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11 Warning Signs Your Air Ducts Are Clogged

Woman holds ventilation grill with dust filter to clean it

The air ducts in your home are an essential part of your home’s HVAC system. Without air ducts, it is much more difficult to heat and cool your home to your preferred comfort levels. The primary purpose of air ducts is to direct the heated or cooled air from the furnace or air conditioner into each of the rooms in your home.

The duct system can be rather intricate with different branching and connections to ensure proper airflow at the desired output, so each room receives the same amount of heated and cooled air.

Another crucial part of your air duct system concerns the air vents. The air vents help direct the heated or cooled air into the rooms inside your home. Your home could have ceiling or floor air vents or both.

The return air vent is another type of air vent that helps circulate heated and cooled air to keep your home comfortable. Depending on the time of the year, the return air vent draws in warm or cold air and sends it back to the furnace or air conditioner so it can be heated or cooled.

The process of circulating the heated or cooled air through your home is continuous when your furnace or air conditioner is running. Due to the very nature of how the air flows through the home, over time you can start to notice the following signs of dirty air ducts and clogged air ducts.

#1: Dust accumulates much faster than normal.

If you notice that dust appears much faster and the accumulation of dust is much heavier, this is a common sign of dirty air ducts. The increase in dust could also indicate an air leak somewhere in the air ducts, so it is drawing in dust and dirt when your HVAC system operates.

#2: Your air vent covers are dirty.

Another sign of clogged air ducts is when you notice air vents in every room in the home have dirt on them. The dirt and dust debris on the vent covers indicate that the air ducts are dirty and need to be cleaned.

#3: Your air filter needs to be changed more frequently.

Since airflow through your house is cycled through the duct system and return air vent, the air filter helps catch dust, dirt, and other debris to help prevent it from getting inside your HVAC system. So, if you notice the air filter is getting clogged long before it needs to be replaced, you could have clogged air ducts.

#4: You notice a change in airflow in certain areas of the home.

The airflow from your HVAC system should be the same in every room of the home. If it seems like air is flowing out of air vents more slowly or not at all, it indicates a clogged air duct.

#5: There are noticeable differences in temperature variances between rooms in your home.

If you notice that some rooms seem warmer or colder than others, this indicates an airflow problem. Sometimes the airflow coming out the air vents may seem normal, yet it may not feel as hot or cold as the air blowing out vents in other areas of the house.

#6: You notice your energy bills have increased.

Angry woman sitting on couch holding letter reading awful news

An increase in energy bills is another sign of clogged air ducts and dirty air ducts. Since the rooms that are affected by the clog are not able to reach your desired temperature as easily, your HVAC system has to run longer to bring the entire home to the desired comfort level.

#7: You notice a dust cloud when your HVAC system turns on.

An easy indication that your air ducts are dirty or clogged is when the system turns on, you may see a cloud of dust coming out the air vents. You can double-check this by turning off the HVAC system and waiting a few minutes after it has shut down. Turn it back on and see if dust clouds come out the vents. If they do, call your HVAC technician for duct cleaning service.

#8: You just completed a major home renovation project.

Renovation projects create a lot of dust and dirt that can get blown into the air ducts. The last thing you want is all that construction dust and dirt getting spread around the entire home. If you overlook this, your home will get dusty and dirtier faster. After your renovation project is completed, make sure to get your ducts cleaned.

#9: You notice a musty odor throughout the house.

During the summer months, humidity is an issue that can cause mold and mildew to grow inside the air ducts, especially if they are dirty. Water droplets will form on dust and dirt particles inside the ducts, which creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew growth.

#10: You notice your allergies seem worse.

Dust can contain all sorts of allergens that aggravate your allergies. If you are sneezing, coughing, or experiencing watery, itchy eyes that seem much worse than normal, your air ducts are probably dirty.

#11: You are having respiratory issues or other health problems.

Poor indoor air quality can trigger respiratory issues and other health problems. If you have asthma, you might notice your flare-ups are occurring more frequently. If you or your family members are constantly sick with colds and the flu, it could be caused by dirty air ducts. It is also good to keep on hand any nasal clearing medications too, from websites like https://serp.co/best/nasal-rinses/, for example, so you can keep your airways clear and healthy in between cleans.

How to Check for Dirty or Clogged Air Ducts

Aside from the above signs of clogged air ducts and dirty air ducts, there are a few things you can check before calling your HVAC technician, as follows:

  1. Remove the air vent cover and take a look inside the duct. If there is a lot of dust and dirt, then you know you need to have your air ducts cleaned.
  2. Open the return air vent and check it for dust accumulations. If you notice fuzzy and thick dust on the inside of the return air vent slats, it is a good indication your air ducts need cleaning.
  3. Inspect the outdoor AC unit’s cooling coils. The cooling coils are typically wrapped around the exterior of the unit. You can often look inside through the top or in between the air vent slats on the sides. If you notice these are dirty and dusty, they need to be cleaned, along with your air ducts. Your air return needs to be checked, as well, because it is not working correctly. It is allowing dust and dirt to be spread throughout the home.
  4. Inspect the blower motor. If you have a split system, where your furnace is inside with the blower motor, you can open the furnace door to check for dust and dirt accumulations. If you notice an excessive amount, then your ducts could be dirty or clogged.

How Often Do Air Ducts Need to Be Cleaned?

Young repairman repairing ceiling air conditioning unit

You should have your air ducts inspected every three years and every year after that until they require cleaning. Normally, ducts require cleaning every three to five years to remove dust, dirt, and other debris.

Air duct cleaning is also the perfect time to verify your air ducts are properly sealed. When air ducts are not sealed, they can draw in dust and dirt anytime the HVAC system is in operation. Plus, air gaps affect your system’s efficiency because the system is drawing into the air ducts hot or cold air, depending on the time of year.

Schedule Air Duct Cleaning Today

If you notice any of the signs of clogged air ducts and dirty air ducts we mentioned, or if it has been more than five years since your air ducts were cleaned, your air ducts need cleaning. Please feel free to contact Christianson Air Conditioning & Plumbing at 512-246-5400 to schedule an appointment for air duct cleaning in New Braunfels, Temple, San Antonio, or the Austin Metro area today!

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