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Diagnosing Ductwork Problems: The Causes of “High Blood Pressure”

No matter how energy efficient the furnace or A/C in your northern Ohio home, if there’s a problem with the ductwork, your system will never reach optimal heating and cooling efficiency. If you’re having trouble with high energy bills and temperature imbalances, a quick check through some common issues can help you with diagnosing ductwork problems before you call a professional.

    • Undersized ductwork – Undersized ductwork restricts airflow and prevents your system from working as intended. Loud airflow and whistling noises may indicate improperly sized ducts, but for an accurate diagnosis, consult an HVAC technician for a static pressure test.  
    • Inadequate return ductwork – Return ductwork carries conditioned indoor air back to the air handler, where it is filtered and either reheated or cooled down depending upon the needs of the home. Undersized or blocked return ducts/grilles in your home could be the cause of your airflow and temperature problems. This situation can also compromise your indoor air quality. When the furnace draws in unconditioned or basement air, it may also pull in dust, mold spores and, at worst, toxic exhaust gases from combustion appliances. Correcting return duct problems can help optimize your ductwork’s efficiency. Over the past five years, it has become a standard part of our furnace tune-ups and installations to evaluate the ductwork for restrictions and about half the time we find the return ducts are somewhat or severely restricted.
    • Restricted airflow – For sufficient airflow in your system, keep most of your registers open. Avoid blocking registers and grilles with furniture or other items. Checking your air filter is another part of diagnosing ductwork problems. A dirty air filter impedes airflow, so replace yours as needed. The type of filter also matters. In some systems, a high- or even medium-efficiency filter excessively restricts airflow.
    • Leaky ducts – Air leaks in your ducts can reduce your system’s efficiency by up to 30 percent or more. Take a look at the ductwork in your attic, basement and other accessible areas. All duct joints should be connected without gaps and sealed with either mastic or metal tape. They should also be free from visible holes.


Any of the above problems can overwhelm your system blower and lead to comfort and safety problems.  For help diagnosing ductwork problems and optimizing your HVAC system’s efficiency, contact us at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling. Since 1936, we’ve been providing top-quality HVAC care in the Greater Cleveland area, including Shaker Heights, Independence and Pepper Pike.

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