By: Patricia Cermignano

According to Bryant®, ductwork is defined as "Hollow pipes used to transfer air from the air handler to the air vents throughout your home. Ductwork is one of the most important components of a home heating and cooling system." As ductwork plays a critical role with any HVAC system, it is important to know when the air ducts require cleaning and when they require sealing and insulation. 


Air Duct Cleaning

If the air ducts in a house are not properly installed or taken care of, they can become contaminated with dust, mold, pollen and/or debris. As the air from a HVAC system circulates through the ductwork, this contaminated air then gets pushed throughout the entire house through air vents, which ultimately reduces the indoor air quality. A common remedy to this issue is to have the ductwork cleaned. According to the EPA, "duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems."

There are many visible signs to look out for that may indicate that air ducts need to be cleaned; however, the top three signs are:

  • Mold growth inside the ducts or on the HVAC system is visible
  • Air ducts are crawling with insects (or worse, rodents)
  • Air ducts are clogged from debris or dust

Generally speaking, however, the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) recommends that homeowners clean their air ducts:

  • Once every 3-5 years
  • After a home remodeling project is completed, as debris is likely to have built up in the duct system
  • If a pet that sheds resides in the house
  • After moving into a new home, especially if it is unclear the last time the ductwork had been cleaned

While the EPA has not endorsed air duct cleaning as a solution to health issues, many people who have had their ductwork cleaned have seen a significant difference in their home's indoor air quality.


Air Duct Sealing

According to Energy Star, roughly 20-30% of air that moves through the ductwork of a home is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. This can cause spikes in utility bills during peak summer and winter months and cause difficulty regulating temperature throughout a home. Common causes of air duct problems include, but are not limited to:

  • Leaky, torn and/or disconnected air ducts
  • Bends in flexible ductwork restricting airflow
  • Leaks at furnace and filter slot
  • Poorly sealed registers and grills

To help remedy these problems, a common solution is to have the ductwork properly sealed and insulated. While there are a number of benefits to having air ducts sealed and insulated, the main benefits include:

  • Increased energy efficiency/energy savings
  • Improved indoor air quality
  • Improved safety
  • Increased/improved indoor comfort

When choosing a HVAC company to seal and insulate air ducts, it is important that the company inspects the entire air duct system to best determine a HVAC system's supply and return air balance. It is also important that the HVAC company has NATE certified technicians working on air ducts in a home to ensure that the job is done correctly and professionally.