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What Is an Air Duct and How To Keep Them Functioning Efficiently

We’ve all been stuck inside of a building that’s just too stuffy. It becomes hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable very quickly, leading to an unpleasant, unproductive day where all you can think about is getting outside as quickly as possible. While there are many reasons a room can become stuffy and uncomfortable like that, the primary cause is poor ventilation. A poorly ventilated room swiftly becomes a miserable room and often the culprit is an inefficient ductwork system.

What is an air duct, though? And how can you keep your duct system functioning efficiently so that the room doesn’t devolve into a hot, stuffy torture chamber? Read on to find out:

What Is an Air Duct?

In the simplest terms, an air duct is the method by which air is transported from room to room in your home. The system of ducts that runs throughout your home is part of your HVAC—heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—and for the home to achieve maximum comfort, that duct system needs to be clean, efficient, and effective.

Today, most air ducts are made from insulated sheet metal, although they can be constructed from a variety of other things. PVC, fiberglass, fabric, and polyurethane are all materials used in the construction of air ducts. The key properties your duct system needs to have are an ability to circulate air; proper insulation, to keep the air at your ideal temperature; and a good level of durability, since it’ll have to stand up to moisture and contaminants carried by the air. For this reason, durable, inexpensive materials are most commonly used in making air ducts.

The ducts in your home are installed and maintained by an HVAC company. It’s important that they’re installed correctly because ducts that aren’t properly fitted to the size of your home can have a large, negative effect on your energy bill. Ducts that are too large will draw way too much power, while ducts that are too small won’t function efficiently. For the same reasons, it’s also important that air ducts aren’t any longer than they need to be and that they don’t turn and bend unnecessarily. These factors will also lead to energy loss and, ultimately, a higher bill for you.

How Can Air Ducts Function Efficiently?

Because there’s a near-constant flow of air through the ducts that make up your home’s HVAC system, you won’t be surprised to discover that, over time, those ducts tend to become very dirty. It’s important, however, to keep the air in your home as clean and pure as possible, as many health conditions are aggravated by dust and pet dander. That same dust and pet dander can also act as a carrier for bacteria, mold, and viruses, leading to illness and other health problems.

A dirty air duct will also mean a higher energy bill, as eventually the filters in the ducts will become blocked by the dust particles. This means you’ll have to crank the air up higher to get the same amount of airflow as you’re used to. Ultimately, this means a much higher energy bill.

Efficient air ducts, therefore, need to be regularly cleaned and have their filters changed regularly. It’s also important that the insulation be well maintained because if a duct is poorly insulated, energy will be lost, and once again, that will be reflected in your energy bill.

Regular Maintenance of Your Air Ducts

Because your HVAC system is so complex, there are a number of places where it can fail. It’s important to be diligent about keeping an eye on your energy bills. If you notice they’re unusually high, this may mean your home is experiencing energy loss somewhere. Check the insulation on your windows and try to determine if there are any leaks. If you don’t notice any, you may have to have an HVAC professional from Entek come and do a more thorough checkup.

In many cases, all your HVAC professional will need to do is to give the ducts a thorough cleaning and change the filters. This should be done regularly whether there’s a problem or not, due to the tendency of vents to become clogged over time. Of course, your HVAC professional will also check the rest of your heating and cooling system. What is an air duct, after all, without the rest of the system to support it?

Your HVAC professional will check all the electrical connections in your heating and cooling system. Problems can often be caused by a faulty thermostat or other electrical issues. They can also be caused by a leak of coolant or failure of the heating element to properly activate.

The easiest way to make sure your air ducts are always in good condition is to have them regularly checked by a professional, but getting in the habit of regularly checking the parts of your HVAC system on your own is also a good idea.

A Word on Safety

Because it’s tied directly to the air you breathe, the effectiveness of your air ducts is tied directly to your health and safety. That’s why it’s important not to let regular HVAC maintenance lapse. You’ll want to make sure everything remains in good condition. Besides regular cleanings, you’ll also want to keep an eye on your home’s carbon monoxide detectors.

Depending upon what method it uses to produce heat, your HVAC system may produce harmful carbon monoxide. If it does so, there must be a way to safely vent this toxic heating byproduct out of your home without it spilling into your air ducts. If this vent becomes blocked, you’ll need to make sure you have properly functioning carbon monoxide alarms so that you can take appropriate action if there’s a leak. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, and therefore very insidious. Properly functioning alarms will help to protect you and your family from it.


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