Because the majority of your air ducts are going to be sealed inside your walls, you might not give them much thought. We just assume that they are working perfectly fine, unless we are not getting the heating or cooling that we usually expect from those ducts. But even if your HVAC system is effectively cooling or heating your home, those ducts still might be leaking, which means that you are likely paying far more to heat or cool your home than you should be.

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Even if you have the most energy efficient air conditioner or furnace on the market, air ducts that are leaking will allow heated or cooled air to seep out long before it ever reaches your rooms. You’ll be cranking up the AC even higher just to cool down your rooms and a large portion of that air never makes it where you want it to go. The more air that leaks out of your ducts, the higher your heating or cooling bill is going to be.

If you’re leaking air, you’re actually leaking money and using far more energy than you should just to keep your home comfortable. But how do you know if you have leaks in your air ducts? Here are a few of the tell-tale signs:

1. Your rooms are difficult to heat or cool

No matter how long you run the AC during the summer, you just can’t seem to keep a room comfortable. In the winter, you find yourself wearing two pairs of socks and an extra sweater or running the heat all day and all night, just to keep yourself from freezing to death. Especially if your system has efficiently heated or cooled your rooms before, the inability to keep your entire house or even just a specific room comfortable is a good sign that you have a leak somewhere in your system.

2. Your rooms feel stuffy

One of the primary functions of your HVAC system is to cycle the air in your house, keeping it fresh. If you have started to notice that your rooms are starting to feel stuffy, it could be because the fresh air that your system should be pumping into your rooms is leaking out of your ducts long before it actually gets to your rooms. The air is therefore being unevenly distributed into your home or is maybe even just leaking out of your house entirely. This means that you are essentially paying to heat or cool the outdoors!

3. You’ve seen a steep rise in your energy bills

No matter what type of power your use in your home, if you have seen an increase in the cost of keeping that home comfortable, whether it is a steep and sudden increase or a steady, but higher than average increase, this could be due to leaks in your air ducts. When the air seeps out of your ducts, you will have to run your system longer or at a higher (or lower, depending on the season), temperature in order to get your rooms comfortable. This obviously means that you will be using more power. When your system has gaps or holes, it will not work efficiently and you’ll find yourself leaking not just air, but money, too.

4. Your air has a weird smell

If your ducts have serious leaks, you might not just be losing air out of the ducts. You might also have an opening that allows pests to get into your ducts. A serious gap could provide a place for, for example, a family of mice to take up residence in your nice, warm duct. You might not notice this at first, but over time, as pests get into your system, you might start to notice a strange smell every time your system kicks on. Even if it is not something as serious as a family of mice or other large pest, a leak means that insulation from your walls and other construction debris might be finding its way into your interior air, which can hurt indoor air quality.

5. You’re dusting more than you were before

Every home is going to collect dust—it’s a fact of life. However, if you are finding that you are having to dust more and more frequently, just to keep your home clean, you might be able to attribute this to an issue with your ducts.

Not only will leaks provide an avenue for more dust to get into your system, ducts that are not efficiently exchanging your air will introduce more dust into your home, as less of that air is being filtered before and after it is pushed into your rooms.

What can you do if you think that you might have leaks in your air ducts? Once you have evaluated your rooms and determined that the issues you are experiencing can be attributed to leaking ducts, it is a good idea to call a certified aeroseal company that knows how to locate not just your ducts, but their leaks, and repair them efficiently.

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