Ductwork: Yes, most homes have it, but as long as your HVAC system has a high energy efficiency rating, it doesn’t really matter, right?
Wrong! Ductwork is a vital component of your home’s comfort, air quality, and energy consumption. Knowing when to replace ductwork can help preserve your HVAC unit and keep it running better for longer.
Every time you flip on the heat or AC, you’re putting your ductwork to work as well.
If your system has a bunch of leaks or is just poorly designed in general, you can easily end up with bills that seem much too high for the size of your home.
If you’ve been wondering, “How long does ductwork last,” or “how often should AC ducts be replaced,” then read on to learn all about when to replace ductwork.
What is Ductwork?
Ductwork is like a highway for air throughout your home, taking in air at specific locations, heating or cooling it, and sending it back through your vents.
It sounds simple enough, but ensuring good airflow, even pressure distribution, and efficient air delivery with a forced-air system is quite a challenge. The average home loses 20-40% of conditioned air to leaks before it reaches the vent.
Ductwork comes in a variety of materials including metals, fiberglass, and flexible plastics, and in a wide array of shapes that can service any type of home.
6 Signs You Need New Ductwork
1. A consistently dusty home
This may mean your ductwork has some leaks in it, letting air out and dust and debris in. Not only is this inefficient and probably unnecessarily running up your energy bill, but dust and other debris can also cause severe problems for your HVAC unit.
2. Inconsistent room temperatures
If some rooms are consistently too hot or too cold compared to the rest of the house, your ductwork may be installed improperly, have tears or kinks, or have issues with airflow. Sometimes a good cleaning can help resolve this problem, but your ductwork could simply need replacing.
3. Bad install job
If you just have a ton of leaks, your ductwork might have been installed wrong and poorly aligned from day one. A professional HVAC company can help diagnose this issue and make recommendations for how to fix it.
4. You have a mold issue
Mold is a pervasive problem and should be dealt with by a mold specialist. The air handler on your HVAC system needs to be kept dry, so if you are having issues there, call an HVAC professional for repair. Don’t wait around or keep running your HVAC unit if you know you have a mold problem since that can cause serious health problems for you and your family.
5. Your home was built before 1977 and has asbestos insulation
Asbestos is a cancer-causing fiber present in many homes built before 1977. It is highly dangerous and should only be handled and disposed of by experts with proper equipment.
6. Your HVAC system is too big or too small for your ductwork
Too big, you’ll likely notice that it is noisy and loud when it runs. Too small and you’ll notice your home is never really at the temperature you want, no matter how long it runs.
How Long Does Ductwork Last?
Ductwork lasts an average of 10-15 years before showing any signs of deterioration.
Because modern home builders tend to choose materials for lower cost instead of longevity, it’s good to keep an eye out for signs it may be time to have ductwork replaced.
You can expect your ductwork to last a minimum of 10 years, but keeping up with preventative maintenance and investing in ductwork cleaning can help extend this timeframe.
How Often Should AC Ducts Be Replaced?
Don’t wait around too long wondering “should I replace my ductwork” before taking action. If you know the ducts in your home are over 15 years old, that’s all you need to know to consider replacing them.
Waiting too long to replace your ductwork can end up causing a major issue with your HVAC unit, such as gaps in your ducts, pest infiltration, or even collapsing sections of ductwork.
Additionally, running your HVAC unit using old, bad ductwork for too long can end up causing problems for your HVAC unit.
If your ductwork has holes and gaps in it, or if they’re clogged with dust and debris, your HVAC unit will need to operate in overdrive to properly cool your home. This can lead to overheating and premature breakdowns.
How Ductwork Relates to Your HVAC System
Simply put, you won’t have much of an HVAC system if you don’t have any ductwork! Every conventional forced-air heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system relies on ductwork to bring the air in and to push it back out.
Good ductwork ensures an equilibrium of air in and air out (referred to as air pressure), through the whole house. If the balance is off, your HVAC system has to work harder to compensate and maintain your preferred temperature.
3 Easy Ways To Preserve Older Ductwork
The secret to postponing when to replace ductwork is pretty simple: Put a little work into your ducts. Depending on your system and any red flags you may notice, you may want to increase the frequency of inspections and services.
1. Keep it Clean
Every 2-7 years it is worth getting your air ducts cleaned by professionals. If you notice pet hair, dust, and debris collecting regularly on your air intake register, you should definitely consider having your ductwork cleaned out.
You’ll likely get a noticeable improvement in air quality, and possibly help your HVAC system run more efficiently.
Buyer beware: Don’t skimp on this job. Poorly cleaned ductwork is worse than one gone completely uncleaned. An unqualified duct cleaner can disrupt more particles than they clean out and even damage parts of your HVAC system.
2. Make Sure It’s Sealed
Heading up to the attic and crawl space to inspect your ductwork on a regular basis can help you spot leaks before they get out of hand.
You’re looking for gaps in the aluminum tape that seals the seams on the air ducts, and tears, twists, or crushed sections of flexible ductwork.
If you see any pest damage or moisture present, seal it off the best you can with aluminum tape and get the pros in there to take care of it before any more damage is done.
When you run cool air to a warm room, the risk of condensation forming in your ductwork is real! Insulating ductwork right up to the point of delivery is your best defense against moisture in your ductwork and the resulting mold problems!
Using foil-lined fiberglass insulation and aluminum tape, insulating your ductwork is a pretty simple weekend project.
Call the Experts for All Your Ductwork Needs
Whether you need some help sealing up and insulating your ductwork, giving them a good clean, or you’re still questioning, “Should I replace my ductwork?” then the professionals at John C. Flood can help.
We’re always available to answer questions about replacing your ductwork or help with your upcoming home improvements. Our call center is open 24/7, 365-days a year at 703-594-7352 so you can schedule service at any time!