How Do I Know If My Air Ducts Need To Be Cleaned

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Last updated: 
September 3, 2019

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Air ducts are one of the essential components of your home's HVAC system. They are the metal conduits that carry heated or cooled air throughout your home. Unfortunately, they can also carry dust and allergens to all the corners of the house. And, they can be difficult to clean, as they are hidden away in basements and behind sheetrock. It can even be difficult to tell if and when air ducts need cleaning. In case you've started wondering how do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned, there are some warning signs.

Inexplicable amounts of dust indoors, the presence of mold in and around your air conditioning and heating systems, and allergies and respiratory problems caused by poor indoor air quality are all signs that your air ducts need cleaning. Regular air duct cleaning can help to improve indoor air quality and also the energy efficiency of your HVAC system.

How Do I Know If My Air Ducts Need To Be Cleaned?

Air ducts are part of your home HVAC system, but most of the time they remain out of sight and out of mind. They do need regular cleaning, however, and neglecting this important task can lead to all kinds of problems, from higher energy bills to allergies and respiratory problems among the residents of the house. In fact, these are some of the warning signs which tell you to call in the professional air duct cleaners.

This is why it's important to learn the answer to how do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned? You may also have a related question: how do I go about cleaning them? Below, you'll find a list of things to look out for if you think your air ducts may be due for a cleaning. But, when it comes to cleaning them, it's a task best left to the professionals. They have the right tools, equipment, and training for the job.

5 Signs That Your Air Ducts Need To Be Cleaned

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Your HVAC system is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system for your whole house. It circulates air through all the rooms, keeping them warm or cool according to the season. Ironically, even though the HVAC system is responsible for keeping your home comfortable and ventilated, it can do the opposite if neglected. Dust, allergens and other particles collect in the air ducts and can cause all kinds of problems.

How Do Air Ducts Get So Dirty?

The HVAC system is essential for any home, but it's also one that is usually neglected. An HVAC system that's functioning efficiently doesn't get much attention from homeowners. This means that very few people actually get their air ducts cleaned on a regular basis. This lets the dirt inside the air ducts build up to the point where it begins to cause noticeable and serious problems.

When your home HVAC system is installed, the air ducts are sealed to keep the heated or cooled air from leaking and to prevent dust and other indoor air pollutants from entering the air duct system. But, over time, dust, mold, dander, and other indoor air pollutants manage to creep into the HVAC system, which then carries these contaminants throughout the whole house.

The HVAC system is essential for any home, but it's also one that is usually neglected.

Another way that dust and other harmful particles get into the air ducts is if you've had any construction or renovation projects done in the house. Even if the workmen take great care to seal off rooms and to clean up after themselves, the HVAC system is not airtight, and some construction debris will end up there. Many construction materials use chemicals that can be harmful and even dangerous to breathe, and if they enter the air ducts, they can circulate through the whole house.

Eventually, the dirt, dust, and debris in the air duct will begin causing problems that you will notice. If you're wondering how do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned, here are five of the warning signs that you will see.

Signs That Your Air Ducts Need Cleaning

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It can be difficult to tell if the air ducts are dirty because they're so inaccessible. But, there are some signs that you can watch out for, and the five most important ones are shared below.


Dust Around Air Vents And In The House

If you notice dust and debris around the air vents in the rooms, it indicates that there are contaminants in the air ducts. These may eventually start blocking the flow of air through the air ducts and causing allergies and respiratory illness in residents of the house.

You may also see the dust on surfaces all over the house, even if you clean very often. If you remove a vent grill, you may see dust and dirt adhering to the inside. This is one answer to your question, how do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned.


Your Heating And Cooling Bills Spike Suddenly

There's another important sign that will tell you how do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned. When dirt, dust, and allergens begin to accumulate inside the air ducts, they block the flow of heated and cooled air. This means that the furnace and air conditioner have to work much harder to achieve the right temperatures. The extra effort will show up on your bills as increased energy consumption.


People In The House Start Developing Allergies And Respiratory Problems

With all the dust, dander, allergens, and other contaminants circulating through your house, you may notice that people start developing allergies and respiratory problems. These may include unexplained sinus problems, asthma, or other respiratory problems. In extreme cases, you may also notice red and itchy eyes, sneezing and breathing difficulties.


Mold Is Found In The Furnace Or Air Conditioning System

Homeowners are advised to get the furnace and air conditioning system cleaned twice a year. These service visits can also help HVAC professionals to discover the growth of mold if and when it occurs. If they do find mold, chances are that it has also made its way into the air ducts.

Mold can cause serious health problems, such as respiratory illness, eye and throat irritation, rashes and itchy skin, and infections in people with compromised immune systems or chronic lung disease.


Signs Of Rodent Or Insect Infestation

If you see any signs or notice bad smells that indicate the presence of rodents in the air ducts, these should be treated as a health emergency. Dropping and debris like this can cause serious health problems. You should call in certified HVAC professionals to clean the ductwork.

Should You Clean Your Air Ducts Yourself?

 All of these signs will tell you if your air ducts are due or past due to be cleaned. This is not a DIY yourself project, and for the reasons given below, it's best to call in trained and qualified professionals for the job.

Why Air Ducts Need Cleaning

Keeping the air ducts clean has several benefits for you and your house. First of all, it will lead to a big improvement in indoor air quality and, consequently, in your family's health. Next, it will improve the efficiency of the HVAC system as it heats or cools your house.

This will make the house more comfortable. When the furnace and air conditioning system have to do less work to function efficiently, their life span is extended. And finally, by keeping the air ducts clean, you're preventing major blockages and expensive repairs at a later stage.

Even though it's an important task, cleaning air ducts is not something you should do on your own. Specialized tools and training are needed, and there's always the risk that you may make things worse instead of better.

Why You Should Call In The Professionals

It may be tempting to treat this a do-it-yourself project, but this is definitely one of those cases where it's better to call in the professionals. Doing it yourself may well make the situation much worse. HVAC professionals know the details of each system, and they have the right equipment and training to clean the air ducts.

When hiring HVAC professionals to clean your home's air ducts, look for their NADCA certification. NADCA is the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, and their certification will mean that the job will be done correctly and safely.

When cleaning, the HVAC professionals may also re-seal the joins in the ductwork. This will keep more dust and dirt from entering the air ducts, and it will also keep the cooled or heated air in the ducts from leaking and being wasted. This will keep the air ducts cleaned and also make your HVAC system more energy efficient.


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With air ducts, like HVAC systems, a little preventative maintenance can prevent any major problems. It can help to maintain the indoor air quality in your home and keep the HVAC system functioning efficiently which in turn helps in lowering energy bills. Once you learn to recognize the signs that tell you how do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned, the next step is to schedule a professional cleaning.

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