The air ducts in your home can have a large impact on your home’s energy efficiency and air quality, which is why you’ll want to ensure that they’re kept clean and in good shape.
Understanding the cost difference between air duct repair and replacement is important for homeowners to decide the best course of action for them.
Key Factors Affecting Replacement Costs
If you need to have your ductwork replaced, a few key factors will contribute to the total air duct replacement cost. These factors include the job location, the job’s size, how easy your ductwork is to access, and the type of material used for the replacement.
Let’s dive into each of these in detail so you can better understand how they affect the cost of duct replacement.
Your home location will be one of the most significant determining factors for the overall cost of replacing your ducting if you have it professionally done, including labor costs.
As big of a factor as labor can be, you’ll still most likely want any replacement job done by a team of professionals. Not only will it go quicker, but some key considerations must be kept in mind during replacement so that you don’t lose money every time you turn on your air conditioning.
The job’s size will also be a critical determining factor in the final cost of the project. Most contractors will charge per-linear foot of ductwork being replaced or produce an estimate based on the number of ducts. Larger homes will require more ductwork, which will result in higher project costs.
Note that the material cost for completing the job yourself will also be significantly higher for larger jobs, so keep this in mind when comparing the cost of doing it yourself versus having it professionally done.
Ease of Access
Jobs where the ductwork is difficult to access, will have higher costs. If portions of the ducts are located behind walls or in the ceiling, contractors will have to cut into them to complete the replacement. That will create quite a bit more work and result in a higher overall project cost.
The type of ductwork used is the final factor impacting the cost of the job. Sheet metal ducting tends to be the most durable but is also the most expensive. Flexible ducting is widely used as well, but less durable and not used over long distances.
While the ductwork cost can vary widely depending on the chosen material, homeowners will need to consider the desired longevity of their new ductwork, their desired level of energy efficiency, and an HVAC professional’s recommendations to determine the ideal ducting material for them.
Repair vs. Replacement Costs
Broadly speaking, duct repairs are going to be less expensive than replacement. HomeAdvisor puts the nationwide average for duct replacement based on linear footage. Keep in mind that estimates are only so useful, particularly when estimating job costs in areas with a high cost-of-living.
Repair costs are even more challenging to place. Repairs often take the form of patching areas to return integrity to the system. Repairing is an excellent option if you just need to touch up air seals and connections. The cost of each repair job will come down to what needs to be repaired, how difficult it is to access, the price of individual components given your material choice, and any labor if you need the repair done professionally.
Signs Your Ducting May Need an Overhaul
If you’re wondering how to know when you might have a problem with your air ducts, we’ve got a few signs you can keep an eye out for around your home. Keep in mind that regularly having your HVAC system serviced and your air ducts cleaned is a surefire way to catch any problems with your system early on. However, if you haven’t been diligent about regularly checking your air ducts, here are a few signs you may want to have them inspected:
- Uneven Heating / Cooling – If you notice one room getting warmer than others, or a lack of airflow in specific rooms when your HVAC system is on, it may be a sign that you have an air duct leak.
- Higher Utility Bills – Few problems around the house will have as direct an impact on your home’s energy efficiency as your air ducts. Homes with old or damaged air ducts can lose between 20 – 30% of the treated air passing through the system. Not only does that kind of loss rate mean that your HVAC system has to work harder to maintain the temperature in your home, but you’ll also have substantially higher utility costs.
- Excessive Dust – If your home is dusty, it may be due to a leaky air duct. A leaky air duct may allow dust from your attic to mix with the conditioned air in the duct, which is then spread throughout your home. Unfortunately, that dust isn’t just unsightly and frustrating to clean. It can affect airflow, indoor air quality and contain environmental contaminants that have settled in your attic over time.
- Tears, Breaks, or Frayed Connections – An excellent way to tell if your air ducts are leaking is to simply look at them. Take a moment to visually inspect the exposed portions of your air ducts in your attic; be very mindful of doing so safely! If you can’t do so safely, consider having a professional inspection done. If you notice tears, gaps between connections, or breaks in ductwork, it can be a good indicator of a possible air duct leak.
- Rooms that Don’t Cool – If you have a certain room that just won’t cool down no matter how long you run your air conditioning, it can be a fairly good sign that your air ducts and vent may be the culprit. The air meant for that room could be venting into your attic, wasting your money, and cooling nothing.
When Does Professional Help Make Sense?
Repairing or replacing ductwork can range from a relatively straightforward task to incredibly complicated. It depends on the job, the materials, and your level of experience working with HVAC systems. Sometimes, it can be difficult for many homeowners to know what types of jobs are better left to the professionals.
For minor repairs, such as touching an old duct or replacing a short piece of flexible ducting, you are probably fine doing the task yourself. Be mindful of using the correct materials, always have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) available, and align your work with industry-accepted best-practices and building requirements for where you live.
Consider a professional installation for anything more extensive than a repair you feel comfortable and equipped to make. Here’s why:
An experienced and competent HVAC installer will install your air duct system in a way that will deliver optimal airflow and energy efficiency. Poorly configured air ducts may not allow sufficient airflow to adequately cool your entire house or use inappropriately sized ducting, resulting in excessive noise during operations.
Great air duct installations can bring the air loss from the ducting down to around 4-5%. In contrast, poorly installed air ducts will leak between 20-30% of the air passing through the system. In areas where air conditioning makes up a large proportion of overall home energy costs, duct leakage can account for around 30% of a home’s total energy load.
A professionally maintained network of air ducts will likely be more durable and retain its efficiency longer than air ducts installed by non-professionals. A common mistake homeowners make is using cloth-backed tape to seal joints rather than duct mastic or installing flexible ducts with excessive bends, which can significantly impact your system’s longevity and energy efficiency over time.
Complex Repairs or Replacements
If your repair or replacement is looking like it’s going to be complicated, it may be best to have a professional take a look. This is particularly true if you find that you’re going to have to cut into your walls, ceiling, or floor to replace or repair your air ducts. Before you commit to an extensive replacement project, you may want to get a second opinion to see if there’s a more modest alternative, such as a targeted repair.
Repairing an existing air duct system will generally cost less than replacing an entire system. The cost of replacement is usually quoted in price per linear foot, or by the number of ducts. The labor costs for the area you live in, ducting materials used, size of the job, and difficulty accessing the ductwork will all work together to determine the project’s overall cost.
If you’re ready to boost your home’s energy efficiency while also improving the air quality, consider Attic Construction. We understand the importance of well-sealed, clean, and properly installed air ducts. To take advantage of our air duct cleaning and repair services, contact us today!
- “How Much Does HVAC Duct Replacement Cost?” https://www.costimates.com/costs/heating-air-conditioning/central-hvac-duct/#:~:text=%24175%20%E2%80%93%20%24400%20Per%20Duct%20Run,%24175%20to%20%24400%20per%20duct.
- “5 Signs That Your Ductwork Needs to be Replaced” http://www.greenintegrateddesign.com/blog/5-signs-that-your-ductwork-needs-to-be-replaced
- “Duct Dynasty*” https://www.buildingscience.com/documents/insights/bsi-074-duct-dynasty
- “Types of Ductwork – What You Should Know” http://www.greenintegrateddesign.com/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-ductwork-types
- “How Much Does It Cost To Replace Ducts Or Vents?” https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/heating-and-cooling/install-ducts-and-vents/
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