On a recent home energy audit, our Consultant was surprised to hear from the homeowner that they had a contractor remove their heat pump four years ago, complaining that it just didn’t heat or cool their home well, and had actually increased their energy bills. Once he began his inspection, he understood why – the duct system had substantial leakage problems and was not insulated.

If your furnace, heat pump or air conditioner is the heart of your HVAC system, the duct-work is like the veins and arteries. Getting a heart transplant won’t help you if your arteries are clogged. Neither can a new furnace, air conditioner or heat pump provide you with the comfort and energy savings you expect if their duct work is poorly designed or has significant air leaks. Ultimately, the heated or cooled air that should be going into your home is being lost to the crawl space, basement or attic. It may be keeping the critters happy, but isn’t doing much to help you.

Beyond the comfort issues this creates, you are wasting money that you paid to heat or cool your home by heating or cooling the crawl space or attic instead. Adding insult to injury, your equipment may be pulling unconditioned air in through return ducts, and will have to use even more energy to heat or cool that air!

If you have rooms in your home that are not heating or cooling well enough, your energy bills seem high, or you have excessive dust issues in your home, duct leakage or construction issues may be at the root of the problem. Unfortunately, many homes suffer from these conditions, and not all HVAC contractors have the tools, training, or desire to find and solve them.

So what can you do about it? While you can’t measure duct leakage without special tools, or identify or correct complex design issues without special training and reference guides, there are a few simple things you can look for to see if duct issues may be causing these problems in your home. Change into some work-clothes, grab a ladder, and take a look at your ductwork for the following signs of problems:

#1 – Dark stains on duct insulation: When you look at the insulation on your ducts, if you see areas of dark staining, the duct is leaking, and the insulation is serving as a “filter” of sorts, catching particles in the air. This causes the stain. Unfortunately, it may also cause insulation particles, dust, and other contaminants to enter the air you breathe.

#2 – Gaps at joints, or disconnected ducts: If your duct-work is not insulated, or the insulation has pulled away, look to see if there are gaps between the ducts and the joints or take-offs. Remember, just because gaps are not visible doesn’t mean they are not there. With the system fan running, put a tissue up to each joint. If it moves, air is leaking.

#3 – Bent, sagging or kinked ducts: Whether a plumber or electrician crawled over the duct and crushed it, or the original installer did not take the time to straighten and secure flexible ducts, like a kinked straw, air will not move through a damaged duct, kinked duct, or sagging duct. Look for any hard, or right angles in duct-work, ducts that are bent, crushed, or have fallen, or ducts that sag.

If you find any of these conditions, our highly trained, professional staff is here to help, and can fix them for you. Using specialized tools, we can measure and isolate duct leaks. We can also identify design and construction issues that can be corrected to improve airflow – and with it your comfort. Contact Us today for more information or to schedule a Home Energy and Safety Assessment.