The weather will soon become warmer and it will be time to enjoy the great outdoors again. But, indoors, we will want to enjoy a cooler environment and an efficient AC system is the best way to achieve that goal. If the air conditioner is not working as intended, it can lower the efficacy of the equipment and even raise the energy bills. At this point, many people look at the AC system to find the source of the problem. In many cases, the culprit is the duct system and this can be tricky to fix. In this article, we will take a closer look at ductwork leaks and the best way to handle them quickly.

What is a Duct Leak?

Before we begin, we should take a moment to explain what a duct leak is to ensure that we are on the same page. The ductwork is a passive air delivery network that distributes the treated air (warm or cool) throughout the home. This is a neglected and yet critical component that needs to be in good shape. A duct leak is a small crack or hole that typically occurs at gaps or seams in the ductwork system. Heating and cooling experts estimate that 10-25% of conditioned air can escape at these duct leak points. There are three common types of duct leaks, they are:

  1. Supply Leaks: These occur at the supply air ducts where they lower the airflow to the connected living areas.
  2. Equipment Leaks: These occur from components that move air such as the furnace cabinet or coils. Again, these lower the airflow leading to a loss of performance that can be felt in the entire home.
  3. Return Leaks: When the escaped air makes its way into attics, wall cavities, and other spaces it can get drawn back into the ductwork system. This additional load of untreated air can place significant stress on the HVAC system. Overworked equipment is more prone to failure and the useful lifespan of the system may be compromised.

When the ductwork is leaking it can cause a loss of heating or cooling and it can cause a number of other problems. Let’s take a look at common four signs of leaking ducts in more detail.

4 Signs of Leaking Ducts

1.   Uneven Heating and Cooling

When the HVAC system is working efficiently the heating or cooling should be evenly distributed throughout the home. But, some homes have areas that feel warmer during summer and colder during the winter months. This could be caused by ductwork leaks that are preventing the delivery of treated air to those areas.

2.   A Dustier Home

Most people like to keep their home clean and tidy and this can be difficult when dust seems to accumulate quickly. A large quantity of dust can cause a lot of problems and the build-up may be caused by leaking ductwork. The HVAC system has an air filter which many people believe is present to clean the indoor air. This is incorrect, the primary role of the air filter is to remove airborne particulates to protect the equipment. So, when you take a look at the air filter the surface is covered with materials, such as dirt, dust, pet dander, hair, and more. If there is a leak in the air filter housing or the ductwork this can release a lot of dust into the home.

3.   Aging Ductwork

Like any system in your home, the ductwork has a finite lifespan and it will fail over time. Even if the ductwork is properly installed and well maintained it will need repairs or an eventual replacement. If the ductwork is in poor shape, it’s a good idea to contact your local HVAC specialist and ask them to evaluate the condition. Minor repairs may be possible, but if the damage is extensive it’s usually less expensive to replace the ductwork. This may seem excessive, but poor quality ductwork strains the system which will increase the energy bills and it may lead to an expensive repair bill.

4.   Rising Energy Bills

Tracking your energy bills is smart, they don’t tend to change dramatically year over year but extreme increases are a sign that something is wrong. There are a number of possible causes and one is the condition of the ductwork. When this fact is taken into consideration a full ductwork replacement starts to look like a sound investment. In fact, it may be possible to recoup the cost of a new ductwork system with lower energy bills in next to no time.

How to Fix Leaking Ductwork

The first thing to consider is that the location of the ductwork leak may be hidden and hard to locate. A great deal of the ductwork will be located behind walls or in crawl spaces where it’s hard to access. If you’re lucky enough to find the air leak(s), it is possible to carry out a temporary repair with duct tape or sealant. But, it’s important to get the leak fixed quickly because these solutions never hold for long.

The best way to deal with ductwork problems is to contact your local heating and cooling specialist. They have the expertise and specialized tools to locate, fix, maintain and replace the ductwork system. A quick test is often sufficient to find any ductwork leaks and measure how they are lowering the energy efficiency. It may be possible to seal the ducts from the inside to minimize any disruption to your home.

It’s important to act quickly when you have leaky ductwork because the problem will not get any better if it’s ignored. Every day that the air leaks are not sealed will lower the energy efficiency and raise the energy bills. But, the more serious problem is the additional strain placed on the HVAC system. Overworked equipment is prone to component failures which can lead to an expensive repair bill.

If you want to get your ductwork inspected, contact your local HVAC specialist today.