Your HVAC air ducts have a significant impact on the health of your Chandler, AZ, home and everyone in it. If they’re riddled with dirt, dander, carpet fibers, and other debris, they can make your living environment feel unhealthy and oppressive. Dirty air ducts can also drive your energy bills up, set the stage for costly HVAC repairs, and leave residents sniffling and sneezing. The following is everything you need to know about HVAC air duct health, including how to improve it.

How HVAC Air Ducts Impact Your Indoor Air Quality

Central heating and cooling systems rely on complex networks of ducting for air distribution. All of the conditioned air that enters your living space passes through your ducting. When your air ducts are filled with allergens and contaminants, this debris is circulated from room to room.

Standard Air Filters and Your HVAC Ducting

When heaters, heat pumps, and air conditioners draw air in, this air immediately passes through HVAC air filters. Air filters sieve out large-sized particulate matter like pet hair, carpet fibers, textile fibers, and dust. These components are designed to protect the sensitive interior components of HVAC systems. They keep heavy buildups of debris from forming on AC evaporator coils and clogging furnace intake valves, among other things.

However, air filters provide a limited range of indoor air quality benefits for building residents. They also keep thick, lint-like mats of debris from accumulating in ducting and blocking air registers, vents, and grilles.

Insufficient Filter Maintenance

If you don’t change your HVAC air filter often enough or if you use filters that are low in quality and ill-fitting, large clumps of debris can blow off of these components and enter your HVAC system. This is why many homes have large masses of accumulated debris just behind their HVAC air vent covers. If sufficiently large, these buildups can inhibit airflow and cause HVAC equipment to ice over, short cycle, or overheat.

When air registers, vents, and grilles have built-up debris just behind their covers, this same debris can also be found in HVAC ducting. Much like dirty air vents, dirty ducts place heaters and air conditioners under stress, set the stage for progressive performance-related issues, and diminish IAQ.

HVAC Air Duct Damage

Air filters sieve out large-sized debris in the air that gets drawn into HVAC systems via air handling units. However, if your HVAC air ducts have loose connections, perforations, or other structural damage, they can take in air that never passes through your filter. Worse still, these damages usually exist in dusty, contaminated areas like basements, crawlspaces, and attics.

Pest Infestations

Untreated pest infestations can have a major impact on the health of building residents. When pests infest HVAC ducting, they usually leave pathogen-ridden waste behind. Mice, rats, and other rodents leave food and feces in these spaces. Insects shed their exoskeletons and wings. There are even times when small animals wander into ducts and get trapped or can’t find their way back out.

Widespread and Prolonged Mold Infestations

If you have patches of mold or mildew throughout your home, you should treat them before they’re disturbed. When mold spores become airborne, they can enter HVAC ducting and circulate throughout homes indefinitely. When buildings have ongoing humidity issues, HVAC air ducts can develop major mold problems of their own. These passages are warm, and they contain the dust and other particulate matter that mold and other pathogens subsist on.

The Health of Your HVAC Air Ducts and Your Skin

When you think about dirty HVAC air ducts and their impact on your health, you likely think of your respiratory system. However, not only do residents breathe in the many contaminants that dirty, ill-maintained ductwork harbors, but they also wear them on their skin. If you or other residents suffer from frequent skin rashes or have perpetually dry, itchy skin, your air ducts could be to blame. Dirty air ducts also support robust dust mite populations, which prove especially problematic for aging adults, newborn babies, and people with compromised immunity.

Chronic Respiratory Conditions and Air Duct Health

All homes should have an acceptable IAQ. However, maintaining a high IAQ becomes even more important when residents are diagnosed with chronic respiratory ailments like:

  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Mesothelioma or other occupational lung diseases

Even with high-performing, high-rated HVAC air filters or integrated IAQ accessories like air scrubbers and sanitizing UV lights, your indoor air quality could still be low if your ducting is ragged and riddled with holes.

Both dirty and damaged HVAC air ducts can intensify respiratory symptoms and increase their frequency and duration. Even residents without chronic ailments could contend with prolonged bouts of wheezing, sneezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

Sleep Quality and Mental Health

Decreased indoor air quality can also diminish sleep quality for many residents. After all, it’s difficult to sleep soundly with labored, troubled breathing. According to recent research by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, dirty indoor air can also lead to increased feelings of depression and anxiety.

How to Maintain Your HVAC Air Ducts

Regularly changing your HVAC air filter is a simple but important step in keeping your HVAC air ducts clean. You should change your filter every one to three months as needed, but you should also inspect it monthly. Increasing your air filter’s maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating will keep more small-sized debris from entering your HVAC ducting. However, the tighter mesh and larger surface areas of high-rated filters will also impact airflow. Thus, you should consult with an HVAC company when making this upgrade.

During routine maintenance for furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioners, HVAC companies perform quick assessments of ducting and its integrity. They look for large holes, loose connections, and crushed segments. However, these assessments don’t constitute actual ductwork inspections. HVAC ductwork requires comprehensive annual inspection and maintenance services, just like your other HVAC equipment. You can schedule these services at the start of winter when servicing your heating equipment or just before summer arrives, according to your household’s unique IAQ concerns and needs.

HVAC Air Duct Cleaning

Professional HVAC air duct cleaning uses mechanical agitation, vacuum suction, and negative air pressure to extract trapped debris. It removes buildups from supply and return ducting, air handlers, evaporator coils, HVAC air registers, grilles, and vents, and more. Sanitizing and deodorizing agents eliminate dangerous pathogens like mold, bacteria, and viruses while also eliminating unpleasant odors.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), homeowners should schedule duct cleaning as needed, such as after treating ducting for pests or following any construction event. However, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) suggests cleaning air ducts every two to three years. This works best for people with chronic respiratory conditions and homes with serious, ongoing, or recurring IAQ concerns.

Homeowners in Chandler can count on us for top-notch heating, plumbing, and cooling services. We also provide air duct cleaning, AC deep cleaning, and cutting-edge IAQ improvements. To schedule an appointment, contact Emergency Air Heating Cooling & Plumbing today.

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