Dusty Home? It Could Be Your Air Ducts

If your home always seems dusty no matter how often you dust, your home’s air ducts may be the culprit. Air ducts are an essential component of your HVAC system, so they need to be kept in top shape.

Dust can be problematic in Arizona’s dry climate, and leaky ducts worsen the situation, as we run our air conditioners continuously for months at a time here.

Leaky air ducts allow dust, dirt, dander, and other debris to build up inside, which then gets pushed out into your home. Your HVAC system will also have to work harder to reach the desired temperature in your home if your ducts are leaking.

Signs of Leaky Ducts

  1. Dust buildup on vent registers.

Are the vents in your home always dusty? Vents should be cleaned regularly, but if the vents in your home are always dusty despite repeated cleaning, your ducts may be leaking.

  1. Higher energy bills.

Have your energy bills gone up? When your HVAC system works harder because your ducts are leaking, you’ll see higher energy bills.

  1. Uneven cooling.

Does your home never achieve a comfortable temperature throughout, no matter what temperature you set? Your home won’t be evenly cooled if the ducts are leaking, and you may feel little or no cool air coming from some vents when the air conditioning is running.

  1. The indoor air quality seems worse.

Does the indoor air in your home often feel stuffy? Leaking ducts will increase indoor air pollution and decrease the air quality in your home, which can aggravate asthma and allergy problems in your family.

Poorly Sealed Ducts Compromise Air Quality

Damaged or poorly sealed ductwork allows dust and debris to bypass the air filter and blow directly into your home. Vermin can also enter damaged or inadequately sealed ducts, producing waste and compromising your indoor air quality.

According to the Energy Star website, leaking ductwork can also cause “backdrafting,” where combustion gases from the normal operation of appliances are drawn back into the living spaces in your home rather than being pushed outdoors as they should be.

As combustion gases may include carbon monoxide, backdrafting caused by poorly sealed ducts can threaten your family’s health and safety.

You can minimize the risk of toxic gases being drawn back into your home and dust bypassing the air filter by having leaking ducts professionally sealed.

Air Ducts and Energy Efficiency

According to Energy Star, leaking ducts can reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system by as much as 20%. A typical home can lose 20-30% of the air that moves through the ducts due to cracks and leaks.

You may hear popping sounds coming from poorly sealed ducts, as air escapes and pressure imbalances occur.

Sagging or bent ducts also don’t allow air to flow smoothly, so you’ll have to run your air conditioner longer and use more energy to cool your home.

Lost efficiency means higher summer cooling costs when utility rates are at their highest.

When we use more energy in our houses, we generate more pollution.  We’ll use less energy when the ducts in our homes are well-sealed, and our HVAC system can run more efficiently, which helps protect the environment.

Air Filters and Ducts

Air filters filter the air that comes through the ducts and into your home, so they also play a significant role in indoor air quality and controlling dust.

The U.S. Department of Energy states that the most essential task to ensure the efficiency of your HVAC system is to change the filters regularly. In Arizona’s summer months, that can be as often as once a month.

All air filters are not the same, and they have different ratings based on their ability to capture airborne particles.

Air filters have what’s known as a MERV rating. MERV stands for Minimum Energy Reporting Values and measures an air filter’s ability to capture particles sized between 0.3 and 10.0 microns.

MERV ratings range from 1-20, and the higher the rating, the more particles such as dust it can capture.  A lower-rated filter won’t filter dust particles as effectively as a higher-rated filter, meaning more dust may get into your home.

A MERV rating of 7-12 is common for residential systems, although filters with a rating of 13-16 are often used in homes for a higher degree of filtration.

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the best rating for residential systems is MERV 13.

However, not every HVAC system can handle a higher MERV-rated filter, so check with an HVAC pro to determine the best filter for your system before upgrading to a filter with a higher MERV rating to control dust.

Using a filter with a higher rating than your system can accommodate may lower the airflow and force your HVAC system to work harder.

The Importance of HVAC System Maintenance

Ducts are part of your overall HVAC system, and all HVAC systems require regular professional maintenance for peak performance. Neglecting maintenance will lead to costly repairs, especially considering how hard our air conditioners work in Arizona.

Chas Roberts has a 26-point maintenance checklist to keep your A/C system running in top shape.  It includes:

  • Check refrigerant levels
  • Inspect disconnect switch
  • Clean condenser coil
  • Test safety controls
  • Lubricate all moving parts
  • And more

A smoothly running, well-maintained HVAC system means higher energy efficiency, better indoor air quality, and fewer repairs.

Conclusion

In Arizona, we spend a great deal of time indoors in our air-conditioned homes during the hot summer months. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pollutants indoors can be two to five times higher than outdoors, and Americans spend as much as 90% of their time indoors.

A dusty home is an indication of indoor pollution that should be investigated by an HVAC professional.  Ducts’ performance, like that of air conditioners, can decline over time and affect the air quality in your home.

Duct sealing, repairs, and replacement are not do-it-yourself projects and should be left to professionals.

Chas Roberts is the oldest and largest residential HVAC provider in Arizona and has served the valley for over 75 years. Contact us for affordable, reliable service.

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