How to Tell if Commercial Ductwork needs Cleaning or Repair

How to Tell if Commercial Ductwork needs Cleaning or Repair
December 3, 2015 nobleair

Your commercial HVAC system does quite a bit of work to keep your building and various climate controlled spaces comfortable for you and your employees and/or customers. It’s a complex system that dates back to technology first introduced in 1902 to keep ink from smudging on paper due to high levels of humidity. The initial goal was to reduce the moisture in the air, but, it came with an added benefit — it also cooled the circulated air. In 1925, the first large system was introduced to the world, working to cool an entire theater. While all the same basic principles hold true, the technology has greatly improved, accept, in the ductwork.

How to Tell if Commercial Ductwork needs Cleaning or Repair

Commercial HVAC ductwork has changed little over the years because there’s not really all that much to it. Ductwork, as you probably know, serves as a medium through which air is circulated and exchanged. Because there is dust and other debris in the air, it does collect inside the ductwork. In addition, ductwork can also be a place where rodents and other pests nest. In addition, if ductwork isn’t properly sealed, it can be a place for mold to grow.

Consider routine inspections of ductwork. The National Air Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA’s) standard, “Assessment, Cleaning and Restoration of HVAC Systems- ACR 2013,” recommends that HVAC systems be visually inspected for cleanliness at regular intervals, depending on building use. For healthcare facilities, the standard recommends annual inspections of air handling units and supply/return ductwork. —National Institutes of Health, Office of Research Services

In such instances, the ductwork ought to be inspected and perhaps cleaned. You should know, however, that cleaning isn’t necessarily always the answer. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency states that while cleaning ducts isn’t harmful, it isn’t necessarily helpful, though there is anecdotal evidence which suggests duct cleaning is beneficial. The real concern, in most instances, is if commercial air ducts or the HVAC unit needs to be repaired or replaced.

When to Repair or Replace Commercial Ductwork

Like many other components to mechanical systems, ductwork fails over time, losing its integrity to heat and cold conditions, wear and tear, moisture conditions, dirty air circulating through the system, and rodent or other pest infestation. Ductwork, though quite sturdy, can be compromised for a number of reasons. The most common are usually cause for either repair or partial or total replacement, depending on the circumstances, such as the following:

  • Unbalanced ductwork . One sign of unbalanced air ducts is noticeable temperature fluctuation from room to room. For instance, if a room is much warmer or cooler than the others, this could be attributable to ducts being out of balance. When imbalance occurs, it can be the source of a serious drain of energy resources, costing you a lot of wasted money month after month.
  • Torn ductwork. Commercial air ducts can be compromised due to wear and tear. It could just be the breakdown of the materials or the cause of pest damage. In either case, it allows air to escape where it shouldn’t and that equals wasted energy in the form of having to recapture more air to condition and circulate.
  • Mold growth. Mold can be a very aggressive and unhealthy fungus, causing all sorts of health problems to manifest within a building. If the ductwork contains mold, chances are, there’s something else going on which needs attention, aside from the ducts.
  • Pest damage. Rodents and other types of vermin are known to eat through air ducts to nest. They leave behind waste, which is then transmitted through the system. Even if there’s no organic waste, those holes will certainly compromise the efficiency of the HVAC system.