4 Troubling Things People Discover in Their Air Ducts

Man looking at a screen showing a camera feed inside an air duct.

What’s in your ducts? Well, there’s bound to be dust – that’s a given. A light amount of ordinary household dust in the air is no cause for concern. However, that isn’t the only thing people have discovered hiding in air ducts.  

Ductwork can play host to numerous airborne contaminants. Not all are harmful, but some can trigger allergic reactions and other adverse symptoms. 

It’s safe to assume almost anything that can fit into an air duct has been found there at one time or another. Rather than venturing into the absurd, we’ll focus on the troubling things that are commonly found in air ducts – and explain why they’re problematic. 

Man looking at a screen showing a camera feed inside an air duct.

1. Animals 

It’s a rule of Canadian living: if there’s a way into your house, you can be certain that critters will find it.  

Improperly-sealed air ducts can become a convenient passageway for rodents and insects (and occasionally snakes). Ductwork is especially appealing to mice and other rodents who make nests out of soft insulation materials.  

Once inside, these pests can cause numerous problems: 

  • Furry creatures will also shed hair and dander, a potential allergen.  
  • Rodents can chew and create gaps in the seals between ducts and air vents. 
  • If an animal expires inside the ducts, the smell and contaminated air can spread throughout the home. 

When there’s evidence of rodents inside your air ducts, it’s best to call a professional exterminator to evict them before having the ducts cleaned. After that, have your ducts properly sealed to ensure critters cannot re-enter. 

2. Mold 

Where there’s moisture, there is often mold.  

Spots of grey or brown mold on or around your air registers, return ducts, or other parts of the HVAC system are a red flag for mold growth inside your air ducts. The same goes for a musty smell. 

If there is mold inside your ducts, the spores could be circulating throughout your home. Not everyone responds to mold exposure the same way, and some people, including children and seniors, are more vulnerable to mold than others 

Any sign of mold inside the air ducts is a sign they’re due for a cleaning. However, that alone won’t prevent regrowth. It is necessary to eliminate the source of moisture that lead to mold growth in the first place, which could be a plumbing leak, water damage, or a malfunctioning air conditioner or humidifier. 

3. Bacteria 

Bacteria is everywhere, and your air ducts are no exception. In fact, if you placed a speck of household duct under a microscope, you’d find thousands of species of bacteria residing within it. 

Most of the bacteria living in air ducts are harmless. However, it is possible for ducts to harbour bacteria and viruses you’d rather not breathe in, especially during cold and flu season 

Cleaning your ducts of excessive dust and debris helps to keep your air healthy and germ-free. A whole-home air purification system equipped with UV-C filtration can also assist in eliminating bacteria. 

4. Debris 

Dust in the air ducts is normal. Excessive debris is not.  

One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to their ducts is using them while the house is being renovated. Drywall dust, sawdust, or any construction-related debris can quickly accumulate and reduce air flow inside the ducts. We recommend switching off the furnace or air conditioner or at least closing the vents to the room in question during such projects. 

For minor projects that produce a small (but greater than usual) amount of dust, be sure to replace your air filters afterwards. Filters are an essential part of your heating and cooling system, and are designed to keep dust and other contaminants out of the air away from your equipment.

What’s in Your Ducts? 

Plenty of other things can find their way into air ducts, especially in older homes with floor registers. There, you’ll see everything from coins to magazines to toy soldiers.  

But aside from objects that fall in by mistake (or are dropped in by a curious child), most of the things you’ll find in air ducts suggest one or more underlying issues that should be investigated.  

 

AtlasCare has provided professional duct cleaning services to thousands of homes in the Greater Toronto Area. Whatever’s waiting inside your ducts, our Home Comfort Specialists can locate the source of the problem and leave your ducts cleaner than they’ve ever been. Get in touch to talk about air duct cleaning for your home. 

Roger Grochmal

Roger Grochmal

Roger Grochmal is one of Canada’s leading heating and cooling experts. A professional engineer and MBA, Roger brings over 35 years of experience to bear as the CEO and Chairman of AtlasCare Heating + Cooling. He is a frequent contributor to Mechanical Business magazine and an active member of multiple industry associations, including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).

Since acquiring AtlasCare in 1986, Roger has shaped the company into what many consider to be the finest HVAC contractor in the Greater Toronto Area.
Roger Grochmal

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