Most responsible homeowners make sure they schedule annual maintenance on their HVAC system, one professional tune-up for the heating system and another for the cooling system. That optimizes energy efficiency, assures continued solid performance, and identifies any safety issues. But in many cases a professional HVAC maintenance visit will focus on the equipment itself, and give short shrift to the system of ductwork that circulates and delivers conditioned air in your home, then routes it back to the equipment.
That could be a mistake since no matter how efficiently and effectively your furnace, AC or heat pump is operating, if the conditioned air is struggling to reach its destination, you’re wasting money and energy, while not getting the degree of comfort your heating and cooling equipment is designed to provide in your home.
If you haven’t had a professional duct inspection done in several years (or ever), you should seriously consider scheduling one. It could be that your ducts are dirty, leaking or improperly designed, any of which will compromise the work being done by your HVAC equipment.
Here’s Why Duct Maintenance Is Important
A lot of air can escape from ducts whose sections aren’t securely connected, either from poor sealing or design. Heat energy can transfer through the walls of uninsulated ducts that travel through unconditioned spaces, either escaping during the heating season or infiltrating those duct walls in the summertime. This could be an unheated crawlspace, garage, basement or attic during the winter, or a hot attic or garage in the heat of the summer.
In either instance – poorly sealed ducts or non-insulated ductwork – your system is wasting energy that should be devoted toward efficiently and effectively heating and cooling your home. When conditioned air doesn’t arrive where it’s meant to go, the rooms of your home, or does arrive but after losing its warmth or coolness, your HVAC equipment has to work all the harder to compensate. That costs money in energy bills, exerts unnecessary stress on the equipment, and reduces you and your family’s comfort.
Ducts that are leaking air also can erode indoor air quality. In parts of your home with dirty air, such as a crawlspace, garage, workshop or basement, contaminated air can infiltrate through cracks and gaps in the ductwork, when the external air pressure exceeds the internal pressure. That dirty air is then delivered into your living spaces, threatening the health of home occupants. In the same way, leaky ducts in rare cases may allow deadly carbon monoxide to “backdraft” back into the home after it’s been expelled from exhaust vents connected to gas appliances inside the house.
What’s Involved with Duct Maintenance
While homeowners with basic handyman skills can perform some duct maintenance tasks, for a more comprehensive job you should talk to a trained and trusted professional. They’ll have the diagnostic gauges, tools, experience and credentials to do the work correctly. Their first task will be to determine what if any problems are compromising the job your ductwork is expected to perform. Once they’ve identified leaks, poor design, inadequate insulation and/or an accumulation of dirt and debris inside the ducts, they’ll perform the needed repairs, and if necessary perform or recommend a professional duct cleaning.
Ducts that are tight, clean and well-designed complement the efficient performance of your furnace, AC or heat pump in providing reliable and affordable comfort in your home.