Air Duct Replacement: Is It Really Necessary?

Mature man examining an outflow air vent grid and duct to see if it needs cleaning. One guy looking into a home air duct to see how clean and healthy it is.

Did you know that homes in America have far higher air pollution indoors than you’d find outdoors? Since Americans spend most of their time inside their homes, that means you’re breathing in terrible air all day long.

This can be very damaging to your health over time, lowering your quality of life. It can cause irritated eyes, an itchy throat, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and increased asthma symptoms.

And one of the main offenders is your air ducts. The air duct in your home is responsible for the air you breathe. It may be time for air duct replacement if your ducts haven’t been cleaned or updated in a long time.

But why should you replace air ducts rather than pay for air duct cleaning? Keep reading below to find out now.

Importance of Quality Duct Work

Homeowners often think that their ducts can last forever. But they aren’t designed to. The materials used to create residential ducts are actually quite sensitive.

At best, ducts are meant to last 15 or 20 years before a replacement is needed. But why is that?

Ducts are responsible for moving air throughout the home. Even when you aren’t using the AC or heater, it pushes air into each room, circulating the air inside your home. This provides a more comfortable, better-smelling, and healthy environment in your home, especially if you rarely open your windows.

And of course, when you turn the heat on in winter, or AC on in summer, ducts carry your comfortable air and distribute it in your home. But older, lower-quality, or damaged ducts lose a lot of that air in transit.

Ducts have a tendency to leak air, meaning less of that cool air is making it to each room. That means your AC unit is going to have to work harder and harder in order to cool down the rooms furthest from the unit.

This means an overworked AC system and furnace, higher energy bills, and certain rooms that just never receive enough air, leading to discomfort. Some parts of your home will receive lots of cold air in the summer, and some will receive very little, leading to inconsistent temperatures in the home.

And lastly, whatever is inside your ducts, is also in the air that you breathe. If your ductwork is old and hasn’t been cleaned, you may have dust, debris, mildew, or even mold that is being distributed throughout the home.

Threats to Ducts

What causes ducts to either become damaged or to fill with harmful substances?

Age is the most common cause. Ducts, like any other part of your home, aren’t designed to last forever.

If you have exposed ductwork, then physical damage from moving furniture can cause damage as well. Remodeling projects have a tendency to fill ducts with debris. And pests can always find a way inside to start causing problems.

Regular cleaning and maintenance are crucial to maintaining your ductwork, ensuring it lasts as long as possible. And yes, maintenance and cleaning are two different tasks. Read this post, to learn the differences.

Signs Your Duct is Bad

Looking for some telltale signs that you need to replace your ducts, or at the very least hire an air duct cleaner? Here’s how you know.

Dust Everywhere

One of the most immediate problems of old, dirty ductwork is dust. Dusty ducts mean a dusty home.

If your ducts are filled with dirt and dust, it will constantly distribute that dust throughout the home. You’ll always have a nice layer of dust on everything, making your home feel dirty, and causing breathing problems.

If there have ever been construction problems in the home that involved lots of woodcutting or drywall sanding, it’s possible that a lot of that dust has filled the ducts.

Or, if the ducts are a few decades old, they will naturally contain dust. If dust is the main issue, this can be resolved with a specialized duct cleaning service.

Noisy HVAC System

When using your HVAC system, you should notice a faint hum, coming from your actual unit. You shouldn’t be hearing any other noises.

If you hear rattling sounds each time your system kicks on, then you may have some loose or damaged ducts. Those should be inspected, both to prevent larger problems from arising, and to eliminate annoying noises.

Holes or air leaks can also lead to whistling noises. It may be possible to patch or seal these off, but if there are too many then the ducts are just failing due to age.

Inconsistent Temperatures

One of the biggest problems with bad ducts is the inability to maintain a consistent temperature throughout your home. If you have old ducts or lots of air leaks then cold air won’t make it to every room in the house.

You’ll have some spots that receive all of the chilled air, and some that don’t get any. So you will be tempted to crank the AC in the summer, hoping the whole house gets filled.

But in reality, some rooms will be freezing, and others will be very hot, requiring you to dress differently in each room. To test this, just use a thermometer in each room of your home, next time you are running the heat or AC.

While this may be due, in part, to an inefficient HVAC system that isn’t sized properly for your home, it is likely spurred on by inefficient ducts. If ducts didn’t leak, they could get hot or cold air to each room of the house.

High Energy Bills

What happens when your ducts cannot properly distribute hot or cold air? It means your system is always going to be running, in hopes of maintaining a consistent temperature in the home.

But it’s a zero-sum game, it will never happen. Your system will just continue running, and your energy bills are going to skyrocket.

If you notice your heating or cooling bills increasing, it might not be due to higher energy prices. Your system just can’t move air properly inside your home.

So you’re losing money every day. That alone makes air duct replacement worth it. New, properly installed ducts will lower your energy bills right away.

An upgraded HVAC system and advanced household insulation will always go a long way to reducing bills. Also, if you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, especially one you can control from your smartphone, it’s time to install one.

Off-Putting Smells

If you leave your home for a while and return, do you notice an off-putting smell? A moldy or mildewy smell? Or does it smell like wet pets, or just old and dusty? If so, it’s likely due to stuff stuck in your ducts.

Whatever is in your ducts is going to be in your air. So if there’s mold up there, expect to smell mold all around your home.

If you notice bad smells, you should have your ducts examined right away. Bad smells mean there are harmful substances in the air, and they are going to contribute to health problems. Not to mention, it makes it a bummer to spend time in your house.

Breathing Problems

Does anyone in your family have breathing problems? This could be allergies, constant coughing or sneezing, itchy eyes, or exaggerated asthma systems?

Then something is clearly wrong with the air inside your home. This needs to be taken care of right away. Air quality can be especially damaging for children, anyone with asthma or allergies, or the elderly.

If you don’t get your ducts cleaned or replaced, you’re going to end up spending money at the doctor. You might as well spend your money preventatively, rather than retroactively.

Signs of Pests

One of the biggest threats to your ductwork are pests. Pest infestation inside the ductwork isn’t uncommon. These can be insects, or they can even be rodents.

If there is an opportunity for rodents to get inside your ducts from the outside, they will try to do so. Especially in winter, when the air temperature outside drops, they might be looking for a warm place to relax.

But pests will not only damage your ducts, but they will fill the air with harmful substances, from dander to feces. This can lead to bacteria in the air and unpleasant noises at night.

If you notice any signs of pests in the home, you’ll want to call a professional right away, to prevent any further infestation and damage.

Older Homes

Do you have an older home? If you live on the East Coast or in the Midwest, it’s likely that your home is more than 50 years old. If so, check your ductwork.

Most homeowners never think about replacing their ducts. This means older homes can have some very older ducts, that might be rapidly deteriorating.

Or if you plan to buy an older, historic home, plan to have your ducts inspected and replaced soon after moving in. Doing so can be one of the best upgrades you can make to the home.

The house will be more efficient, less noisy, and much more comfortable.

Time for Air Duct Replacement

If you notice any of the signs listed above, then don’t wait for the problems to get worse. Contact an HVAC specialist today.

Have them inspect your ductwork to tell you if you can get by with a cleaning and some minor maintenance, or if full-scale air duct replacement is necessary.

Looking for more household tips like this? Visit our blog today to keep reading.