When it comes to HVAC care and maintenance, the duct system is usually the last component that homeowners think about. But those who suffer from allergies, asthma or other problems related to poor indoor air quality will want to consider annual duct maintenance. If you believe that your ductwork is dirty and causing health problems, the best solution is to have it inspected by a professional HVAC technician. They can thoroughly inspect your system and tell you whether or not it needs a professional cleaning. However, there are several things that you can do to ensure that small problems don’t become bigger issues by performing some DIY duct maintenance on your own.
You will need some basic tools to begin including a flashlight, screwdriver, towels, window cleaner, foil tape and your smart phone (for photos). You might also consider some gloves and a face mask if you are especially sensitive to dust.
Main Unit Air Ducts
Your first stop should be the main HVAC unit in your home. If you have a split system (like the majority of U.S. homes), your furnace is your indoor component. Inspect the large ducts connected to the furnace, these are attached to the branch ducts that snake throughout the house. One side of the duct system forces air through the interior branch ducts (called “supply”) while the other side pulls air in (called “return”). (90% of the ductwork throughout your home is not visible, so keep this in mind when performing your DIY inspection.) Look for obvious signs of wear or damage that may have been caused by regular use, rodents or improper installation. If you find extensive damage, take photos so that you can clearly communicate the problem to a technician.
The next step is to turn on the HVAC fan and feel around the exposed ducts escaping air. The seams and any angled ducts are where the majority of leaks occur, so give these areas special attention. A good way to check for minor leaks is with ordinary tissue paper. Take a couple of sheets and hold them close to the ducts, if the paper sticks to, or blows away from, any of the seamed or angled areas – air is escaping. Unlike a large tear or hole in the system, you can take care of this repair yourself.
Air Duct Leak Repair
Repairing a duct leak is relatively simple, especially if it is a moderately small opening. If you find an obvious leak, before you do anything make sure that the surface is dry and free from dust. You might need to clean it with some window cleaner and a towel. Once the area is clean and dry, securely tape over the leak with foil tape. This industrial strength tape is great for leaks on a flat surface where two pieces of metal are joined together. If the leak is in an area that can’t be fixed by the foil tape, caulk (which is more malleable) is the next best solution.
Branch Air Ducts
Throughout your home, there may be some areas where the branch ducts are exposed (usually an attic, crawlspace or basement). The branch ducts are usually covered with insulation – which should be checked for any damage including torn areas where the ducts might be exposed and places that are damp or moldy. A wet area might mean blockage of some kind, which would mean the section needs to be cleaned. If you are comfortable removing the duct work, do so at the nearest connection point and clean it out. If the area is not easily accessible, schedule a professional inspection as soon as possible.
Vent registers are the final component in the HAVC air delivery. They are placed throughout your home and should be in most every room (either directly on the floor or the upper half of a wall). Unscrew and gently remove the vents being mindful of accumulated dust and debris on the inside. Once the vent has been removed, check the duct interior with a flashlight. Search for signs of heavy dust, mice or squirrels (rodent feces), mold and debris. If the duct interior is difficult to see, use smart phone or digital camera and take a flash photo. If you spot anything out of the ordinary, you should contact a professional HVAC technician and have your ductwork inspected.
Maintaining your home’s ductwork will help keep your IAQ clean and healthy. Along with annual HVAC maintenance (twice a year), keeping an eye on your duct system will minimize any allergens and airborne toxins. If you find that your ductwork needs a professional assessment, make sure to contact the experts at Service Legends. We offer complete duct cleaning services in addition to several air filtration and IAQ options for healthier homes.
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