How to Check for Leaking Air Ducts in Your Home

Once your heating or cooling system conditions air, it must first travel through your ductwork before you benefit from it within your living areas. Duct leaks rob households of indoor comfort and force HVAC systems to expend more energy to maintain ideal indoor environments. Learn how to test ducts for leaks and eliminate duct inefficiencies at home.

Duct Leaks and Energy Loss

Duct systems need to be tightly sealed in order to retain conditioned air and the energy it contains. Loose connections, gaps, damaged duct sections and disconnected duct runs allow conditioned air to exit the duct system before reaching your indoor living areas, wasting energy.

On average, 25% of air is lost through leaks. In other words, one fourth of the conditioned air is not being delivered to the rooms in your house. This is on par with duct inefficiencies across the nation. The average home loses 20 to 30 percent of its HVAC energy through duct leaks – causing high utility bills.

How to Test Air Ducts for Leaks

Testing ducts for leaks involves professional methods for most accurate analysis. This process utilizes specialized equipment which is hooked up to the duct system, and then airflow measurements are recorded to determine if leaks exist.

In addition to the professional method of testing, there are a few things homeowners can do to identify leaking ducts.

  • Visually inspect all ductwork you have access to. Climb into your attic, crawlspace and/or basement and take a look at the ducts that are visible. Look at each section of duct and connection for obvious gaps, disconnections and tears. Also, look for areas of the ducts which have duct tape affixed. This is a sign that duct leaks have likely been patched before. You want to carefully inspect these sections, too, as duct tape is not a proper material for sealing leaks and leaking may still be present.
  • Turn your HVAC system on and return to the areas where ductwork is accessible. Check the connections between each section of duct, placing your hand over the metal. If you feel air against your hand, the connection is loose and there is an air leak. A common place for leaks is the duct joints.
  • With the HVAC system on, carry an incense stick or smoke pencil steadily along the ducts and watch for movement in the ducts – this shows you air is escaping the duct system.

If you find any areas with obvious or suspected duct leaks, mark them by drawing an arrow on the duct with a grease pencil so you know where the leaking is. Once you finish testing for leaks, you are able to return to these problem areas and perform sealing to eliminate the leak.

What Else Causes Ductwork Inefficiencies?

Aside from air loss found through leaks, a few other issues contribute to energy loss and inefficiency from your home’s ducts.

Dirty ducts

Dirt and other airborne debris settle in your ductwork as air constantly circulates through the home. This debris causes obstructions to airflow. Even if buildup does not completely cut off airflow, it still inhibits free air movement through the ducts.

The solution for dirty ducts is professional duct cleaning, which rids the duct system of dirt and debris. Clean ducts allow air to smoothly flow through for better HVAC energy efficiency. Also, with less contaminants coming into contact with your air supply, you benefit from better Redlands indoor air quality.

Uninsulated ducts

Ductwork typically runs through areas of the home that are not heated and cooled. In these areas, the temperature differential between the surrounding air and the ductwork can be great. Most of a home’s ductwork runs through the attic, where temperatures easily rise to 130 degrees – compared to the 70-degree cooled air running through the ducts, this is a 60-degree temperature difference! This affects the temperature of the conditioned air moving into your home, and your HVAC system must work more to make up for the loss.

Insulate your ductwork, especially ducts that run through unconditioned areas. Insulation helps the circulating air retain its heating and cooling energy, so you benefit from it within your living areas. Ducts in attics, crawl spaces, unfinished basements and garages benefit from insulation.

Improve Duct Efficiency with Sanborn’s

Eliminate unnecessary energy loss and create a more comfortable indoor environment when you eliminate duct leaks. For professional duct leak testing and duct sealing services, call Sanborn’s today.