Our friend Kurt out in Folsom, CA considers himself a bit of a handyman, and he has a question today about a potential DIY job in his home. Kurt says:
“Over the winter, we had some unwelcome guests make a home in our attic. I’ll spare you from some of the less savory details and just say that we had rats. Anyway, after we’d evicted them, I noticed they had been running around on top of and trying to dig into our HVAC ductwork, to the point that they had even created some small holes.
I read your blog all the time, so I know how important it is to have sealed ducts for the sake of energy efficiency and air flow. My question, though, is can I replace and install my own ductwork? I’m retired and like to take on home repair projects as much as I can because I find it relaxing. This one seems extensive, so that’s why I want the blessing of the experts before I go ahead and tackle it myself. Thanks!”
Well, Kurt from Folsom, you sure make a lot of good points here, and it sounds like you have a pretty accurate grasp of the situation and all that it involves. Yes, having punctures in your ductwork due to pests is something that necessitates getting those ducts replaced, or at least repaired, and, yes, it is also a really tough job for you to take on yourself. That’s why today I want to answer your question, but also talk about why it’s important for your home’s heating and cooling efficiency to have your ductwork replaced and how to tell when it’s time to get it done.
Can I Replace or Install My Own Ductwork?
To answer the question of whether or not you can replace or install your own ductwork, I’d say it is possible but that I highly recommend enlisting the help of a heating, cooling, and ductwork expert. Ductwork runs all throughout your house, which makes doing DIY repairs yourself a heavy contracting lift. It’s also a delicate system. If new ductwork is not replaced and installed correctly, and then properly balanced and insulated, you could actually harm your HVAC’s overall efficiency instead of increasing it.
If new ductwork is not replaced and installed correctly… you could actually harm your HVAC’s overall efficiency instead of increasing it.
As I’ve talked about in the past, the average home loses between 20 to 30% of the conditioned air that moves through its ducts due to leaks, holes, or poor connections, according to Energy Star. If 30% of air is lost, that means your AC or furnace is running 30% longer than it has to in order to get the same results as if you had sealed ducts. That’s a lot of power you don’t need to be wasting, especially now that the Sacramento area is looking at a SMUD rate increase.
…the average home loses between 20 to 30% of the conditioned air that moves through its ducts due to leaks, holes, or poor connections, according to Energy Star.
Making sure your ducts are properly balanced, sealed, and insulated goes a long way toward keeping moisture out, reducing corrosion, enhancing efficiency, and ultimately saving you money on your monthly bills. Basically, sealed ducts make HVAC systems much more efficient, meaning they run less often and use less power, and so you want to make sure that your new ducts are installed by an expert who can ensure you reap all of these benefits.
Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Ducts
Now that we’ve established why it’s important to make sure you have healthy ducts, as well as why you should enlist the help of an expert when it comes time for a replacement, I think it’s important to discuss the easiest ways to tell when it’s time to get new ductwork installed.
Here are a few of the most common signs that your ductwork needs to be replaced:
- Your home is very dusty: If it seems especially dusty in your home these days, it’s possible your ducts have holes, gaps, or are improperly sealed, just like our friend Kurt’s. When this happens, dust from outside the ductwork gets inside, travels through the ducts, and ends up in your home. Another possibility is that ducts carrying exhaust are leaking into your home—something that negatively impacts your health and air quality in your home.
- You smell mildew: If you notice a funny smell coming from your ducts, there’s a chance they could be moldy. Sometimes when warm, moist air travels through cold ductwork, condensation forms—especially when your ductwork isn’t insulated well. Over time, condensation can encourage mold growth in the ducts, blowing unhealthy (and smelly) air into your home. If you smell something funky, it’s time to have your ducts inspected! A professional will have the equipment needed to detect mold growth deep inside your ducts.
- Your HVAC unit is noisy: Your HVAC system should run pretty quietly. If it seems noisy to you, it may be a sign your ducts are too small for your system or that the ducts are imbalanced. When this happens, your HVAC unit struggles to push air through too small an opening, stressing the system and driving up your energy bill.
- Your home’s temperature is inconsistent: Ever feel like one part of your home is way hotter or cooler than other parts? This could be a sign that you have leaky HVAC ducts that are losing air and failing to sufficiently heat or cool certain parts of the house. It’s possible inconsistent temperatures could be a result of unbalanced ductwork, so make sure you have a seasoned HVAC pro diagnose the problem correctly.
So, I hope this was all helpful for Kurt and other Northern California homeowners who were wondering if they can replace or install their own ductwork. I don’t mean to discourage anyone’s abilities as a handyman, but since your ducts run throughout so much of your house, and since there’s a lot at stake if you get the job wrong, I’d highly recommend leaving this one to the pros. Afterall, I’m sure there are plenty of other jobs around the house and the yard you can throw yourself into. Folsom is a beautiful place with lots of hills and trees. Maybe building a nice steel-framed deck or porch to take it all in from can help you scratch that home renovation itch!
Contact the HVAC and ductwork professionals at Bell Brothers to have your next extensive home repair project taken care of by an expert today. We can offer recommendations and upgrades that are sure to increase your year-round efficiency— and decrease your heating and cool bills.
Wondering how to finance a new HVAC system, windows, or plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
Image courtesy mattkusb