see what happens. Check all ducts for objects and make sure registers aren’t blocked by furniture or other objects placed on top of them.
When inspecting your ducts, also check for any collapsed or crushed sections that could be obstructing airflow.
Tip #3 – Check for Insulation
Most ductwork is installed in the crawl space, attic, basement or garage. Any ducts installed outside of conditioned spaces should be insulated with R-6 duct wrap insulation or 1 ½” to 3” of insulation. This keeps heated and cooled air from radiating from the ducts into unconditioned spaces.
If your ducts are insulated on the inside, it’s possible for the insulation to collapse over time. The insulation then blocks the ducts and keeps heat and air from flowing freely through your system.
Tip #4 – Check for Health Hazards
If you discovered gaps in your ducts during inspection, inspect the inside of the ducts before you seal them. What should you be looking for? Look for mold growth and evidence of infestation.
Gaps in ducts not only allow conditioned air to escape, but also allow unconditioned air to enter your home. This can raise the amount of humidity you have in your home. When the humidity levels are high, mold can grow in the ducts.
If you had gaps in your ducts, you also need to look for evidence of infestation of rodents or insects. If you see any evidence, such as feces or nests, your ducts need professional cleaning to clear them of debris before you seal them.
Both mold and infestation can be a health hazard. Conditioned air blows over the mold, nests or rodent feces and into your home. This can cause problems with allergies or general sickness, and can lower the quality of the air your family is breathing.
Is Your Ductwork Functioning Properly?
Unless your ductwork is inspected regularly, you can’t be sure it’s functioning as well as it should. Just as you need health checkups, your ductwork needs to be checked once per year also. You can perform this inspection yourself or call the professionals to inspect ducts that are often difficult to get to.
For more expert advice about ductwork, contact Griffith Energy Services, Inc. With over 100 years experience and service in Baltimore and the entire Mid-Atlantic region, we are the area’s first choice for energy-efficient heating and cooling. We can inspect your ductwork and make any corrections you need to get your HVAC system performing at its best.
Written by Kevin Spain