September 20, 2020

An air duct clog might sound like a minor issue, but it can eventually harm your HVAC system. Therefore, homeowners need to be vigilant about checking for obstructions in their vents. If you do find a clog, there are a few different ways you can fix the problem.

How to Spot an Air Duct Clog

Your home’s air ducts might be almost invisible, but they have a huge impact on the overall functioning of your HVAC system. Ducts help to circulate air throughout your home, improving the overall temperature and air quality. However, these ducts can get clogged. It can be difficult to notice the cause of an air clog at first since the signs are often so subtle. However, if you do not recognize the issue, it can lead to more problems later.

It is a good idea to regularly check your system for air duct clogs. At least once a year, go over all your vents to see if any obstructions are developing. Signs of an air duct clog include:

  • Temperatures varying drastically between rooms
  • Dirty air coming from vents
  • Unusual spikes in electric bills
  • Airflow seems to be lower in certain vents
  • Air coming from vents is warm

The Reason You Need to Address Air Duct Clogs

If you do have an air duct clog, you might be tempted to shrug off the issue. However, the reality is that clogs need to be addressed as soon as possible regardless of whether your indoor temperatures feel uncomfortable. Clogs greatly impact your indoor air quality. Most are made of dust, mold, pet hair, mildew, and even rodent feces. This can cause major respiratory problems, especially if you are constantly inhaling these small particles.

Even when the clog is in a room you rarely use, it is a bad idea to leave it there. HVAC systems are designed to disperse air throughout all ducts. One duct being out of commission changes the pressure balance inside of your entire ductwork system. There is a chance of duct leakages and other problems. When you have a clog, your system must run longer and longer to properly cool or heat your home. This leads to more wear and tear on your system, and you pay more for utility bills.

Find the Cause of the Blockage

There are several different ways air ducts can get clogged. Recognizing the cause can make it far easier to fix the problem. The simplest issue is simply an external blockage. Having furniture, wall hangings, curtains, or holiday decor in front of a vent can clog it from the outside. Try to always leave at least a foot of space between your air vent and any home furnishings. Your vents can also seem blocked simply because the zone dampers are closed. These are the tiny levers that adjust the airflow from inside your vent. You can wiggle them to make sure they are not obstructing airflow.

Another potential cause is a dirty air filter. If your air filter has not been changed for a while, your system may be sucking up gunk that is causing a clog. Just swapping out the air filter will not remove the actual clog, but it is a good start to improving system efficiency. If your air vents are on the floor or lower part of the wall, the clog may be due to something small getting dropped inside the vent. Children’s toys, pet toys, loose change, or other small debris can easily get inside a vent and cause a clog.

There are also some more complex causes of clogs. If there are any leaks in your ductwork, it is easy for debris to get pulled inside and cause a clog. This is especially common in homes with rodent problems since pests may gnaw at ductwork. In older HVAC systems, there is also a chance that loose pieces of insulation or filters can break off and harm the ducts.

Unclog an Air Duct Yourself

As you can see, sometimes removing a clog is just as basic as wiggling a damper or moving a couch out of the way. Even when the clog is inside the duct itself, it is possible to do a DIY fix. In some cases, addressing a clog inside your air duct will be relatively simple. Start by using a screwdriver to remove the vent cover. Then, use a flashlight to look inside the duct. If the blockage is near the vent cover, you may be able to see it and remove it. This is often as simple as just reaching inside to pull out a toy dropped in the vent or a dust clump that has built up over time.

When removing the clog, be very gentle. Avoid yanking the clog if it seems wedged against the ducts or using a sharp tool that may pierce the sides of the ducts. Air ducts can be surprisingly fragile, so jarring or poking it can result in a leaky duct. Once the clog is removed, be sure to run all your air clog checks again. Sometimes, more than one clog is contributing to the blockage. You should not assume everything is fine just because you pulled out one clog.

Know When to Get Professional Help

It is occasionally possible for a homeowner to deal with a clogged vent on their own, but this is somewhat rare. You can only fix it on your own if it happens right near the end of the vent. Typically, a clog is a problem that builds up over time and affects the entire duct. Most people will not have the tools or know-how needed to clean the hard-to-reach parts of a duct on their own. Trying to do it yourself can be ineffective, or it may even damage your system even more.

If you try the DIY method and do not see any clog to remove, you should call in the professionals. It is also a good idea to seek assistance if you removed one clog but you’re still noticing the signs of a clogged duct. The clog may be lodged too far inside the duct for you to remove yourself. You may need to hire a technician to use brushes and vacuums to thoroughly clean out the inside of the duct. For more stubborn clogs, it may even be necessary for your HVAC technician to cut away part of the duct, remove the clog, and then patch the hole.

If you’re encountering duct problems in your Phoenix home, Champion Air is here to help. Our experienced technicians will be happy to troubleshoot your HVAC problems and repair them so your HVAC system can keep working optimally. We also help with installations for heating and cooling systems, system maintenance, and indoor air quality improvements. To learn more about the numerous ways we can help you, give us a call today.

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