As a homeowner, you probably don’t think much about your HVAC system until it stops working. When we think about our central air conditioning, we typically think of our AC unit, rather than the duct system that carries hot and cold air through our homes. But ducts are an integral part of a home’s heating and cooling system, and require maintenance and regular inspection–and, eventually, replacement.
In the Texas heat, once a duct system stops working, it’s already an emergency. If you need an air duct replacement in the Rockwall area, call the local duct replacement pros at Lyons Air & Heat at 214-730-5847. You can also schedule an appointment online.
What is Ductwork?
Unless you live in a home that happens to have exposed ductwork, you’ve probably never seen your ducts. Ductwork is often tucked away in tight spaces like crawl spaces, out of sight.
Before we talk about air duct replacement, let’s give a quick overview of what exactly we mean by ductwork–what exactly it does, why it’s important, and why it needs to be replaced.
Your HVAC is made up of several components: for older models, you’ll have your furnace or air handler, for hot air and cold, respectively. Each duct runs either away from, or back into, this core of your HVAC system, similarly to the way a vacuum cleaner works.
Think of your ductwork as your house’s circulatory system. You have return air ducts, and supply ducts acting as veins. Return air ducts bring unconditioned air into your home and carry it to the furnace or air handler; supply ducts carry that treated air back out into your home.
Though ductwork may be hidden away in a crawl space, and though it is often made of metal and protected by duct armor, regular HVAC maintenance is required, and eventually, you will need new ducts.
Are You Supposed to Replace Your Air Ducts?
The short answer is probably.
While HVAC ducts are built to last a while, and well-installed HVAC systems might last upwards of 10 years, HVAC ductwork goes through a lot more wear and tear than you might expect. Ductwork that isn’t properly installed can pull itself apart at the joints, and even the most properly installed ducts expand and contract as the temperature of the air flow inside changes. The more this happens, the weaker the duct material becomes, and the more likely it is you’ll experience things like air leaks and reduced air pressure. This is why you need regular duct maintenance to ensure your HVAC system is operating at full efficiency all year; regular maintenance can also help keep ductwork costs down over time, since it will keep your ducts functional longer.
So, the more nuanced answer is: if HVAC contractors do a poor job installing ducts in your home, you will need to install ductwork sooner rather than later. Even if your ductwork system is installed perfectly, you’ll still need an HVAC professional to perform occasional duct repairs, and eventually, you will need your ductwork replaced simply due to routine wear and tear.
Signs It’s Time for Duct Work Replacement
Now, let’s talk about some signs that it’s time to replace ductwork.
Much like an AC unit, existing ducts age. The longer they’re in use, the more likely it is that you will need an air duct replacement. Over time, the joints and seals in your existing ductwork will deteriorate, leading to decreased efficiency in your HVAC system.
Even if you haven’t noticed any drastic difference in your central heating or cooling, if it’s been ten or so years since your duct installation, it might be time to let someone take a look at them. In addition, the longer you wait, the bigger the possibility that the cost to replace ductwork in your home will go up.
Poor Air Flow
There can be a variety of reasons the quality of air flow from your HVAC system might decrease: your air vents might be blocked, or the problem could be with your AC unit. Or, sometimes, you might need a duct replacement or repair. Metal ducts, for instance, can rust and deteriorate, especially exposed ducts. This could lead to leaks, and airflow problems.
When something impedes the flow of air coming through your ductwork, it increases the amount of air pressure needed to cool your spaces. This results in a decrease in energy efficiency for your whole HVAC system. So when your ductwork is clogged, broken, or not functioning in some way, it results in high energy bills and discomfort for everyone in your home. In this case, you will likely need an air duct replacement.
Cooling is an essential part of an HVAC system, especially here in Texas. Similarly to airflow, when your system isn’t cooling, your air conditioning system is going to work twice as hard, and use twice the energy. This decreases energy efficiency.
If your system isn’t cooling well, you can check your air filters to make sure they aren’t clogged. If that doesn’t help, you’ll likely need an Rockwall HVAC professional to come and have a look at your duct system.
Mold and Odors
When a duct runs through a damp area of your home like a crawl space, ductwork is in danger of collecting mold. If mold does get into your ductwork, every time your air handler kicks on mold spores and gross smells will spread through your home along with your treated air.
With mold, a professional duct cleaning might help (see our Pros and Cons of Duct Cleaning blog), but the best solution is to replace ductwork completely when mold invades.
Though ductwork is installed strategically–for instance, flex ducts are used to help fit your ducts in tight spaces–to avoid external damage, things like dents and punctures do still happen. Ductwork is also often protected by a lining, or duct armor, that will eventually deteriorate or break.
If you have exposed ductwork and notice visible dents and punctures, call a professional to potentially replace ductwork. If you see a drastic change in the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, an air duct may have suffered a puncture or a dent.
Apart from a change in the quality of your heating and cooling, one of the first signs that something might be wrong with your HVAC is noisy operation. A lot of noise is usually a good indication an air duct might be clogged or damaged.
Though rerouting ductwork is sometimes an option if you’re hearing a lot of noise, repair or replacement of your air ducts is more likely.
How Often Should You Replace Your HVAC Ductwork?
Generally, you have about 10-15 years before you begin to see damage to a proper HVAC installation.
Though an air handler might need more regular HVAC maintenance here in Texas, if it’s been more than 10 years since anyone’s checked out the rest of your HVAC system, it might be time to replace ductwork. Well-insulated ducts have a slightly longer lifespan; flexible ducts are easier to work with in a tight crawl space, but might tear more easily and need repairing sooner. You can keep replacement ductwork costs down by having regular maintenance performed on your current ductwork.
Which Types of Air Ducts Last Longest?
Though there isn’t a lot of difference between one duct type and another as far as longevity, there are a few notable differences, as well as differences in maintenance and what each of the ducts costs per linear foot. Our Rockwall AC service pros will explain more below:
Rigid sheet metal ducts
Sheet metal ducts are usually made of either galvanized steel or aluminum. Aluminum ducts are mold-resistant due to their porous nature. This is the sturdiest duct type, as it holds its shape and isn’t easily crushed; however, rigid sheet metal ducts are more likely to come apart at the joints as the air handler pumps airflow through them year in and year out.
Flex ducts are exactly what they sound like–flexible ducts. Similarly to sheet metal ductwork, they are mold-resistant and are much easier to squeeze into a tight crawl space. However, they are more susceptible to things like tears.
HVAC Ductwork Installation Cost
The majority of estimates place the cost to replace ductwork between $1000 and $4000, though that is without the cost of repairs, and assuming a full duct installation is needed. For a general ductwork installation cost estimate, you can use a ductwork cost calculator online.
The cost of installing ducts depends on a variety of factors, including:
Size of the House
There is about 50-100 square feet of house for every linear foot of ductwork. This means that for the average home, there will be about 150 linear feet of ductwork. However, in larger homes, there could be up to 350 or 400 linear feet. The bigger your house, the more expensive it will be to install ducts to keep it comfortable.
Location of the Ductwork
Generally, ductwork costs are lower when replacing ducts in an attic or basement rather than a crawl space. Replacing ductwork in these small places is more difficult for an installer, hence the higher price.
The average costs of replacement per linear foot of ductwork vary due to fluctuations in the market as well as your location. Duct material is measured per linear foot, meaning that if you laid all your ductwork out in a straight line and measured it from end to end, that’s how many feet you’re paying for.
For instance, flexible ducts are cheaper per linear foot than galvanized steel ducts. Sheet metal and fiberglass tend to be more expensive per linear foot than other materials. In addition, the lining or protective duct armor costs more per linear foot.
The cost to replace ductwork might be high, but it’s important to remember you’re also paying for the expertise of the professional performing the duct installation, ensuring your air conditioning functions for years to come.
Need To Install New Air Ducts? Call Lyons Air & Heat Today
Going without cooled air in Texas is never fun–if you need new ducts from a Rockwall ductwork installer you can trust, give us a call at Lyons Air & Heat. We can help you out with everything from repairing existing ductwork to commercial ductwork. You can also schedule an appointment online today!