In residential applications, HVAC air ducts have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. With moderate use and diligent maintenance, some ductwork can last as long as 25 years. Throughout this time, professional cleaning services and timely, sectional repairs are often sufficient for restoring dirty, damaged, or aging ducts to a usable condition. However, when replacing the furnace or AC in your Garland, TX home, it may be best to have all-new ductwork installed. Read on to find out why.
Several Environmental Factors Can Expedite the Aging Process
Certain things about your home, your neighborhood, and your lifestyle could be taking a toll on your HVAC air ducts. For instance, ducted HVAC systems can take in lots of particulate debris when homes are located near busy freeways or active construction. If the right dust control measures aren’t in place, ongoing exposure to this debris will create airflow obstructions and increases in static pressure. Over time, high levels of static pressure can leave air ducts with loose connections and minor structural damage.
Unchecked pest infestations are problematic as well. If you live near an open, grassy field and have struggled with rats, mice, or other vermin in the past, these infestations may have left your ducts with structural damage, foul odors, and large populations of harmful pathogens. Moreover, when pests enter and live in HVAC ductwork, they leave behind shed fur and exoskeletons, feces, food, and other detritus. Even when simply passing through ductwork, heavier pests like raccoon and large rodents can cause it to collapse.
Exposed ducting is especially vulnerable to damage. If you have air ducts that you can see in your basement, attached garage, or attic, these ducts can be crushed by falling ladders, heavy tools and equipment, careless residents, and more. Although insulating exposed ducting will limit heat gains and heat loss, it won’t protect your exposed ducts from all impact-related harm.
Having too much moisture in your home can damage your ducting and accelerate its aging as well. With sheet metal ducting, it’s important to regularly check for corrosion. With enough moisture and time, corroded sheet metal ducting, can weaken, sag, and cave in.
Air Ducts Become Less Efficient as They Age
Your HVAC air ducts might continue functioning for 25 years, but this doesn’t mean that they’ll continue working efficiently. According to research, the two biggest factors affecting airflow and efficiency in ducting are time and friction.
Friction occurs when two items rub together. In your air ducts, friction exists between air molecules and duct surfaces. If you have dirty ducts, improperly sized or installed ducts, or ducts with rough interiors, your fan blower motor or air handler will work harder than it should, and your energy bills will rise. Unfortunately, aging air ducts tend to have lots of trapped debris. Wear and tear has usually roughened their interior surfaces, and they’re often experiencing air leaks or other functional problems due to impact events, past infestations, or corrosion.
If you have leaky air ducts in your home, you’re paying approximately 50% more to use your heating and cooling equipment than you would if these features were intact. Moreover, you probably don’t have a consistently even and comfortable temperature throughout your home, and you’re likely struggling with both a low indoor air quality (IAQ) and humidity problems.
New Ducting Will Boost Your Indoor Air Quality
As part of ongoing HVAC duct maintenance, you should have your air ducts professionally cleaned every three to five years. These services eliminate many of the trapped particulates that bypass HVAC air filters. They also remove stubborn, infestation-related odors and all of the detritus that pests leave behind. However, duct cleaning becomes less effective at improving the efficiency and functionality of air ducts as they age and develop structural imperfections.
There are three common duct cleaning methods: mechanical agitation, negative pressure, and power-vacuuming/air-sweeping. Mechanical agitation uses a combination of air whips, handheld brushes, skipper balls (compressed air nozzles), and mechanical brushes to physically scrub tough build-ups away. Negative air pressure combines suction and antimicrobial sprays to loosen and remove debris, and disinfect all interior surfaces. The most effective and costly of the three, power-vacuuming or air-sweeping, leverages exceedingly forceful suction to lift even the most stubborn particulates out.
While all of these methods offer remarkable improvements in indoor air quality, not all of them are suitable for aging ducts. Applying too much pressure or agitating aging ducts too forcefully can result in rips, tears, punctures, and collapse. When air ducts are nearing the ends of their lifespans, many HVAC technicians might actually advise against aggressive duct cleaning. Having brand-new ducting installed after your ductwork has provided more than 15 years of service will instantly boost your indoor air quality (IAQ). It’s also often the most cost-effective choice.
Minimize Wear on Your New Heater or Air Conditioner
Due to ongoing heat losses and heat gains, most central HVAC ductwork loses between 20% and 40% of the energy that HVAC systems use. Although adding ductwork insulation does minimize these losses, it can’t beat the general decline in efficiency that comes with age. If your HVAC air ducts are 15 years old or older, their efficiency losses could be as high as 40%. When ducting has age-related leaks as well, this number climbs higher still.
These changes don’t just have a major impact on your energy bill. They also affect your HVAC system’s performance. Heaters and air conditioners have to work a lot harder when their air distribution systems are failing. When you consider the very significant investment that a new furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump represents, giving these installations fresh ductwork makes good sense. If you install a new heater or AC today and attach to it air ducts that have been working hard and sustaining damage for two decades or more, your investment won’t last long enough to provide optimum returns.
Duct Replacement Is an Excellent Opportunity to Have Your HVAC System Zoned
Replacing your HVAC air ducts gives you the chance to zone your system for further efficiency. You can have duct dampers, bypass ducts, and a central control system installed so that residents can independently control the temperatures in their immediate areas. HVAC zoning also eliminates the need to heat or cool spaces that no one is actively using.
In addition to zoning your home during ductwork replacement, you can also take advantage of innovative, integrated HVAC system accessories like:
- Media filters
- Air scrubbers
- Air purifiers
- Whole-house humidifiers or dehumidifiers
Whether you’re concerned about your IAQ, your indoor humidity, or your carbon footprint, new, zoned, and accessorized ducting are all options that can help you meet your goals.
Streamline Your HVAC Air Ducts to Optimally Support Your New Heater or AC
Most heaters and air conditioners last between 15 and 20 years which makes their lifespans comparable to that of HVAC air ducts. There are solid arguments both for and against replacing HVAC air ducts every time new heating and cooling equipment is installed. However, even if your HVAC air ducts remain reasonably efficient and totally intact, brand-new ducting can offer superior HVAC performance overall. This is because replacing air ducts at the same time as heaters and air conditioners allows HVAC technicians to streamline these features to perfectly suit the needs and nuances of new units.
Since 1965, we’ve been proudly serving Garland, TX and the surrounding communities. We offer top-notch heating, cooling, plumbing, and IAQ services. We also offer HVAC air duct cleaning. To schedule an appointment, get in touch with On Time Experts today.