When it comes to the functions of your HVAC system, perhaps the most under-discussed component involved is your ductwork setup. Responsible for transporting air throughout the home and ensuring each room is at the appropriate temperature and air quality level, your air ducts play a major role in everything your HVAC system does throughout the year — and which materials are used in your ducts may impact how they perform.

At Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric, we’re proud to offer numerous HVAC services, ranging from standard solutions like AC and furnace maintenance through assistance with your duct system if needed. We’re also here to help educate our clients on the various types of HVAC duct material that might be used in their home, plus some of the designations these materials fall under. Here’s a general primer on everything you need to know.

Flexible Vs Rigid Ductwork

Basically all forms of HVAC ducts fall into two categories: Flexible or rigid. Here are some basics on each:

  • Rigid ducts: The more common option found in homes today is rigid ductwork, which comes in either metal or reinforced fiberglass. Rigid ducts can be shaped into specific configurations to fit nearly any area you need, and this ability to curve the air channel makes them easier to install than flexible ducts. Rigid ducts can easily be fabricated for custom installations, and comes in a variety of sizes. It’s smooth on the inside and outside, ensuring easy cleaning and very difficult circumstances for mold or mildew to form.
  • Flexible ductwork: Flexible air ducts are made of wire coils with a covering typically comprised of plastic. It’s mostly used in smaller HVAC systems when a home has been well-insulated and no longer needs the ductwork to be as rigid. It’s also used in all kinds of commercial applications, like warehouses or clean rooms that demand completely flexible air channels. Because it can bend and twist, it’s perfect for many tighter areas. This is the type of ductwork that might be found in older homes or when retrofitting an older home with HVAC.

Rectangular Vs Round Ducts

Another important designation to think about: Whether your ducts are rectangular or round in shape. The former was the only option for several decades, but round configurations have become more popular in recent years. Both have their own set of pros and cons:

  • Rectangular ducts: These are sturdy, durable options that are ideal for low-pressure HVAC systems and tend to be the more commonly used option.
  • Round ducts: Seen most often in high-pressure systems, these are also good for commercial applications where airflow might need to be cycled back and forth quickly (like in warehouses). They tend to do a better job of redistributing air evenly throughout the home, but they’re harder to clean.

Now that we’ve been over some of the most important air duct configuration templates, our next few sections will go over the most common materials used to create these ducts.

Fiberboard

Referring to a material that’s made of fiberglass strands bonded together with a strong resin, fiberboard is the most common type of duct material used in homes today. Fiberboard is fireproof, inexpensive and easy to cut — plus it works extremely well at preventing air leakage. It’s also one of the best materials for sound absorption, which can be helpful if your HVAC system is running loudly throughout the year.

It should be noted that fiberboard ducts are typically covered by a thin plastic coating to keep them from being exposed to the elements. Fiberboard is highly resistant to mold and mildew, making it an ideal option when considering your HVAC ductwork.

Now, fiberboard isn’t without potential downsides. For instance, its inner sections are textured due to the fiberglass strands we mentioned above — this means dust and debris might stick to it more easily than other duct materials, and this could lower your efficiency if too much debris builds up (luckily, our team is here to help with duct cleaning if this happens).

Fiberglass

In other cases, fiberglass itself will be the primary material used. This is for a range of different reasons, but mainly because it’s easy to work with and widely available. Many homeowners opt for this material when they’re replacing their existing ducts or installing new ones in tight spaces.

Fiberglass has an inner coating that prevents the air moving through the channels from coming into direct contact with the fibers themselves, which could be dangerous if they came loose. Like fiberboard, it’s very resistant to mold and mildew, which makes it an ideal option for homes in warmer climates where this moisture might pose a problem.

Fiberglass ducts do require some pretty detailed cleaning, due to their fiberglass lining.

Sheet Metal

Typically made from galvanized steel or aluminum, sheet metal ducts are also highly popular in HVAC systems — and for good reason. These types of ducts are easy to work with (and thus, fairly inexpensive) and they’re great at reducing air leakage in homes. However, one major drawback is that they tend to be quite noisy when the HVAC system is running; this means these types of ducts might not be the best choice for a bedroom, but they’re ideal when it comes to living rooms or other open spaces.

One of the most common examples used is galvanized steel ductwork. Galvanized steel provides excellent airtightness, which makes it an ideal option if you’re looking for HVAC insulation that will help lower your energy bills. However, one downside is that it’s a rather expensive option, and one that might not be ideal for lower-end HVAC systems.

For more on the different kinds of HVAC air ducts that might be present in your home, or to learn about any of our plumbing or HVAC services, speak to the staff at Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric today.

As any homeowner or even longtime renter is likely already aware, filters are some of the most important components in your HVAC system. Your filter traps contaminants and pollutants before they make it into your breathing air, limiting their presence while also maintaining quality air flow within your system — but they will only perform this job effectively if they are changed or cleaned at the proper intervals.

At Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric, while many of our services are in larger areas like furnace installation¬†or repair, we’re happy to help with basic maintenance areas for your day-to-day HVAC needs — including filters. One of the most common questions we’re asked by our clients in this area: How often do I need to change or clean my air filters? Here’s a general primer on this and a few related concepts to help steer you in the right direction.

Air Filter Basics and Importance

For those who are unaware, HVAC air filters are a vital part of your system for a number of reasons. First, they keep dust and dirt from being put into the air you breathe by trapping it within the filter itself — while some particles may pass through this material, the main purpose is to prevent these contaminants from reaching your lungs or having an adverse effect on anyone in the area, including family members or pets.

In addition to this, filters also play a crucial role in the functionality of your system. When a filter becomes dirty or clogged, it can hamper or even damage the quality of air flow throughout your compartment — making it harder for hot or cold air to reach desired locations. This is why it’s important to change or clean the filter frequently, which we’ll dig into further below.

How Often Should Filters Be Changed/Cleaned?

There are a few factors that will help answer this question, including your geographic location, the type of filter you have installed in your system, and the number of people using or occupying the home. These factors must also be considered alongside one another.

Generally speaking, average cleaning or changing frequency for most standard filters is about once a month. However, you may need to do this as often as once every two weeks or as infrequently as once a year depending on your situation. The best way to determine what’s right for you is to combine basic manufacturer information with your own basic inspection — is your filter clearly becoming dirty and clogged after less than a month? Or on the flip side, has your air usage been limited, and is your filter still virtually spotless despite being in place for over a month? These and similar factors will impact how often they’re changed or cleaned.

One general tip here, though: Be aggressive about changing or cleaning filters. If you’re unsure whether a filter needs a change-out, just go ahead and do it — filters aren’t that expensive in the long run, and the benefits your system will see are worth making the change a few days early in some cases.

Specific Signs Filters Need Replacement

Now, in other cases, there will be noticeable signs throughout your home and HVAC system that your filters have clogged up and require replacement (or cleaning, for multi-use models). These include:

  • Trouble heating or cooling: If your system suddenly is struggling to meet your desired temperatures, and you’ve discovered no other readily available culprit, the issue could be a dirty or clogged filter. In this case, you’ll want to inspect the system and filters to be sure.
  • Sudden noises: Strange creaking or popping sounds coming from your HVAC unit may indicate a more serious issue with the motor — but these sounds could also result from a worn-down or damaged fan assembly due to a dirty or clogged filter. Inspecting and changing your air filters regularly will help you avoid this problem in most cases.
  • Excessive dust in vents: If there is a noticeable amount of dust building up inside your ductwork or in the vents throughout your home, it may be time for a change-out — especially if you use the HVAC system frequently and there is no easily-identifiable reason for the excess dust (for example, you recently had construction work done in your home, or a similar event).
  • Unpleasant odors: If an otherwise clean and clear air filter suddenly smells strongly of chemicals or any other foul odors, it may be time for replacement — this generally indicates a chemical reaction between the elements in a dirty filter and the air surrounding it.
  • Increasing energy bills: Have your HVAC bills gone up compared to this time last year, with no other explanation? This could be a sign that your filter is dirty and reducing the efficiency of your system — requiring it to work harder, over an extended period of time, to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  • Greater frequency of respiratory symptoms: If you or anyone else in the home have begun experiencing more frequent allergy or asthma attacks, it may be time to inspect your HVAC system and filters. This is especially true if these symptoms increase in severity or duration, rather than following a normal allergy season’s schedule.

As you can see, there are a number of factors to be aware of when it comes to your HVAC filters. For more on this, or to learn about any of our HVAC or plumbing services throughout Utah, speak to the staff at Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric today.

Efficiency and energy savings are important concepts for many homeowners, but how you accomplish them may differ somewhat between the time of year. Especially in place like Utah, with such varying temperatures and climate conditions throughout a given calendar year, knowing how to adjust your system for maximum efficiency in every season is valuable.

At Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric, we’re here to help. We offer year-round HVAC services that will help keep your system efficient and operating at peak capacity, from air conditioner and furnace maintenance and tune-ups through major system replacement, smart thermostat installation and more. As we enter the fall season, one that’s traditionally used by homeowners to transition their space from the hot Utah summer into the cold, snowy winter, what are some general tips we offer our clients on keeping their systems functioning efficiently? Here are several.

Change Thermostat Settings

When you’ve decided the time is right, one of the big transitional themes during the fall period for your HVAC system is changing your thermostat settings. This takes very little time, requires no HVAC service or maintenance and will save you money on your utility bills.

If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure to change the “hold” function that’s in effect during the summertime. This will keep your system from constantly running when you’re at work or too far away to notice it. If this was not done, and you notice your system is still running during the hours you’re away, even though it’s warm outside and there’s no one home to benefit from it, simply push “hold” for as long as necessary until your next programming session.

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat and would like to invest in one, you’ll receive ongoing energy savings by programming it to adjust the temperature in your home when you’re not there. If you work during the day or tend to be away for long stretches of time, this is a great way to cut big costs on your utility bills.

Change Air Filter

Another huge factor in HVAC efficiency, one that’s present throughout the year, is the presence of clean, high-quality air filters. If one is already present, make sure it’s in good condition and replace it if necessary. Filters do a great job of preventing dust, airborne allergens and other contaminants from entering your system and creating problems for its operation, which will cost you money at best and cause serious damage at worst.

The type of filter you use is also a big consideration. High-efficiency filters will catch more contaminants and reduce the number of times your system must work harder to make up for them, saving you money on maintenance costs over time.

Ductwork Upkeep

If your ducts have not been inspected or cleaned for several years, the fall is often the ideal time to do it. Dust accumulates faster during the fall months, when your system is working harder to cool down your house before winter arrives, and doing this work on a regular basis can save you hundreds on energy costs over time. Call one of our technicians today for more information about scheduling ductwork maintenance.

Baseboard or Radiant Heater Prep

If your home utilizes baseboard heating, radiant heating or any other method that uses something other than traditional air ducts for late fall and winter heating, the early fall is ideal for adjusting your system settings to accommodate the temperature drop. This mostly means ensuring there are no blockages or dirt buildups in important vent areas — remove furniture or any other potential blockers that might interrupt the flow of warm air once the cold weather eventually hits.

Close Fireplace Flue

If your fireplace flue wasn’t already closed during the summer season, it’s important to do this on a regular basis, especially during the fall months. Keeping the flue open is a safety hazard and ensures all heat is lost up into your chimney instead of your living space — meaning you won’t feel as comfortable as you should due to the fact that some of your heat will be escaping, a factor that also puts a strain on your HVAC system and raises your monthly utility bills.

Lower Dishwasher and Washing Machine Temperatures

As the weather gets colder outside, systems that use hot water — such as your dishwasher, washing machine and others — have to work harder. This is because the water they’re pulling into your home begins at a cooler point than it would during summer, causing your HVAC system to heat it as a supplement. If your dishwasher and washing machine aren’t set to lower temperatures, these tough-working systems will have to burn more energy to manage the load.

For this reason, it pays to lower the temperatures for these machines by just a few degrees once the weather turns cold. You’ll still get the same amount of cleaning results while also helping your HVAC system maintain its energy consumption.

Professional HVAC Maintenance

Finally, the fall is a perfect time to have your HVAC system inspected and maintained by a professional. Ensuring your system is in good working order and fully prepared for the temperature drops and changing weather conditions of winter ensures that you’ll end up saving on energy while also enjoying more comfortable living conditions.

To learn more about HVAC fall energy savings or schedule a visit from our team of service technicians, all you need to do is pick up the phone and call us right now. Call the pros at Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric today.