Ductwork, the labyrinth of sheet metal used to distribute hot or cool air through the vents in a building, plays a pivotal role in the efficiency of an HVAC system. If ducts are improperly sealed, you could be losing the air you paid to condition. Fortunately, there are signs which can help you detect if this is an issue with your system.
If your HVAC system is suddenly running longer to achieve desired setpoints, it may not be an issue with the system at all. When air is lost into the ceiling during its transportation to the vents, it’s going to take more effort by the HVAC system to meet your heating or cooling requirements.
Hot and cold spots are inevitable as it's nearly impossible to achieve uniform temperatures, especially in large buildings. However, this may be a symptom of leaky ducts leaving air and temperature distribution uneven. The good news is this should make it easier to locate the source of the leak and make repairs.
If you’re having to bust out the feather duster more frequently, it may be due to leaky ducts pulling in dust and distributing it. It may not be dangerous, but it can negatively impact the quality of the air and cause issues for people with allergies or respiratory conditions.
Markers of Wear and Repair
If you notice tape or sealant on your ducts, it may indicate leaks have occurred previously. For areas which have already been repaired, be sure to check on them from time to time to see how the patchwork is holding up.
(Not) Better With Age
A lot of things get better with age: vintage cars, wine and cheddar cheese, for example. Unfortunately, HVAC systems are not chief among them. Most experts say ducts should be replaced every 15 years or so, depending on usage. If your ducts are of the legal drinking age, it may be time to have a professional evaluate them.
So you now know the signs of a leak, but what can be done to confirm if this is indeed the issue?
As with all aspects of your HVAC system, hiring a licensed technician to perform routine inspections and maintenance is the best way to avoid costly leaks. Be sure to schedule at least bi-annual check-ups, or any time you’re switching between heating and cooling modes.
The place where two ducts join is a common location for leaks, as the area is susceptible to wear and tear over time. Running your hand underneath the duct to feel for air is a quick way to determine if there’s a leak.
Crank the HVAC
Setting the HVAC system to its full capacity makes it much easier to find the less obvious, minor leaks. Lots of small leaks can add up, and taking this step makes them easier to locate.
Now that you’re a certifiable ductwork expert, give your system a once-over (or engage a professional to help) and make sure everything’s in tip-top shape. Your wallet will thank you!