Identifying Dirty Ductwork & When to Hire a Ductwork Cleaning Service

Knowing when to clean your air ducts and how to identify dirty ductwork signs are issues for many homeowners. Duct cleaning misinformation online also makes it difficult to tell what is service fact from fiction.

At Filterbuy, we want to give you the information you need to make the best decision for you and your property. We’ve compiled the duct cleaning details you need to know when considering a professional cleaning. Keep reading to find out the facts!

The truth is that duct cleaning has many benefits when done correctly and by a professional. The service removes dirt, dust, and large debris from your duct system, allowing clean air to circulate in your home. Cleaning can also save you money in the long run, taking care of ductwork problems when they start and holding off future full-duct replacement.

Keeping this in mind, you may be wondering how to identify dirty ductwork or when your ducts need professional cleaning. Some warning signs can alert you to a dirty or clogged air duct. Below are the most common dirty duct symptoms:

Airflow Change

In your ductwork, air flows freely through your system and into the areas of your home you need heating or cooling. A disruption of this flow can affect the air balance in your home, resulting in unequal temperatures, insufficient airflow, and higher energy costs.

Airflow change can happen when debris blocks your air ducts. In an air duct blockage, debris blocks the normal airflow path, increasing duct air pressure and forcing airflow in the opposite direction. You may notice the air is no longer flowing steadily from your vents, coming out very lightly, or rooms are at a different temperature than usual. Hiring a professional duct cleaning service should remedy this situation, removing the blockage and reinstating airflow.

It is important to note other potential causes of airflow change, including clogged air filters and ductwork leaks. Make sure you are changing your air filters on schedule to prevent them from affecting air from moving into your ducts. If your airflow changes and you’ve recently changed your air filters, it’s time to call a professional to inspect and identify dirty ductwork.

Technician pulls out air filter from HVAC system.

Leaky Duct

A leaky duct occurs when small holes or air leaks spring in your ductwork, releasing duct air to the outside of your system. Duct leakage can result in airflow change, making it harder for rooms to be heated or cooled effectively, and increasing your monthly energy bill.

Are you noticing leaks in your ductwork? You may need both air duct cleaning and air duct sealing services. A professional cleaning will remove any blockages from your ducts, allowing air to pass through naturally again. Afterward, a duct sealing service will re-seal the ductwork leaks, ensuring more air does not escape your system.

Moldy Air Ducts

Ductwork internal temperatures and moisture content make them an ideal environment for mold and mildew. Mold growth in your air ducts can harm your indoor air quality and health. Fungus growth in your HVAC system usually means an air duct cleaning, expert mold remediation, or ductwork replacement are your main options for removal.

Mold symptoms related to air duct mold growth include a musty smell and allergy-like symptoms (coughing, headache, etc.) If you’re experiencing these signs, having your ducts inspected by a specialist can help identify the source. From there, the professional should be able to guide you toward the next steps for cleaning your ducts.

Mold issues can sometimes be so large that regular air duct cleaning is not enough to address them. Here, a partial or complete duct system replacement may be necessary to reinstate clean air and make your home safe again.

Musty Smell

A musty odor coming from your vents is often one of the first warning signals that something is happening in your air ducts. Odor is often a resulting symptom of a bigger, potentially growing problem in your system. Severe mold growth, for example, releases musty-smelling particles into your home. Vermin infestations are also associated with unpleasant scents, as rodent nests in your duct can smell bad over time.

Air duct cleaning is one of the most effective ways to clear the source of musty duct odors, removing smells and allowing clean air to circulate. A professional air duct sanitizing service can also protect your ducts into the future, by lessening the chance of regrowth or reinfestation.

If you notice a lingering musty odor from your air vents, addressing the problem right away will help prevent the issue from further developing. It is good practice to take action and schedule an air duct inspection as soon as possible.

Woman relaxes on couch.

How Do I Know if My Ductwork Needs to Be Replaced?

Whether or not your ductwork needs replacing depends on several factors, including ductwork age or a contamination problem. Age is typically the most common reason for ductwork replacement. According to Home Advisor, “most ductwork products last 10 to 25 years. Faulty installation often results in leaks or damage that require replacement sooner.” Though 25 years is the maximum amount of time for duct replacement, it’s a good idea to do a replacement a bit earlier before any serious problems occur.

Contamination, such as widespread mold growth, is another common reason for ductwork replacement. There are situations where a fungus infestation can grow greater than an everyday air duct cleaning can accommodate. In this case, you may need to hire a mold remediation specialist or replace your ductwork to remove the growth.

If your ductwork is over 15 years old or has significant contamination issues, you may want to consider a complete ductwork replacement. Other symptoms, such as air duct blockage or leaky ducts, can often be remedied without replacement through air duct cleaning or sealing.

How Often Should Ductwork Cleaning Be Done?

There is no set date, time, or schedule for a ductwork cleaning. However, there are many cases where cleaning may be necessary to maintain good indoor air quality. The following are situations in which air duct cleaning is most commonly needed:

  • Mold Growth - Inner ductwork environments make them an ideal place for mold and mildew growth. If left unchecked, mold spores can enter your living space, degrade your indoor air, and make you feel sick. Air duct cleaning with sanitization can clear the growth from your system and help prevent future regrowth.
  • Vermin Infestation - Colder climates can cause vermin to nest in ductwork during the winter months, bringing odor and bacteria into your home. A professional duct cleaning can remove vermin nesting and territorial scents from your system.
  • Construction or Remodeling - In-home construction can release building materials and particles into the air. If your contractor forgets to seal your air vents, that material can end up in your ducts and spill into your air over time. Ductwork cleaning can remove construction debris from your system and prevent it from entering your indoor air.

For more information on when to schedule air duct cleaning and the symptoms of dirty ductwork, check out our previous article on the top 10 signs you need air duct cleaning.

How Much Does a Ductwork Pressure Test Cost?

A duct pressure test involves using pressurizing tools to determine leaky ducts or air duct blockages. Only a professional air duct technician should perform the test in the right conditions.

How much a pressure test costs depends on the company and the rates in your area. However, the average rates for a standard test typically range from $100 - $400. Before agreeing to this service, having a consultation with your test provider can help answer your questions about cost. It is also important to discuss if any additional charges may accumulate during or after administering the test.

Is professional ductwork cleaning a waste of money?

Simply getting your ducts cleaned to remove everyday dust may not make a noticeable difference. However, ductwork cleaning is beneficial when done in the right situations, such as those outlined above. Getting your ducts cleaned early during mold growth or infestation can prevent a ductwork replacement in the future.

Where an average home ductwork cleaning ranges anywhere from $150 - $500, the cost to replace ductwork is much higher, at an average of $1,400 - $5,600. An air duct cleaning may seem like an investment upfront, but it is much cheaper than the alternative when restoring your home's indoor air quality.

It may be tempting to clean the ductwork yourself to save money. Amatuer cleaning is a dangerous and costly decision for you and your HVAC system. Unprofessional techniques, tools, and sanitizers can damage your ducts and decrease indoor air quality. You should always rely on trained, certified professionals for your ductwork cleaning needs.

Man researches on laptop.

What Happens if Air Ducts Are Not Cleaned?

Some ductwork issues can worsen without cleaning and threaten your home's safety and indoor air quality. Mold growth left unchecked, for example, can grow and spread across your ductwork, making it hard to remedy without a duct replacement.

Furthermore, ducts with completely blocked vents may spring air leaks. In these cases, leaks will likely continue to interrupt airflow unless a professional removes the debris and seals the duct. Otherwise, leaks may become more widespread, eventually leaving ductwork replacement as your best choice.

If you believe there is a problem with your air ducts, contact a professional to inspect and solve the situation. Leaving ductwork issues untouched may only make the problem bigger, requiring you to pay more money in the long run.

Finding a Ductwork Cleaning Service

Are you currently searching for a ductwork cleaning service? If so, Filterbuy Local services might be right for you. Our trained air duct technicians use industry-leading equipment and techniques to remove dirt, dust, and grime from your system.

Air Duct Sanitizing is also available if mold is your issue, using a gentle antimicrobial agent safe for your family and pets. We are happy to discuss the process with you and answer your questions.

Click here for more information on Filterbuy Local Air Duct Cleaning services.