Having your home's air ducts isn't a typical part of routine maintenance, but depending on your needs, it could be necessary. Duct cleaning is a good way to get rid of foul odors, anything pests might have dragged in, and allergens and contaminants that could be harmful to your health. Here are three signs to keep an eye out for.
For the most part, the air coming from your vents should be odorless, since your HVAC pulls air from inside your house. If you start detecting foul odors when your air conditioner is on, this means that there's either a leak in your ducts large enough to allow outside air in, or that there's something inside your ducts that shouldn't be.
Musty odors, the smell of trash or dead animals, or rotten eggs or dirty socks are some of the most important smells to keep in mind. Musty odors can come from mold growing inside your ducts, the smells of trash or carcasses could come from a pest that made its way into your ducts to find shelter, and a rotten eggs smell can come from a gas leak. These can all be dangerous, if not disgusting, so if you're detecting these odors, call a professional to have your ducts inspected immediately.
Signs of Pest Infestation
Beyond nasty odors, there can be several other signs that pests are making their home in your ducts.
First, since these pests may also use your ducts to travel through your home, keep an eye out for droppings. Many rodents can fit through very small gaps, so your vent covers may not provide adequate protection against them.
Second, listen for any sounds coming from your ducts that might be unfamiliar. While ducts will make some sounds as the air pressure within changes, they should otherwise remain quiet. If you hear tapping sounds, or the sounds of something knocking against metal, your ducts could have uninvited guests.
Finally, pay attention to your air conditioner's efficiency. Whether it's by gnawing at your ducts to create openings to pass in and out of, pulling in debris to make nests, or chewing through vital components, you may notice a dip in efficiency and a rise in your electric bill if you have pests in your ducts.
Because pests can leave droppings and fur and nesting materials in your ducts, your ducts will likely need to be cleaned to remove allergens or anything that could pose a risk to your health.
Development of Illnesses or Symptoms
Sometimes the existence of harmful pests or growth in your ducts may not be noticeable until you start feeling sick. Mold, droppings, dust, debris, and other contaminants can cause symptoms like coughing, irritated skin, dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, and difficulties with breathing.
In many cases, contaminants get into your ducts simply because your ducts get old. Seals can wear down, gaps can form, and they can become overall less efficient. It can also happen if your air filter isn't regularly replaced, as your filter becomes less efficient the dirtier it gets. Keeping to a regular filter replacing schedule and having your ducts inspected every three to five years can go a long way toward keeping your home's air cleaner.
If you start noticing an onset of symptoms, or your symptoms are worse than usual, it could be more than just a bad allergy season, especially if these symptoms are combined with any of the other signs of duct trouble. To be safe, make sure you schedule air conditioner vent cleaning as soon as possible.