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How Dirty Ducts Can Damage your Air Conditioning System (and your Health)

Air conditioningDirty ducts in air conditioning systems are unfortunately as dire as they are commonplace. Whether you’re wondering why the air pressure coming out of the vents in your house has dropped, or why your entire system seems to be going on the fritz (possibly not for the first time recently), or even why your “allergies” seem to be giving you so much trouble, the answer could very well lie in the condition of your air conditioning ducts.

Ducts collect dust, debris, and even small organisms (all of which are possible allergens) when the return vents suck in air from the house. Floor and lower wall vents are the most notorious pollution gatherers, as they take air from the place where most of the dust settles in the house. You can help prevent small particles of debris from entering your air conditioning system through these vents by using and regularly changing filters that cover the vents, but there will inevitably be at least some that get through. Vents, however, are not the only cause of dirty ducts; leaks in the return side of your air conditioning system (where the negative air pressure will cause leaks to come into the duct) can also contribute greatly to duct pollution build-up. In fact, leaks on the return side are often the main cause of the problem.

Build-up of pollution in your ducts can not only cause large amounts of dust to be regularly cycling through the air system in your house, but also create an ideal breeding ground for dust mites. These small insects live in dust and are a cause of many of the symptoms we generally attribute to “allergies.” In fact, many people are allergic to dust mites themselves.

Dirty ducts can cause unwanted pressure in your HVAC system, creating undue strain that can cause damage over time if left unattended. At this point, you will be left not only with dirty ducts causing health problems, but also the prospect of cleaning your duct system and repairing any damage it has caused overall.

When your ducts become contaminated with allergens and small organisms such as dust mites, the only real option is to have a professional inspect them and clean them out. Though many people are hesitant to go to such lengths, the gratifying relief from cleaning a dirty air conditioning system will be felt immediately. If you have your HVAC professional come to clean the ducts, make sure he or she also addresses the causes of your dirty ducts. You may also want to ask him or her about the options of going to a “ductless system.”

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