If your AC unit is not working right, you might think that you have a problem with your AC unit. This is not necessarily the case. If your AC unit is running well, but your ducts have problems, they can rob the unit of its efficiency. Thus, when you start the quest to figure out what is wrong with your AC, your ducts are the first place you should look.
How Duct Leaks Develop
Even well installed ducts will degrade over time. In fact, two elements combine to undermine your ducts: 1) The force of the air running through your ducts creates outward pressure, which can overwhelm the seams in your ducts. 2) A repetitive cycle of heating and cooling will cause your ducts to expand and contract. This too can damage the seams. Once the seams give out, leaks follow.
Why Duct Cleaning Is Necessary
As leaks syphon air off of your system, the volume of air available to cool your home diminishes. An AC system is "sized" according to how much square footage it has to cool. A smaller volume of air means your system has to run longer to cool your home. This leads to more energy usage. Leaky ducts can decrease your AC efficiency by up to 40%.
How to Repair Your Ducts
If you can access your ducts through your attic or crawlspace, all you need is a stick of incense to check for leaks. Turn your thermostat to the fan position, light the incense, and run it all along your joints and seams. Anytime air leaking through your ducts disturbs the smoke coming off the incense, make an "x" with a marker so that you can find the leak later. Cover the whole length of your ducts with the incense before you turn off your fan. You can now paint over the leaks with duct mastic, which you should be able to find at any home-improvement store. Give the mastic time to dry before you turn your system back on.
Ducts are an integral component of your AC system. If they are not working like they should, they will increase your cooling costs, but this is just the most immediate cost. The harder your AC system has to work, the more wear and tear it incurs. This will lead to higher maintenance costs and may even lead to the premature need to replace your system. Thus, in order to keep your system running at its optimum level, you need to make sure that you maintain your ducts. You could also contact a company like Childers Enterprises Inc to check everything out for you.