Leaky air ducts are a common problem that affects many homes. Ductwork will typically last for around 20 to 25 years, but it will usually start to experience leaks and a variety of other issues after only 15 years or so. Unless your ductwork was installed within the past 10 to 15 years, there is a very high chance that it has some leaks.
If your home’s air ducts are leaking, it is important that you have them repaired or replaced. If not, your energy bills may be much higher than they need to be and your heating and cooling won’t work nearly as effectively. This decreased effectiveness can also lead to your furnace and air conditioner needing more repairs or having a shorter lifespan. With all that in mind, here are some of the most common signs that can indicate your air ducts are leaking and in need of repair or replacement.
1. Higher Energy Bills
Even minor duct leaks can lead to greater energy costs, but the problem is obviously worse if there are lots of leaks or a much larger leak. In fact, the US Department of Energy notes that air duct leaks can lead to 25 to 30% of the energy used by your HVAC system being wasted. This causes your utility bills to be higher. When ductwork leaks air, it results in the HVAC system heating and cooling much less effectively and thus needing to run for much longer each time the system turns on. If you do ever notice that your energy bills are starting to increase and your heating or AC runs for longer periods than it used to, it’s a good idea to have your ductwork inspected along with the rest of your HVAC system.
2. Warm or Cold Spots on Walls or Floors
The main part of a ductwork system, known as the trunk, is typically mounted to the floor joists in your basement or crawl space. Secondary ducts known as branches are then connected to the trunk and used to supply warm and cold air to every room and space in the home. If you have a multi-story home, then some of these branches will run from the trunk and then up through some of your walls.
If the trunk or any of the branches are leaking, you will often notice that the floors or walls where the ducts run are much warmer than the surrounding areas in the winter and much cooler in the summer. The reason this happens should be fairly obvious as any leaks will cause much of the hot air from your furnace or cool air from your air conditioning to escape. If you do notice this issue, the duct will need to be repaired or replaced. It can also be helpful to feel for hot or cold spots on your walls and floors.
3. Poor Airflow
A lack of sufficient airflow coming out of some or all of your vents can also indicate that your ducts are leaking. If any of your supply ducts are leaking, lots of air will escape as it travels through the ducts and can result in little to no air blowing out of your home’s vents. A leaky return air duct can lead to more air being pulled into the system and lead to an increase in static pressure or air resistance in the ductwork. When the static pressure is too high, the blower will have to work harder and may not be able to properly circulate air throughout the entire system. When this happens, it can also result in much less air blowing out of the vents—especially those that are furthest away from the blower and air handler.
If you notice issues with reduced airflow, the first thing you should do is replace your HVAC air filter. If the filter is overly dirty and clogged, the blower won’t be able to draw as much air through the filter. If replacing the air filter doesn’t fix the problem, this typically means that either your ducts are leaking or the blower is beginning to fail or it has some other issue preventing it from circulating air properly.
4. Air Coming From Your Vents Is Never Warm or Cool Enough
Leaks in the supply or return ductwork can also cause the air that blows out of the vents to be at the wrong temperature. A leak in the supply duct will allow lots of the warm air from your furnace or the cool air from your AC to escape before it can be circulated to every room. If the return duct is leaking, the blower will pull in more hot air in the summer and cold air in the winter and thus lessen the effectiveness of your cooling and heating.
A lack of sufficient warm or cool air blowing out of your vents can occur due to duct leaks or for a variety of other reasons. As such, it is important to have your ductwork and the rest of your HVAC system inspected if you ever experience this issue so you can determine the specific cause and how best to overcome it.
5. Humming, Whistling or Rattling Noises Coming From the Ducts
Unusual noises like humming, whistling or rattling coming from your ductwork when your heating or air conditioning is running can also be a sign of duct leaks. Humming or rattling sounds often indicate that one or more of the joints where the ducts connect have started to become loose or are no longer properly sealed. These sounds can also indicate that part of the ductwork has started to sag, which can also lead to leaks.
Whistling sounds coming from your ductwork are usually an obvious indication of a leak. Whenever a duct has a leak, it can result in air being forced out or pulled in with such force that it creates a loud, continuous whistling sound similar to the sound created when you blow on a whistle or any type of wind instrument.
6. Dirt, Mold or Dust
The intake filter in your system will typically catch most of the debris in your air before it can find its way into the ductwork. While some dust can fall into your ducts through your vents, this is typically not a large amount. If you find that you have an unexpected amount of dust coming out of a specific vent, this is a sign that there may be a leak somewhere between the intake and that point.
At BEST Air Conditioning Plumbing Repair, our air duct sealing service can help you quickly overcome leaks and ensure your cooling and heating functions effectively. We can also assist if you need your ductwork replaced or ductwork installed in a new building. For more information on our duct sealing services or if you need any other HVAC or plumbing service in the Las Vegas area, contact us today.