Tips for Inspecting and Sealing HVAC Air Ducts

There are several components that play an important role in the operation of your heating and air system, and your ducts are absolutely on this list. Ductwork refers to the passageways that move your air around and into various rooms or areas of the home on a daily basis, and their quality – from cleanliness and clarity to lack of cracks or gaps and even factors like alignment – can have a big impact on how efficiently or inefficiently the system runs.

At My Buddy the Plumber, we’re happy to offer a variety of HVAC services, from major jobs like furnace or air conditioner installation to more specific areas like smart thermostat upgrades, home humidifiers and many others. We’ve assisted numerous clients with the cleaning and quality control of their ducts, something that should be done regularly to ensure concerns in this area are not impacting your system’s efficiency or home comfort. There are parts of duct maintenance that can be easily carried out by most handy homeowners, including simple inspections and even certain areas of sealing – but also others where the assistance of our HVAC technicians is strongly recommended. And of course, if you aren’t comfortable with any part of our DIY recommendations for yourself, you can feel 100% confident calling on our team to assist you, no matter how simple the issue is. Here’s a primer on how to properly maintain your home’s air ducts.

inspecting sealing HVAC air ducts

DIY Duct Inspection Tips

If you’re inspecting your air ducts on your own, there are a few factors to think about. Here are the top areas to keep in mind, including preparation and the spots you should be looking in:

  • Prep and materials: This job will require a few basic pieces of equipment, nearly all of which should already be present in your home. You need a screwdriver and a flashlight, for starters, plus likely some rags to deal with dust or grease you may encounter. You’ll also want some aluminum foil tape – do not use duct tape, which is named misleadingly and should not be used for duct sealing – or a mastic sealant, in case there’s a leak or crack that needs to be patched. Finally, if you have one, bring a digital camera or use your smartphone’s camera capability (it must have a flash component). In addition, be sure to wear clothes that are comfortable and that you don’t mind getting a bit of dirt or dust on, as this is likely to happen. You can also wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
  • Main unit: Stemming directly from your main furnace/AC unit will be your home’s large ducts. One side of this system blows air through to other ducts, while the other side pulls air in to be filtered and conditioned. Your first step here is to turn off the overall system and feel around these main duct connections for any leaks. Our pros can also recommend some simple leak detection tricks if you’re unsure whether one exists.
  • Branch ducts: The main duct unit blows air into various connected branch ducts, which are the visible ducts you’ll see in certain parts of the home like the basement or attic. Once you’ve checked the main duct, also check these visible areas: Their insulation, whether there’s any damage or mold present, or especially if there are wet areas – these tend to signal a blockage and internal air quality concern. If you find any insulation or moisture damage issues, call our team immediately for assistance.

Duct Sealing

If you feel comfortable with doing so, you can patch up or seal basic leaks you find in your ducts during inspection. Aluminum foil tape, as we noted above, or another heat-approved tape, will be ideal for this purpose, though a mastic sealant also usually works.

The first basic step here is cleaning, which you have your rag(s) for. Wipe down the entire surface, both to keep it clear of debris and also to keep the area fully smooth for your adhesive. From here, place your tape or sealant over the leak and use either a paint or grout brush to seal it. If your leak is tough to get tape over given its placement, this is where mastic sealant is often a good alternative.

One area to keep a close eye on following sealing or patching of ducts in these locations: The basement and attic both might become colder. This could be a sign that you need improved insulation, whether for the room itself or for your plumbing pipes, which can also be at-risk if they get too cold. You should also check on basics like your carbon monoxide detectors and vapor barriers, themes our team will be happy to assist with for any duct sealing job.

Signs Professional Assistance is Needed

As we noted above and are very serious about, you should only attempt the level of DIY inspection or duct sealing you’re comfortable with. Not every homeowner will be confident here, and will worry about making a mistake or putting their safety at risk. If this is even a minor concern for you, call our HVAC professionals to handle duct inspection, cleaning on your behalf.

And in other situations, there are direct signs telling you that it’s time to stop the DIY effort and call the pros. For instance, if you notice huge buildups of dust and debris, including the types you can’t clear using simple methods, our team has solutions for these sorts of problems. We’re also here to inspection and cleaning of deeper-duct areas that you won’t be able to get to on your own, ensuring the entire system is in good shape.

For more on duct inspection and cleaning themes, or to learn about any of our HVAC or plumbing services, speak to the staff at My Buddy the Plumber today.