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Air ducts play an essential role in the operation of your HVAC system. When something goes wrong with your ducts, you can feel the consequences and sometimes hear them throughout your home. Over time, your ducts can loosen and separate, giving room for conditioned air to escape.

Many things can use your air ducts to become loose. However, adhesive failure caused by excess humidity and old age and among the most common causes. Loose ducts can affect your HVAC system in so many negative ways.

Read on to find out more about air ducts and their impact on your HVAC system.

What Is a Duct?

A duct is a passage or conduit that the HVAC system uses to deliver and remove air. Simply put, ducts transport warm or cool air throughout your living space, regulating the indoor temperatures and making you feel as comfortable as possible. Do you know the type of duct in your home? Some of the most common ducts include:

  • Flexible ducts
  • Sheet metal ducts
  • Fiberglass lined ducts
  • Fiberboard ducts

Flexible ducts are easier to install and less expensive than others, making them a favorite choice for renovators and builders. Unlike rigid ducts, flexible ducts are made of spring steel wires covered by thick, durable plastic. With spring coils, this duct can squeeze into tight spaces, making them reliable sources if rigid options aren’t feasible.

Sheet metal ducts have aluminum or galvanized steel. They’re the most durable among the rigid ducts. However, their solid surface traps dust, air, and other particles, leading to mold growth over time. They have insulation around the ducts for added protection against air leakage.

Fiberglass ducts are sheet metal ducts lined with fiberglass on the inside, outside, or both. Since the fiberglass lining prevents the HVAC system’s sounds from reaching outside, this option works best in office buildings.

Fiberboard ducts consist of fiberglass strands with foil exteriors to serve as barriers. Technicians use resin to hold the fiberglass strands up, making them well-insulated.

How Ducts Work in Conjunction With HVAC Systems

A duct system is designed to circulate air from your HVAC unit to your entire commercial building or home. Your ductwork system has only two air-transfer systems: return and supply. The return side takes air on the outside and sends it to the air handler in your system.

All the air is withdrawn into the ducts and delivered back to your living space through the supply registers. On the other hand, the supply side delivers conditioned air throughout your home through individual room registers. The efficiency of your HVAC system determines the output and intake of air.

If you have improperly designed return vents, they’ll affect the HVAC system’s equilibrium and air pressure. This makes the climate control in your home suffer invariably. As long as your duct system is clean and functions correctly, it’ll circulate clean and healthy air. However, if it’s dirty and clogged, it can pass toxins through your property.

Effects of Loose Ducts to HVAC System

Air ducts are one of the most vital systems in your home. If you have a poorly sealed air duct, it’ll likely affect your HVAC system and can even lead to a total system failure. Some of the negative effects of loose air ducts on HVAC systems include:

  • Reduced HVAC system efficiency
  • Noisy operation
  • Strain on your HVAC system
  • Shortening of the lifespan of your HVAC system

How does a loose air duct reduce your system’s efficiency? For starters, loose ducts create a way for conditioned air to escape from the system. This makes your unit feel as if it’s barely functioning even if it’s up and running.

With the conditioned air going elsewhere, loose air ducts can result in weak airflow. The harder your system works, the less efficient it becomes. In many cases, you might feel nothing but a faint breeze when you place your hand against your system’s supply air vent.

Without steady airflow, your system won’t heat or cool some of the rooms in your house effectively. The cold and hot spots make it hard for you and your family to stay comfortable because of your HVAC system’s reduced efficiency.

Although you may not see loose ductwork, the chances are you may hear it at some point. Loose air ducts may create various strange noises, specifically when conditioned air passes through the duct system. This makes your system operate while producing unusual sounds.

You may hear rattling sounds as the loose metal ducts knock against each other. The gaps caused by loose air ducts can lead to wheezing sounds or low-pitched whistling when air passes through the gaps. Other noises, such as ticking and popping noises, are normal.

A Loose Air Duct Strains Your HVAC System

When your ducts are loose, the heating and cooling system will be forced to work harder and longer to keep your living space at a comfortable temperature. This can drain your system and make it use even more energy.

Loose ducts cause as much as 30% of your system’s airflow to vanish into walls, crawl spaces, and many other unconditioned spaces in your home. That’s why your system will have a hard time keeping you warm during the cold winter months and comfortable in the summer season.

A Loose Air Duct Can Shorten Your HVAC System’s Lifespan

Because your system will have to work overtime, it will naturally lead to an increase in wear and tear. With time, your HVAC system will become more prone to expensive system failures.

Such system failures tend to rise from specific mechanical components. The longer your system struggles to function, the more its components become frayed and brittle. This leaves your unit unable to function until a professional can change the malfunctioned components.

All these problems and continuous breakdowns contribute to shortening your HVAC system’s lifespan.

How Loose Air Ducts Can Be Fixed

A licensed technician can fix loose air ducts by applying duct mastic, replacing faulty bolts, or embedding fitted pieces over holes. When you notice a loose duct, using heat-approved tapes such as aluminum foil tape can fix the problem.

Before doing anything, a technician will ensure the surface is clean and then add either foil tape or mastic sealant. After the surface has been cleaned, they’ll cover the loose surface with a strip of aluminum foil tape. Using a paintbrush, they’ll apply a mastic sealant. It’s always recommended to use a mastic sealant for loose ducts that would be difficult to seal with foil tape.

Generally, using a mastic sealant is more effective than any heat-approved duct tape. It’s easier to apply and will last longer.

Contact the Pros

Regular maintenance and inspection are vital for spotting and fixing loose air ducts before the situation worsens. At JW Plumbing, Heating and Air, we can take care of your air ducts while helping you stay more comfortable. We’ve been providing top-notch furnace and air conditioning services in Los Angeles since 2006.

Contact JW Plumbing, Heating, and Air for more information on the effects of loose air ducts on your HVAC system. We also offer a range of plumbing services, heating and cooling maintenance, installation and repair, and indoor air quality solutions.