Air ducts are beloved by many for their primary, time-honored purpose: supporting action heroes as they stealthily infiltrate the bad guy’s lair before dropping down to utter a one-liner. But air ducts also do something else that is arguably even more important – they heat, cool, and ventilate your home! Because they are tucked out of sight, it can be difficult to remember that these ducts are even there, let alone think about cleaning them. Luckily for you, air ducts can be relatively low-maintenance compared to many other aspects of a home, requiring cleaning only once every few years.

When it does come time for this cleaning, however, it is very important to recognize the signs. Ducts can need cleaning for a number of different reasons, which, if left unaddressed, can pose risks to the health and wellbeing of you and your family. Today we will talk about the top five signs that tell you it’s time to get your ducts clean, as well as why they are so important to follow. Afterward, you will be able to rest easy knowing that your air is clean and your central cooling and heating systems are working as they should. Let’s get started!

Your Home is Newly Renovated

One of the most important times to have your air ducts cleaned is right after your home has undergone a renovation, or right after you move in. Contractors performing renovations will often cover vents or turn off central air systems, but it is incredibly easy for dirt, dust, and debris to work their way into your ductwork. If the air is not entirely shut off and covered, excess materials like sawdust and drywall will be sucked up by the vents and deposited in your ducts.  To make sure your system is clean and efficient, it is often a wise choice to have your ducts cleaned immediately after projects like this. If the debris remains in the ducts, it can cause a number of problems. First, it can clog air paths and filters, reducing airflow throughout your home. Second, it can spit that dust and dirt back out through your vents, reducing your air quality.

You Hear Strange Noises or Find Animal Droppings

Hearing strange noises coming from your vents can be a scary experience. It can also be a good indicator that it is time to have your ducts cleaned. One reason your vents might produce unusual sounds is because of an issue with your HVAC system. If you are ever worried that this could be the case, it is better to be safe than sorry. Have a professional come and inspect your system to make sure everything is functioning properly and that there is nothing wrong with your ventilation. They could also, however, indicate that you have a pest problem in your ductwork. Rodents such as rats and mice as well as insects such as cockroaches often find air ducts to be an inviting and efficient pathway through your home. They can sneak in through exterior vents, damaged or unsealed ducts, and other openings. Infestations are always unsanitary, but especially so when they reach your air ducts. In situations like these, pests have access to all areas of your home. To solve the problem, make sure you take care of the entry points and the existing pests and then have your ducts professionally cleaned.

Your Allergies Worsen

Dust and debris buildup in your air ducts can lead to more dust and debris in your air. High levels of dust in the air cause irritation for the vast majority of people. On top of that, many people – around 20,000,000 in the United States – are actually allergic to dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic creatures that feed on dead skin, such as that found in dust, and are found in most homes. They can also be a trigger for people with asthma. Whether you suffer from an allergy or not, you likely want there to be a little dust in your air as possible. If you start to notice itchy eyes, a runny nose, or other allergy symptoms worsening while you are at home, then it might be time to clean your air ducts.

You Notice a Decrease in Energy Efficiency

Higher heating and power bills are another sign that your ducts could be dirty and in need of a good clean. When dust and other materials build up in your vents and ducts, they can reduce airflow. This means that in order to reach a certain temperature, your heating and cooling system will need to work harder to bring your living spaces to the correct temperature. A gradual increase in the money you pay to heat and cool your home often goes hand-in-hand with a need to have your ducts cleaned. You may also notice that it takes longer for your home to reach the correct temperature. These changes are always worth investigating, and having your air ducts cleaned can sometimes be an easy solution.

You Find Mold In or Around Your Vents and Ductwork

Finally, if you find visible mold in or around your vents and ducts, you should make it a priority to clean them out. Mold can pose serious health risks, and your air ducts are one of the worst places to find it. Your ventilation system can spread mold throughout your home, causing allergies and more serious illnesses. One thing to note is that some substances look like mold but aren’t. If you are unsure whether you have mold, contact a professional to verify for you. Once you know that you have mold, make sure to have your ducts cleaned as soon as possible to avoid detrimental health effects.

These five signs are great to keep in mind when your air ducts eventually need cleaning. It might not seem like something that should be at the top of your list, but knowing when to clean is important in order to avoid problems with your house as well as your health.