Indoor air quality has become a top concern for most homeowners. Alarmingly, the Environmental Protection Agency states that the air inside your home can contain two to five times the level of pollutants that outdoor air does. There are many factors that can affect indoor air quality, but one often-overlooked variable is the condition of your air duct system.
Keeping your air ducts clean and properly maintained can go a long way toward improving your indoor air quality. On the other hand, if you fail to take care of your duct system, you run the risk of experiencing the following four issues.
1. Unclean Air Circulation
If any components of your air duct system are poorly connected, worn down, or defective, the system might pull in unfiltered air containing mold, allergens, and other irritants. Filters may let in unclean air if they are improperly installed or due for changing, and other components, such as filter housings and air handler cabinets, may develop leaks.
If a leak occurs in the ducts that pump air into your house, this can indirectly harm your air quality. When your ductwork functions properly, the amount of air that is pulled into the system and the amount of air that is pushed back into your house are equal. However, if your ductwork loses air that should be returned to your house, your system is essentially removing air from your house. This creates negative air pressure, which allows air to flow into your house from areas that may contain less clean air, such as crawlspaces.
2. Excessive Humidity
Ductwork that develops water leaks or fails to keep out moist air will circulate overly damp air into your air conditioning system. Although the system can handle moderate amounts of moisture, excessive levels increase the likelihood of mold growth. This can put you and other home residents at risk for allergy symptoms, asthma attacks, or even serious respiratory infections.
Unfortunately, mold in ductwork can be incredibly difficult to remove, especially if moisture continues entering the duct system unimpeded. Usually, preventative measures are much more effective and affordable than remediation.
3. Contaminant Buildup
If your ductwork is leaky or poorly maintained, you may be at risk for the buildup of dust and worse contaminants inside your duct system. Disconnected or worn out components can even allow pests to take up residence in your ductwork. Over time, various unwanted contaminants may clog your filters and start circulating into your home. If you also have moisture problems, the presence of dust and moisture can support the growth of mold, bacteria, and other organisms.
4. Combustion Trapping
Many heating appliances, including fireplaces, furnaces, and water heaters, produce unhealthy combustion byproducts that are automatically vented out of your house. However, negative home air pressure resulting from ductwork issues can prevent these harmful byproducts from being safely removed. Besides keeping in pollutants that cause mild irritation to the lungs, skin, or eyes, negative home air pressure can also trap dangerous substances, such as carbon monoxide.
Protecting Your Indoor Air
Considering all of these potential issues, the benefits of keeping up with duct system maintenance and cleaning are clear. If you have noticed signs of duct issues or poor indoor air quality, such as visible mold, dust buildup, or allergy symptoms, it may be a good time to seek qualified help. With proper duct cleaning or maintenance, you should immediately notice significant improvements in your indoor air quality.