Does this sound familiar to you?
- Certain rooms do not heat or cool as well as other areas of your home.
- Your energy bills seem high.
- You have excessive dust issues in your home.
Often it can be a problem with your HVAC system but not always, duct leakage or damaged ductwork may be at the root of the problem. A Department of Energy report (available to homeowners on the energystar.gov website) states that a typical duct system loses 25-30% of the air put out by the furnace/air conditioner. That’s a lot of wasted energy! Beyond the comfort issues this creates, you’re wasting money that you paid to heat or cool your home by heating or cooling the basement, crawlspace or attic instead.
What can a homeowner do?
Quality HVAC contractors are able to measure duct leakage with special tools and identify ductwork design issues with special training and reference guides. But there are some things homeowners can look for to see if their ductwork may be causing problems in the home.
Visually inspect all exposed ductwork.
It may take some climbing around with a flashlight, but try to follow each duct out from the furnace/air handler to the room it serves. If your home is like most in the greater Cleveland area the ductwork is not insulated, allowing you to see any gaps, holes, drooping sections, damaged/crushed areas or disconnected ducts. The attached picture shows a client’s ductwork that had pulled loose and was about to crash to the floor!
Remember, just because gaps are not visible doesn't mean they aren’t there. Turn the fan to “on” at your thermostat and put a tissue near each joint. If the tissue moves, air is leaking. Any leaks you find should be repaired with special duct sealant by your heating and cooling company, contrary to popular opinion—duct tape is not sufficient.
If your ductwork is insulated, look for dirty spots on the insulation. If you see areas that look like dirty patches or dark stains, the duct may be leaking. In these cases, the insulation is actually serving as a filter catching particles in the air, which is what causes the stain. A professional can remove the insulation, repair the leaking ductwork with duct sealant and reinsulate it for you.
Since as much as 30% of the efficiency of your system is a result of your duct work, overlooking duct improvements can affect your comfort and cost you money—even with a brand new HVAC system. Don’t forget to address this important component to your heating and cooling system.
Kim Nemecek works at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling. After growing up in Cleveland, she lived in Florida for many years, working at an air conditioning company there. Kim has four grown children, two grandchildren and two spoiled dogs. She lives in Solon with her husband, Todd.
The opinions and statements contained in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not instructions. Only trained, licensed and experienced personnel should attempt installation/repair. The author assumes no liability for the opinions/statements made in this article. Any individual attempting a repair or installation based on this article does so at their own risk of loss.