Savvy Home Advice


Five Signs You Need Your Air Ducts Repaired or Replaced

Your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning system) is made of more than just the heating or cooling units and filters; the air ducts themselves are a key component of the system. It’s easy to forget about the ducts because they’re hidden in walls, under floors, in ceilings, attics and other out of the way place until they affect the comfort level in your home.


Defective ducts can lead to humid, stuffy rooms, lower the air quality and increase energy costs. All of this shortens your HVAC’s life, so it’s important to get your checks checked regularly. So here are five signs you’ll need your ducts replaced.


  1. Bad Smells


As we’ve mentioned before, bad smells are usually indicative of mould. If there’s a burning smell it may be okay if it’s after the first time you’ve used your heater in a while. The heat will burn up some of the gathered dust in the ducts. However, any musty smells should be inspected immediately and appropriate actions taken.


In cases where mould keeps recurring no matter what, it is easier to just get the entire system replaced as there is probably a deep seated flaw that can’t be reached or repaired.


  1. Unusual Noises


Properly installed HVAC systems are quiet. If you can hear rattling or other sorts of noise there are several reasons. The installation could be faulty, the ducts may be the wrong size, there’s a lot of debris or you have a pest problem. You should contact professionals to diagnose the problem as soon as you can.


  1. Uneven Temperatures


You HVAC should be able to keep your room or home at a relatively stable temperature. If you find your rooms fluctuating in temperature too often it’s possible that your air conditioner is the wrong size, your heater is too old, the supply/return flow is unbalanced or the filters are too dirty. However, if you’ve eliminated all these ideas, then the chances are high that the ductwork itself is too old or cracked.


As a loose rule of thumb, an HVAC system should last for ten to fifteen years before serious problems start occurring. If moving into a new place make sure to find out how old the HVAC system is and see if you can get it replaced before you move in.


  1. Higher Energy Bills Than Expected


Your HVAC is almost certain to have a leak if you notice a sudden increase in heating and electrical costs. Sometimes it’s easy to find the leak, but more often it’s next to impossible because of the hidden nature of the duct system. Small leaks are easy to seal, but having lots of leaks or one or two large leaks means that replacing your entire system is more energy efficient and cheaper in the long run.


We recommend that you hire a professional to conduct a home energy audit to find out where the leaks are. You also get the additional benefit of being able to find all the energy leaks in your home, not just in your HVAC system.


  1. Crushed, Torn, or Otherwise Damaged Ducts


The majority of homes use flexible ductwork in order to manoeuvre the ducts through all the small spaces in your house. However, this type of duct is more vulnerable compared to the rigid ducts you often see in movies. The duct can easily be damaged beyond repair by sudden weight increases (if part of it is accessible to younger hand) and can restrict airflow or divert it to another place in the house.


Flexible ducts are also more likely to succumb to age faster than rigid ducts because there are more bends and weak parts to it. Flexible ducts can lose their structural integrity in as little as ten years. Houston has its another special problem compared to many other states: tornadoes. Even if the outward structure of your house is fine, any roof damage or water seepage could potentially affect the flexible ducts in your attic or crawlspace. The final thing you should inspect your ducts for is evidence of corrosion, especially after bouts of bad weather or if your house has been in a state of disrepair for a while.


Of course, they may not be damaged and need to be repaired or replaced, they may just need to be cleaned. If this is the case then if you are in the Houston area, make sure you contact Steam Express for air duct cleaning needs.




Don’t despair though, with the exception of the fifth category, the early signs of bad smells, strange noises, wavering temperatures or even increased energy bills could be fixed with a bit of careful home repair. We’ve explained ways of cleaning your ducts, removing mould and even hinted at using sealants to stop up leaks in your ducts in other articles.


In the interests of self-improvement we encourage you to try to perform the simpler tasks like cleaning your ducts, grilles and vents as part of your regular household maintenance. Make it a habit to inspect the drip pans, grilles and vents of your HVAC system as well to try and spot mould colonies before than get a foothold in your air ducts.


In the long run, it will be cheaper to completely replace your duct system rather than repair it bit by bit, though it can be a daunting prospect.  Not to mention that it can be inconvenient and messy during the installation period. However, it will improve the health of your family, the air quality in your home and save money in the long term due to reducing energy bills.


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