It’s not your furnace that brings nice warm, clean air to the rooms in your house during the dead of winter. Nor is it your central air unit that keeps your upstairs bedroom cool and comfortable during the dog days of summer. It’s the air ducts that course through your walls, floors and ceilings. Without them a furnace is as useless as a car without wheels. Yet most homeowners neglect the air ducts in their home. Not because they don’t care, but because out of sight really does mean out of mind as far as air ducts are concerned. But as understandable as that is we need to take a few minutes to emphasize just how important air duct maintenance is to the health of your home and the people in it. And point out some of the things that could happen if this vital component of home maintenance is ignored.
The High Price of Neglecting Air Duct Maintenance
Ductwork is the unsung hero of your HVAC system. While the furnace gets all the press and praise it wouldn’t be much if it didn’t have the air ducts to distribute its product throughout the house. Because air ducts play such a pivotal role in creating and sustaining a livable environment it’s crucial that they be properly maintained. This won’t require you take any extraordinary measures or to crawl through the ductwork once a week with a flashlight looking for imperfections, but it does mean you should schedule regular maintenance of your air ducts. Here are just some of the things that could happen if you don’t.
- Respiratory problems - This is no joke and perhaps the most important reason to make sure your air ducts are always clean and clear. It’s really as simple as this: clean air ducts distribute clean air while dirty air ducts distribute dirty air. That dirty air will likely be full of pollen, dust, pet dander (if you have a dog or cat), dirt particles, mildew and most importantly, mold spores. Mold spores are a particularly dangerous pollutant. They may be generated by mold in the basement or they could originate with bird droppings in the attic. Whatever their source they can cause allergic reactions, asthma, pneumonia and, in extreme cases, death. Don’t buy it? Well, just ask rock legend Bob Dylan. He inhaled some mold spores in 1997 and wound up being rushed to the hospital with histoplasmosis, a potentially fatal infection of the sac around the heart. Mold is no laughing matter.
- Excess wear and tear on your HVAC system - Today’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) are finely tuned and work within precise operational tolerances. Throw off any component of the system and the whole thing begins to bend under the strain. When a homeowner neglects air duct maintenance and the ductwork becomes lined with the dirt and debris we discussed above air circulation is impeded and the motor and blower need to work harder to do their job. You won’t see them straining while you’re eating dinner or watching Game of Thrones, but you’ll realize something is amiss when the furnace unexpectedly breaks down from overwork.
- Higher energy bills - When your HVAC system has to work harder it not only puts unnecessary wear and tear on the component parts it also puts upward pressure on energy consumption and results in higher energy bills. While the amount of increase in any given month is likely to be relatively small, over the course of an entire year it really starts to add up. So, not only will the system be buckling under the stress of having to work harder than it was designed to it will also consume more energy than it would if the air ducts were clean. But it doesn’t have to happen. Annual air duct maintenance is fast and affordable and will help keep your entire system running like clockwork.
- Broken down air ducts - While air quality and air flow are two vitally important aspects of air duct maintenance they’re not the only ones. The ducts are put under enormous pressure on a daily basis. The air flows through them at high speed searching for imperfections, rattling the ducts, often violently. Not only that, but the ducts heat up and cool down several times a day. Every time they do the galvanized steel they’re made of expands and then contracts. This constant expansion and contraction weakens the integrity of the joints between sections of the air ducts (there are dozens of such joints in the typical house). With each subsequent heating and cooling cycle this weakness gets more pronounced until, after a time, it becomes a substantial leak. As a result, a significant portion of your expensive heated air never makes it to your living room, kitchen or bedroom and you wind up paying more for the privilege of being cold.
Air duct maintenance is as important to the health and integrity of your HVAC system as oil changes are to the health of your car. It’s one of the less glamorous aspects of home ownership that’s for sure. But, just like oil changes, it needs to be done. So don’t sit back and wait for expensive breakdowns and rising energy bills to blindside you this year. Give Steve’s a call at (303) 530-4900 to learn more about the importance of maintaining your air ducts.