Whether it is the hottest day of the year or one of our Ohio days where it’s freezing in the morning and super hot by noon, air conditioning just needs to WORK. Unfortunately, even if you choose the most efficient system, have the best installation, and do your routine maintenance your air conditioning system may not function exactly the way you expect. There are many different issues that could negatively impact the performance of your heating and air conditioning system.
Air Conditioning usually has Ductwork
If you use a forced air heating and cooling system then you have ductwork in your house. Working like the circulatory system in your body, ducts are the pathways that take your air, that you’ve paid so much to heat or cool, to all the rooms in your house. There are two types of ducts, the return air ducts and the supply ducts. The return air ducts bring air back to your blower to be conditioned over again and the supply ducts take that comfortable air and blow it back to you.
Ductwork is generally hidden from view, being installed in attics, basements, crawlspaces, and walls. Chances are that you don’t have largely open spaces with exposed ductwork throughout your home. But just because you can’t see your ductwork does not mean that you can afford to adopt an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude toward it.
Warning Signs of Leaky Ductwork
How can you know if your ductwork needs attention? Look for these warnings?
- Drafts or Stuffiness – If your house often feels stuffy or even worse, there are cold drafts blowing, you may have leaking ducts.
- Hot and Cold Rooms – Are certain rooms difficult to cool? Do some of your registers have little to no conditioned air blowing out? Leaking ducts could be spilling your costly cold air into the great outdoors. It’s true that Cape Cods, log cabins, and other floor plans are harder to consistently heat and cool than others, but before you invest in more insulation, a zoning system, or other more expensive remedies, make sure it isn’t just a duct that has fallen off it’s register.
- Low air quality – Many people don’t realize that the chemicals and dirt in their attic, closet, or crawlspace can be sucked up through the ducts. If your ducts have holes or in other ways have been compromised, those connections can pull any chemicals stored in such areas, such as paint thinner, fertilizers or pesticides, right inside and mix with the clean air inside your home.
- High utility bills – Look at your gas and electric bills. If they have been steadily climbing at a rate that seems faster than inflation, you may not be getting you’re getting your money’s worth from your heating and cooling system. Even though fuel and electrical costs may be high, when ductwork is leaking air, it only adds to an ever-increasing energy bill. Don’t spill the precious air that you’ve paid so much for into the great outdoors.
- Too much dust – Often a dusty home can be a cheap or dirty filter. However, id you have your heating and air conditioning system inspected twice a year and your filter is replaced regularly and your home still seems excessively dusty, the problem may be in your leaking ductwork.
- Noisy banging – Whistling or banging sounds can indicate a problem with your ductwork design. When your HVAC system turns on or off, you might here a banging or popping sound, which is completely normal. If, however, you hear constant noises, you may need to figure out some new ducting solutions. Do you have any registers covered in your home? When you purchase a new air conditioning system with a higher efficiency, you may need to make sure your current ductwork is still the correct size.
Inspect Your Ducts
If you notice any of the above problem signs, a visual inspection of your ductwork will often reveal the biggest leaky culprits. Although your problem may be with the original installation and design work, often it is just from years of natural wear and tear of the ducts working day in and day out.
Firstt, turn your thermostat so that air is blowing. Go to each register and check with your hand or a piece of notebook paper to see if the air is coming out at a consistent rate and pressure from each vent. Note the location of any registers that seem to have little to no air coming out. This may indicate that a flexible duct run has come completely off and you can look when you are inspecting the ductwork.
Now it’s time to visually check any ductwork you can see in your basement or attic, look for any cracks, gaps, or holes in your ductwork. Pay careful attention to the seams and connections. Ducting is often done in 8 foot sections and where these sections meet are the best places for air to leak out. You can test for air blowing with a piece of toilet paper or an incense stick. When the paper or smoke moves erratically, you’ve just found a leak.
Repair Ductwork Yourself
Once you’ve detected problems with the ductwork on your HVAC system, it’s time to repair those leaks! Even though you can’t check and repair all the ductwork in your home, since much of it is in walls and totally hidden from view, you can increase for your airflow, improve your indoor air quality, and reduce your utility bills by taking the time to seal the exposed portions of your ductwork.
At each leaky area you’ve found, take a damp cloth and wipe the area clean. Be careful of screws and other pieces of metal that could cut your hand. Then make sure it is totally dry before repairing it. Foil tape (like duct tape but foil) can be used to seal your air ducts. Put the tape over the hole or broken duct and press it down thoroughly with a thin piece of plastic, like an old credit card, making sure it is stuck thoroughly. Another option is a material called Mastic. To use mastic, prepare the surface first before applying the mastic sealant using a putty knife or heavy duty paintbrush. Follow the directions on the container and always wear gloves and old clothing in case it gets on you. The mastic should be about as thick as a quarter or nickel.
Get Your Ducts Professionally Inspected
If spending time in your hot attic or damp crawlspace doesn’t sound fun to you, yet you’ve noticed some of the warning signs above, then you probably want to get professionals involved. Even though have your ductwork inspected and sealed by professionals can be costly, the savings in utility costs may make it worth it. Energy.ca.gov says “According to independent research, the duct system in the average California home leaks around 30 percent. That means 30 cents of every heating or cooling dollar is wasted, and the figure can be worse as poorly sealed ducts that leak 70 percent or more are not uncommon.”
That means that if your electric bill is just $100 a month, $30.00 or more is totally wasted each month. Not to mention that having more conditioned air inside your house and reducing drafts will make you feel much more comfortable year round.
The experienced technicians at David White Services install and repair ducts every day. We have special tools to measure air flow, make sure your ductwork is the proper size for your air conditioner and furnace, and already have the products needed to seal up your ductwork. AC units will not perform up to expectations when paired with a bad duct system. Leaky air ducts will lose their capacity as they age and deteriorate. Resealing, reconnecting, and rerouting duct paths can significantly increase their retention. We know all of these things and can help.
If you are concerned that your ductwork is to blame for your uncomfortable home, give us, your local air conditioning specialists a call.
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