Is Your Building’s Ductwork Getting Too Old?
Commercial buildings get a lot of use and because they tend to change hands frequently, they don’t always get the maintenance they need. If you’ve bought or leased an older building for your business, it could have problems lurking behind the walls in the form of old ductwork.
All duct systems, no matter how well designed, deteriorate over time. If left for too long, deterioration and debris in your ducts will leave you with unnecessarily high energy bills and reduced comfort, and can even put building occupants’ health at risk. There are several ways to tell if your older ducts are in bad shape.
Consider its age. A system that was installed 10 or more years ago is definitely due for at least a routine inspection. If you can’t determine the age of the duct system, but you know the building is more than 15 years old, assume the ducts are, too.
Ideally, a duct system should be professionally inspected every five years to head off problems. With normal use, duct connections can work loose, leading to energy-wasting leaks and the inside of old ductwork can develop debris buildup that reduces your indoor air quality.
Check them out yourself. In the basement, crawl space, and attic of most commercial buildings, you’ll find exposed ducts. Inspect these for damage or debris. Look for joints that are loose or covered with cracked mastic or deteriorated tape. Keep an eye out for streaks of dust near the joints, which suggest air leakage. Check for rust and other signs of corrosion.
Test your airflow. To quickly check for airflow problems, go from room to room while the HVAC system is running and place your hand over the air registers to feel how much air is coming out. The amount of airflow should be the same in every room.
If it feels low in one or more rooms, you could have a blockage in one of your ducts. This can occur when something falls down a register and gets blown into the duct. A collapsed or disconnected duct is another possible cause. Problems like these not only mean some of your rooms never reach a comfortable temperature, but even worse the airflow imbalance can strain your system’s components can cause early wear.
Review your energy bills. Many of the issues old ductwork suffers from impair its ability to carry warm or cool air. You might get less air than you should due to leaks or the air might not be the right temperature due to poor duct insulation. This will show up in the form of excessively high heating and cooling bills. Sit down and calculate what it should cost to heat and cool your building, and if your bills are much higher, have your ducts inspected.
Consider your comfort. Do you have certain rooms that just never seem to feel comfortable? Does your building feel stuffy and stifling at times? Do you notice more dust on the furniture than you’d expect? Have your workers complained their allergies or asthma act up when they’re in the building?
These are all signs of trouble in the duct system. While old ductwork isn’t the only possible cause, if you notice symptoms like these, have the duct system inspected. If it checks out fine, you can rule that out as a cause and consider other factors, such as your HVAC system’s motor or your ventilation system.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information about managing old ductwork and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!