10 Signs You Need an Air Duct Cleaning

10 Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Air Ducts

Indoor air quality is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. But all too often, we overlook the little things that help keep our homes safe, like the parts of our HVAC system that we don’t normally see. That’s why we want to help you answer important questions about your indoor air quality, like:

How can I make sure I have clean air ducts in my home?

How to clean air ducts in a house?

How can I tell when it’s time to clean my air ducts?

 Key Takeaways   

  • Persistent dust accumulation in living spaces, increased sneezing frequency, persistent cough, and worsening asthma symptoms can all be signs of dust and allergens in air ducts. 
  • Mold growth in air ducts indicates the need for cleaning, as mold thrives in moist, dark places and can circulate through ducts, affecting air quality and potentially causing health issues. 
  • Musty odors from unclean air ducts can be caused by accumulated dust and debris, mold growth in damp environments, infestations of rodents or insects, old HVAC systems, or settling of tobacco smoke or cooking odors. 
  • Dirty air ducts can cause HVAC systems to work harder, leading to increased energy consumption and higher bills. Regular cleaning of air ducts can help lower energy costs and ensure a more comfortable and cost-effective home.

1. Unpleasant, Musty Odors

If there’s a musty odor in your home, it may mean your indoor air quality is compromised. And if you’ve cleaned every corner and can’t find the source of the smell, it’s time to inspect your HVAC vents.

Several factors can cause your air duct vents to smell, such as mold, mildew, vermin, dust, dirt, or a combination of these. Regardless of the source, odor is a sign that you may need a clean air duct treatment.  

  • This smell could be the result of accumulated dust and debris in your air ducts. 
  • The odor may also come from mold growth within the ducts, which thrives in damp environments. 
  • It could be due to infestations of rodents or insects, which leave behind organic waste. 
  • An old, unused HVAC system can also produce musty smells. 
  • Lastly, the smell could originate from tobacco smoke or cooking odors that have settled in the ducts over time.

If your home has a persistent musty odor, it's time to consider professional air duct cleaning. 

2. Visible Mold Growth or Dirt

Another surefire sign that you need to clean your air duct is visible mold growth inside or outside your HVAC system. It’s tempting to clean any mold you see, including your air duct covers, with bleach immediately. However, by the time you have visible mold, it means that invisible spores could be floating around your home.

When mold has built up in and around your HVAC system, cleaning what you can see won’t ensure good indoor air quality. For a truly clean air duct, homeowners should turn to a professional who can clean the mold from the inside out. A professional air duct cleaner will have the proper air duct cleaning tools, equipment, and expertise to ensure that your ductwork is thoroughly investigated and cleaned. 

Man opens ceiling air duct vent to change air filter.

Another clear indication that your air ducts require cleaning is the accumulation of visible dirt or dust around the vents. This is not just an aesthetic issue but also a health concern as it signifies that the air circulating in your home is not clean. 

Here are some signs of dust accumulation: 

  • Dusty furniture and surfaces even shortly after cleaning 
  • Dark lines on walls or ceilings near vents 
  • Persistent dust in the air, visible in sunlight 
  • Frequent need to change or clean HVAC filters 
  • Dusty or dirty return air registers 

By staying vigilant about these signs, you can ensure that your household breathes cleaner, healthier air.

3. Air Filters Clogged Too Often

At Filterbuy, we know that an important aspect of maintaining your HVAC system is replacing your air filters. After all, that’s what we’re known for!

On the other hand, if you have to change your air filters every week or two, your air duct vents may need a professional inspection.

It's important to remember that every HVAC system will have different replacement needs. You can find some helpful guidelines for when to replace your air filters on our product pages. If you find that you're changing your air filters more often than is recommended to keep your home fresh, there might be a buildup in your system that needs a professional air duct cleaning.

If your HVAC system itself is dirty, putting in new air filters is not a long-term solution—they’re going to start getting dirty very quickly.

4. Unexplained Allergy Flare-Ups or Frequent Illnesses

A significant number of allergy flare-ups, particularly those that occur without a clear cause, may be a strong indication that your air ducts are due for a cleaning. These allergic reactions can often be attributed to dust, mold, and other allergens that have accumulated in your air ducts. 

  • Increased sneezing: Notice a sudden increase in your sneezing frequency? This could be due to allergens circulated through unclean air ducts. 
  • Persistent cough: An unexplained, persistent cough can also be a sign. 
  • Worsening asthma: If you or your family member's asthma seems to worsen, consider checking your air ducts. 
  • Eye irritation: Experiencing red, itchy eyes? This may be due to allergens in the air. 
  • Unusual skin reactions: Unexplained hives or rashes can be a direct result of airborne allergens from unclean air ducts. 

Therefore, regular cleaning of air ducts is essential to maintain a healthy living environment. 

Frequent respiratory illnesses in your household could indicate a need for cleaning your air ducts. We often overlook the role of indoor air quality in our overall health. Over time, dust, allergens, and harmful particles accumulate in your duct system, negatively affecting the air you breathe. 

This polluted air can trigger respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies, and cause frequent colds or flu. If you or your loved ones are experiencing unexplained respiratory issues, it might be time to inspect your air ducts. A professional cleaning can improve air quality and potentially alleviate these health issues.

5. Inconsistent or Poor Airflow in Home

Along with dust and debris buildup, poor or inconsistent airflow in the home means that it might be time for a clean air duct treatment. A well-maintained HVAC system will keep the air flowing through your home evenly and steadily, ensuring that stale air moves out and clean air moves in. If your air ducts are clogged or blocked, it can prevent this process from happening.

You may notice that rooms in your home seem staler than the others. It might feel like your home has dirty air or everyday smells last for a strangely long time. That crockpot chicken might smell great when you first make it, but if the scent lingers for days, you’ll never want to eat it again.

Bad airflow is a sign your ducts should be inspected and the problem identified.

Consider the following signs: 

  • Different rooms in your house feel warmer or cooler than others. 
  • You notice a lack of airflow from some vents. 
  • Turning up your thermostat doesn't seem to make a significant difference. 
  • There are noticeable temperature fluctuations throughout the day. 
  • Your air conditioning or heating system seems to be working harder than usual. 

Ignoring these signs can lead to higher energy costs and a less comfortable living environment. 

Regular air duct cleaning can help maintain consistent airflow and temperature in your home.

6. Vermin Infestation in Your Ducts

The problem with vermin living in our homes is that they are remarkably sneaky and good at hiding. Sometimes, only the slightest clue will reveal to you that you have unwanted guests lurking around in your HVAC system.

In seasons when they look to take shelter, we especially need to keep an eye out for pests to ensure they’re not setting up shop in your ducts.

If you suspect that you might have rodents in your ducts, the first thing to do is check your outside vents. If you see any sign of blowflies near the air vents, it might be because there is an animal inside. You can also tell if there’s a foul odor coming from the vents, no matter how faint. 

You can also look around the house for signs of other vermin, such as bedbugs, termites, ants, roaches, and spiders. If you have an infestation in the house, it may also be in the air duct system. In this case, a good, professional cleaning can help make your home safe again.

7. Increased Energy Bills

If you’ve noticed bills creeping up and haven’t had any major changes in your HVAC usage, it could be a sign that it’s time for the best air duct cleaning you can find.

An air duct cleaning will not reduce your heating and cooling bill unless your HVAC system is greatly clogged or blocked. If you find yourself in this situation, we recommend first identifying what is blocking your air ducts. 

Clogged ducts mean that your whole system works harder to provide your home with the air you need. That means your bills could be higher than if you were running heating and cooling on a perfectly functional system.

8. Unusual Noises Coming from Ducts

It’s probably not a ghost! Strange noises coming from your ducts mean that it’s time for a professional to take a look. Any unusual noises coming from the vents could be a signal that there is an underlying problem, such as infestation.

If you hear anything out of the ordinary, the first step is to identify the problem. You can do this by having your vents inspected by a professional. They may find that your ducts have become a hiding place for vermin or insects.

Another possibility is that your air duct is clogged with significant debris, causing strain on the system. If there are problems within your system that cause it to work harder, it can stop functioning correctly.

A smiling handyman with tools holds a clipboard.

9. Your Home Has Undergone a Renovation

If you’ve done anything major in your home, the last step in your remodel plans should be a professional air duct cleaning. That’s because construction can unearth dust, insulation, and other microbes that were buried before. Not only that – sawing, cutting, or heavy chemical usage can fill the air with dangerous pollutants that your HVAC system may get clogged up with if the contractors don’t seal the vents.

We recommend that anyone who goes through a remodel take one final step – go to a professional to find out how to clean air ducts in the home. Even if you only remodel one bathroom, the pollutants could affect your entire HVAC system. Like we always say – don’t take any chances with your air quality and your health!

10. It's Been Years Since Last Cleaning

While an aging HVAC system can lead to dirtier air ducts, the passage of several years without a thorough cleaning can also significantly contribute to the accumulation of dust and pollutants. This buildup can affect the quality of your indoor air and potentially trigger allergies or other respiratory issues. If you haven't had your air ducts cleaned for several years, it's probably time for a service. Here are some telltale signs: 

  • Unexplained respiratory issues or allergies 
  • Excessive dust around the home 
  • Noticeable musty or stale smells 
  • HVAC system seems less efficient 
  • Visible dust or debris around vent grills

How Often Should I Clean Air Ducts?

Different locations mean varied climates and that affects the HVAC systems in our homes. Location humidity can sometimes connect to extra mold growth, while colder seasons might mean increased vermin infestations. That’s why, when it comes to getting the best air duct cleaning for your situation, it’s crucial to find a local HVAC professional

Filterbuy professionals know how to clean air ducts, and return them to a healthy, pristine condition. 

Is it time to clean your air ducts, and restore your indoor air quality to its highest levels? Find out if any of the following signs apply to your home.

How Do I Clean My Air Ducts?

Do not try to clean your air ducts yourself. If you make a mistake, it could be extremely costly to your health and your wallet.

The truth is, you may find some articles out there that tell you how to clean air duct vents yourself. We have to side with the EPA and caution against a DIY home air duct cleaning solution. The EPA has this to say:

… if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.

At Filterbuy, we are dedicated to the health and safety of our clients, which is why we want to provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice about your air ducts.

Instead, you can rely on America’s most trusted name in air filtration – Filterbuy is now providing HVAC system services in your area.

Our mission is to help improve your indoor air quality and your quality of life. We have licensed professionals who will be happy to help you with your air duct cleaning and your other HVAC needs.

Click here to learn more about Filterbuy for air duct cleaning.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Type of Professional Should I Hire to Clean My Air Ducts? 

To ensure thorough and safe cleaning of your air ducts, it is recommended to hire a certified HVAC professional. They possess the necessary skills and equipment to effectively clean and maintain your air duct system. 


How Long Should an Air Duct Cleaning Service Take? 

The duration of air duct cleaning services can vary greatly, typically between 2-4 hours. Factors influencing this include the size of your home, the number of ducts, and their level of contamination. 


What Are the Potential Health Risks of Not Cleaning My Air Ducts? 

Not maintaining clean air ducts can potentially lead to health risks such as respiratory issues, allergies, and asthma due to the circulation of dust, mold, and other pollutants within your indoor environment. 


Are There Any Specific Tools or Products to Use for DIY Air Duct Cleaning?   

For DIY air duct cleaning, specific tools such as a rotary brush system, a shop vacuum, and a ladder are essential. Additionally, specialized duct cleaning products can help to thoroughly sanitize and deodorize the system. 


Can Cleaning My Air Ducts Improve the Overall Efficiency of My HVAC System?   

Yes, cleaning your air ducts can significantly improve the efficiency of your HVAC system. It removes dust and debris that hinder airflow, leading to lower energy consumption and enhanced performance of your heating and cooling system.