In recent years, many people have become more concerned with the quality of their indoor air. This is a natural reaction to the Covid-19 lockdowns and the lower air quality that we may experience in our neighborhoods. But, the indoor air quality (IAQ) in our homes may be worse than the polluted air outdoors. This is a shocking revelation which has led to an uptake in air purification systems and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. But, there are major improvements that can be made to IAQ if you don’t want to commit to a major change in your HVAC system. In this article, we will look at six unhealthy consequences that can affect your home if the air ducts are dirty.

Why are Dirty Air Ducts a Problem?

Before we begin, it’s important to understand why air ducts are so important when it comes to IAQ and overall health in the home. The entire HVAC system relies on the air ducts to deliver the treated air to every room in the home. The indoor air is circulated multiple times each day and airborne contaminants are collected in the air filter. For this reason, we recommend a monthly check of the air filter and it should be changed, if it’s dirty. But, many people forget about the inner surfaces and the general condition of their air ducts.

6 Dirty Air Duct Problems

Let’s take a look at six dirty air duct problems in more detail:

1.   Allergen Accumulation

In commercial buildings, the lower IAQ leads to a misunderstood phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome” (SBS). The cause is contaminants, such as dust, pollen, dander and other allergens that are trapped in the ducts. These materials can accumulate on the inner surfaces of the ducts over time. When the HVAC system is running, the allergens are distributed through the home or business in the air. While breathing this polluted air may be fine for some people, others may suffer. The most at risk groups are allergy sufferers and people with pre-existing respiratory ailments. Even people that are unaffected can become prone to allergens in the medium to long-term.

2.   Lowered IAQ

When the indoor air is dirty, it’s a common cause of asthma attacks, allergic reactions, coughing, flu symptoms, sore throats and more. The circulation of dirty air via the air ducts will contribute to the concentration of airborne contaminants. This includes bacteria which can make people feel sick and allergy sufferers have an increased risk of infection. The most at risk groups are younger children, elderly people and those with breathing conditions. The IAQ can be temporarily boosted by opening the windows to bring fresh oxygen into the home. But, this will always be a losing strategy if the underlying cause is not addressed. For this reason, we recommend regular air duct cleaning to improve the IAQ for everyone living in the home.

3.   Pest Intrusions

When air ducts are in poor shape and dirty, they are prone to intrusions from insects and rodents. These critters are looking for somewhere comfortable to live and if there is a break in the network, they can enter the ducts. They can be a nuisance if you can hear them moving in the air ducts, but there are more serious health concerns. These pests often carry diseases, they may bite if cornered in your home and eat your food. Another problem is their droppings which will be distributed throughout the home via the HVAC system and ductwork. Breathing in these contaminants can trigger a reaction and cause illnesses.

4.   Faster Aging

This may not seem like a credible concern, but research has shown that poor IAQ can speed up the aging process in humans. If you feel tired and lethargic for no reason, the cause may be the poor IAQ that’s coming from the air ducts. We need plenty of oxygen to maintain a healthy body and breathing poor quality air can affect our sleep. When people get their air ducts cleaned, they are often surprised at the energy boost they feel. If you cannot remember when the air ducts were cleaned last, schedule some cleaning now.

5.   Bad Odors

When the air ducts are dirty, you may notice a musty odor in your home. But, if you’ve become accustomed to the odor, you may be oblivious unless someone mentions the problem. We tend to get used to things and if we spend more time working from home, it can be hard to identify certain issues. The source of a moldy or musty odor is the growth of mold and mildew in your air ducts. This bad odor will be accompanied by mold spores and breathing in these contaminants can trigger allergies and make people ill.

6.   Lowered Energy Efficiency

When the air ducts are dirty, the efficiency of the HVAC system is compromised. The build up of dirt and debris will prevent the air filter from functioning correctly. It may be necessary to change the air filter more frequently in an attempt to compensate for the loss of performance. When the filter clogs, the airflow is lowered and this overworks the heating and cooling equipment. This in turn consumes more energy and it can lead to an unexpected repair bill.

What is the Solution?

If you’re suffering with any of the problems discussed in this article, you need to consider regular air duct cleaning. When the air ducts are clean, the IAQ is much improved, people tend to have more energy and the HVAC systems are more efficient. When you consider these benefits, the cost of duct cleaning starts to look like a real bargain. Although you can clean the air vents and returns with a vacuum cleaner, it’s hard to clean the ducts without special equipment. During the cleaning, the ducts will be inspected to ensure that they are in great shape. If the air ducts are in poor shape, it’s often cheaper to replace them rather than patch them up.

If you want to schedule some air duct cleaning, contact your local HVAC specialist.