Do you know how to tell if your air ducts need to be cleaned?
One of the most common questions I’m asked by our customers is ‘how can I tell if my air ducts need to be cleaned.’ Sometimes it seems like the people who ask this question know they should have their ducts cleaned, but they’re waiting for some sort of dramatic signal that tells them it’s definitely time to have it done. Shy of a dust monster climbing out of your vents and asking for a glass of water, the things to look for are usually pretty subtle, yet easy to spot. Here are the five most common signs that your air ducts need to be cleaned, and a couple of tips to slow the buildup of contaminants inside your air ducts after you do have them cleaned.
SIGN #1 The Return Vents Around Your Home Are Coated With Dust
If you aren’t familiar with the difference between the return vents and supply vents in your home, just look for the vents (registers) that do not have levers to open and close them. Those are the return vents. The supply vents typically have a lever of some sort to open and close them.
If your return vents have a visible coating of dust on them, that’s a strong indication that you might need to have your air ducts cleaned.
SIGN #2 You See Dust Or Pet Hair Trapped Inside Supply Vents In Your Home
If you see dust, dirt, pet hair or other debris trapped inside one of your supply vents (registers) then you can be pretty sure you’ve got a lot of unpleasant stuff being circulated in the air inside your home. Sometimes you might need to take the vent off the wall or pull it up from the floor to look down inside in order to see the stuff that’s getting trapped behind the vent.
Remember, the supply vents are the ones that have a lever that allows you to open and close them. If your furnace or air conditioner is running, you can also put your hand over the vent to see if air is coming out of it. If you feel air coming out of a vent, then it’s a supply vent.
SIGN #3 Your Air Filter Is Really Dirty Or Gets Dirty Quickly After You Change It
Hopefully you change your air filter regularly, but you’d be surprised at how many people either forget for months on end, or simply don’t know they need to change their air filter. I’ve had to walk more people than you would believe through taking the doors off their furnace so they could find where their air filter was located because they had no idea. We usually have a good laugh together when they finally find it and see how dirty it is.
If your air filter seems to get dirty quicker than it should, say within one month after you replace it with a new one, then you probably have a lot of yuckiness floating around in your ducts and your home. Air filters getting dirty quickly is absolutely a good sign that you should have your air ducts cleaned.
SIGN #4 The Blower Inside Your Furnace Is Coated With Dust
Another place you can look for buildup of dust and dirt inside your system is on the blower (also referred to as the fan) inside your furnace. To find the blower, first remove the upper door from the front of your furnace. Then remove the lower door from the furnace, and look inside with a flashlight. You will see a big component that looks like a wheel. The picture below illustrates where you will find the blower inside your furnace.
If the blower is coated with dust and dirt, then there’s a good chance the air being circulated inside your house is extremely dirty. The air flowing through your ducts passes through the air filter first, so the air should be reasonably clean before it ever gets to the blower.
It’s also possible that the dust and dirt you see on the blower is being pulled into your furnace from your attic, basement, or crawlspace, wherever the furnace is located. If this is the case, then the dirt and dust that’s being sucked into your furnace is then being circulated unfiltered through your home. Regardless of the cause, if the blower in your furnace is dirty then you can
be confident it’s time to have your ducts cleaned (see our furnace cleaning services page for more information).
SIGN #5 The Air Flow Coming From Your Vents Is Not As Strong As It Was Before
If you put your hand over any of the supply vents in your home, and it feels like the air isn’t coming out as strong as it has in the past, then you should take the vent off the wall or floor and look inside with a flashlight.
There’s a good chance dust, dirt, and debris could have built up inside the duct or the boot (the metal piece that connects the duct to the wall or floor), and is partially blocking the airflow. The problem could be with just that one vent if something happened to have fallen into it, but if you find more than one vent has a buildup inside then it’s probably not just an unlucky coincidence. If the issue is with more than one vent, then you know you most likely need to have your ducts cleaned.
Hopefully, knowing these 5 simple things to look for will help you be able to tell if you need to have your air ducts cleaned.