It is summer and here in Texas, have no doubt, we have our air conditioners running 24/7 by now. While that air conditioner is cooling the house, and what blessing that is after a full day of working in the yard, are you really getting all you can from that unit? Have you cleaned the air vents, or had a professional air duct inspection and air duct cleaning?
Air duct and vent cleaning is crucial to having your air conditioner giving you the most comfort possible. A dirty or collapsed air duct can reduce the efficiency of an air conditioner, and a dirty air duct system is more than inefficient. It is unhealthy too! Before we answer some common questions, let’s start with one that isn’t asked, but should be answered, “How do air ducts work?”.
When we think about our air conditioning system, it is the big thing outside of our home and that part in a hall closet where we change the filter (oh yeah, have you done that recently?). What we don’t think about is that silver tubing stuff that we see in the vents (remember to clean those too!). That is the air duct system and without it, the cool air wouldn’t get anywhere in our homes.
The air duct system distributes the airflow that comes from the HVAC equipment. It keeps that cold air encompassed so that it sucks the air in from inside your house through the air filter and ran through the HVAC system to cool it. Then it is blown out through the air duct system and throughout your home.
How do you know if you have leaky ductwork?
The HVAC system in your home comprised of several parts. The indoor unit, the outdoor unit, air vents, and a system of air duct work. If your air conditioning is working and it should, the problem could be within any of these parts.
If it sounds like it is blowing, but you’re not feeling a strong air coming from the vents, the first place to check should be the air duct system. Here are some signs that could be indicating you have an air duct leak:
High Utility Bills
Air duct leaks could cause a sudden jump in your electric bill because it is blowing that cold air into the attic and not the main part of your house. So, the house isn’t as cool as it should be, you lower the thermostat, the air conditioner works harder using more electricity.
We don’t typically dust our attic, which is where the air duct system runs. When there is a leak in the air duct system, it is sucking in that dust and blowing it all through the house. Not only is this making your furniture dusty, but it can aggravate allergies and breathing issues too.
Cooling and Heating Uneven
If one room is cooler than the other rooms on the same floor, the air duct system is not getting a constant flow, meaning, there is a leak somewhere within the air duct system.
How do I test my HVAC air flow?
You can call a professional service to come check the airflow of your HVAC system. With annual inspections by a professional, this is part of the service. However, if you believe you may have an issue in between those appointments, you can do your own air flow check.
The following set up to test the flow from your air duct system may seem to be a bit “red neck”, but it works, and professionals have been using it for 30 years or more. So, don’t laugh until you try it. It will only take ten minutes and you won’t have to buy any high dollar equipment. Gather the following items, which you probably already have around the house:
1 small garbage bag
1 wire hanger
A watch with a second hand
- Wrap the wire hanger around the garbage bag opening, shaped in a circle or rectangle, then tape it so it is secure, and the garbage bag doesn’t collapse.
- Put the garbage bag on the floor and crush the air out of it, starting at the bottom of the bag and moving up. If the garbage bag has any holes or tears, remove it and get another one.
- Put the open end of the deflated garbage bag over a supply register, aka air vents.
- With the HVAC system running, time how many seconds it takes to fully inflate the garbage bag.
The Test Results
Air flow is measured in CFM, cubic feet per minute. If your garbage bag filled in two seconds or less, then your air duct system is healthy. If it took more than 15 seconds to inflate the garbage bag, you may have an air duct leak. At this point, you need to call your air conditioning service company.
How do I check ductwork?
The following steps can often help you find air duct leaks.
1. Look for Obvious Hole and Tears
This should be the first step and when you find any holes or tears, mark the spot with a grease pencil to make it easy to locate for repairs after you’re through check the entire air duct system.
2. Turn the HVAC System on Full Speed
Best way to check air duct work is to have the HVAC system blowing air at full speed.
3. The Air Duct Joints
The air duct system is connected from one run to the next and at those joints, it is common to find leaks. At each joint, run your hand over it and if there is air coming through the joints, you have a leak.
4. Duct Tape Evidence
If your home was pre-owned, it is possible that the previous owner did a patch-up job using duct tape. While this is a good fix, it is only meant to be temporary. Remove the duct tape and make the correct type of patch.
Now, seal up the leaks you found and recheck using the garbage bag method. There may be leaks or broken air duct sections that you must call a professional service to repair or replace.
Can I clean air ducts myself?
The air ducts to your HVAC system are the lungs for your home, and the cleaner they are, the better they work. The air filter you replace or clean each month prevents airborne particles from getting inside the HVAC system and are your first line and inexpensive defense.
The air duct system in any home can get infested with insects, rodents, and other vermin, dander, and droppings, in addition to the dirt and dust that gets settled in them. Left unaddressed, you’re not only slowing the air flow to cool your home, it is creating an unhealthy environment for you and your family.
If there is mold growing inside the air ductwork, there will be additional steps needed to be cleaning them that you may not see or reach. This is where a professional HVAC service technician is needed. They have the equipment to reach up inside air ducts without damaging them.
If you’re set on doing your own air duct cleaning, your vacuum cleaner will be your best equipment to use. Clean the floor grilles and air duct registers with the brush attachment and if there is evidence of a lot of dust, take the grills out and use the extended hose to vacuum as much inside the air duct as you can.
Sometimes an HVAC technician will recommend having booster fan installed in your air duct system. An air duct with fan activate as needed to assist the airflow in a home with a large network of air ducts. They are efficient and quiet and is less expensive than replacing the entire air duct system.
If your home has air duct without insulation, it is worth the expense of having ductwork insulation installed or do it yourself. As much as 30% of the energy to cool your home is wasted here. Professionally installed ductwork insulation will minimize your energy wastage, prevent condensation buildup, leaks, and temperature drops. Call 817-781-8781 today for your ductwork cleaning.