Preventing Dirty Ducts

A common cause of high utility bills, stuffy rooms, and a dusty house is a dirty duct system. If you want to save money and improve the comfort and cleanliness of your home, it’s a good idea to make duct improvement, such as sealing and insulating them.

How to Prevent Dirty Ducts

The two main methods for preventing dirt and dust in your air ducts are sealing and insulating air ducts.

While it is possible to DIY seal and insulate accessible ducts, there may be many sections of your ductwork that are unreachable — concealed in walls, ceilings, attics, and basements. Additionally, only a qualified professional should seal and insulate ducts in unconditioned spaces to ensure the proper materials are used.

If your ducts are poorly connected or insulated, not only will they contribute to higher energy bills, but they could also allow dirt, dust, moisture, and pests inside the duct system. 

In addition to sealing and insulating your ducts, here are some additional ways to maintain clean ductwork:

  • Go around your home and make sure there are no rugs, drapes, or furniture blocking your air vents and registers. Learn more about why closing or blocking vents and registers is not a good idea.
  • Periodically vacuum and clean the areas around your vents and registers.
  • Keep the area around your indoor air handler clean and clear.
  • Store chemicals, paints, and other hazardous materials properly. Seal containers tightly and place them far away from any HVAC equipment, preferably in the garage or an area equipped with exhaust ventilation. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and follow appropriate regulations for waste disposal.
  • Maintain a clean home. Dust, mop, and vacuum regularly. Use a vacuum with HEPA filtration if you can.
  • Check your air filter every 30 days and wait no more than 90 days to clean or replace it. A good way to check if it’s time to replace your filter is by holding it up to the light. If light cannot pass through, it needs to be changed. You should be able to see the white filter material.
  • Use the highest MERV-rated filter that your HVAC system allows, usually around MERV 12 or 13. Consult your owner’s manual or contact your local HVAC company.
  • Schedule professional HVAC maintenance twice a year, once in the fall for your heating system and again in the spring for your cooling system. Check to make sure your tune-up includes a full cleaning of your indoor and outdoor units, including coils and drain pans.
  • Whenever starting a big home improvement project that produces dust, make sure that the vents and registers are properly sealed off. Do not You will also need to have proper exhaust ventilation to send dust and pollutants outdoors. Learn best practices for indoor air quality when remodeling your home.

Prevent mold in your ductwork by following these tips for keeping moisture out:

  • Keep an eye out for water leaks and have them repaired as soon as possible.
  • Make sure the condensate drain pan is clean and leak-free. If the drain pan isn’t draining properly, contact a professional technician. Learn more about condensate drain pan problems.
  • Check for moisture or water damage around the HVAC system, including insulation near the indoor coils.
  • Ducts should be professionally sealed and insulated in unconditioned spaces like attics and basements.
  • Contact your local HVAC company if you notice any disconnected, damaged, or kinked ducts. Seal all ducts at the joints.

Should You Have Your Ducts Cleaned?

If your ducts are already contaminated, you may benefit from professional duct cleaning. Things like mold and rodent/insect infestations are surefire signs to clean your ductwork.

According to the EPA, there are no studies that conclusively demonstrate that particle levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because a lot of the stuff that enters your ducts adheres to the inside of the ducts and don’t necessarily enter the living space.

The EPA recommends considering duct cleaning if you have:

  • Mold growth inside your ducts or other components of the HVAC system.
  • Ducts that are infested with rodents or insects.
  • Ducts that are filled with a lot of dust and debris that is being released into your home via supply registers.

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