When should you clean your air ducts? Keeping your air ducts clean helps to lower your heating and utility bills. It also improves your indoor air quality which translates to improved health for your family. However, you never really see your ducts unless you consciously check on them – out of sight, out of mind.

Your air ducts need regular attention in order to operate in an optimal fashion. You also need to know the signs of a dirty duct so that you will know when you should clean your air ducts out. Here are a few of the most telltale signs.

Dirty Air Ducts


Your furniture will naturally accumulate dust, but if you see that your end tables, flooring or mantle has an inordinate amount of dust on them, it may be coming from your ducts. Use them as an indicator for a quick check. If you find that your ducts are clean, the effort is still worth it. You will keep air duct cleaning on your mind, and they will never become completely saturated with dust and debris.

The debris that comes from your ductwork and settles on your furniture will likely look different from the dust that collects normally on your furniture. Since dirt from your ducts can collect from outside the house as well as inside, the texture will usually be thicker. You will also be able to tell where the dirt comes from by the type of debris you see.


Check your air filter routinely as well. In a sense, the filter should be an indicator for the rest of your ductwork. Simply pull the filter out and look to see if it looks abnormally dirty. If you find an inordinate amount of dirt here, then you may want to get a deeper air duct cleaning done.

In most cases, your air filter will need to be changed every month or so. The frequency may go up if you have an especially intense weather event or if you live in an area with inclement weather. Here in the Charlotte, NC area, Spring and Fall are times when we have above average amounts of pollen and dust in the air, which will make its way into your ductwork.


Home remodeling tends to move dust and debris around in your home with a greater volume than normal. Some of this dirt will probably end up in your ductwork. This is especially true if you are doing an intense remodeling that reorganizes your walls, flooring or ceiling.

Under no circumstances should you remodel your home without checking your ducts at least once after the job has wrapped up. It is highly likely that your ducts have more dust than you think, even if the job was very small.


It is definitely time to clean your air ducts if your return air grill has visible dust or cobwebs. The return air grill is the part of your heating and air conditioning system that connects your ductwork to allow air to circulate throughout the system. It is an essential part of your HVAC system, and it should be kept up in the same way as the rest of your system.


If you have pets that frequently shed, then you will probably need to clean your air ducts more often than the average homeowner. Pet dander and fur have a way of quickly clogging up ducts, and the supply is also unlimited. From the perspective of your air duct, having a pet is almost the same as leaving your door open all day and letting the wind blow into your living room.


Homes that have smokers will also have to clean their air ducts with a higher frequency than normal. Smoke is similar to pet dander – it is very thick, it spreads quickly, and the smoke particles attach to your ductwork more quickly than you may think. Smoking also attracts other debris into your ductwork, creating clogs that build up over short periods of time.


Have you recently had a flood or a fire in your home that damaged your HVAC system? If so, then you probably have more debris than normal in your air ducts. Not only does the event itself bring dirt and grime into your home, but you may have reorganized the ductwork itself, creating a rip or a backdoor for more debris to enter.


Small animals and rodents tend to find their way to dirty air ducts, so if you see any little critters around, then consider having your ducts cleaned. Quite often, dirt and debris include little food particles or dead insects that rodents and small animals will eat. The rodents also track in more dirt as they nest and walk around in the dirty environment.


One huge sign that you may need your ducts cleaned is that people with allergies will start feeling the symptoms of an allergic reaction. This is especially prevalent during a change of seasons. During a change of seasons, you should pay special attention to your air ducts anyway. If you have someone with asthma or allergies in the home, regular duct cleaning should definitely be a priority.


Always have the air ducts cleaned if you are moving into a new home. Even if the previous owner says they have performed an air duct cleaning, do your own due diligence. There is no downside to an extra cleaning, and you secure your health and keep your heating and air conditioning bill from fluctuating.

You might be truly amazed by the amount of debris and dirt that can make their way into your ducts over time. Follow the tips above to ensure that your ducts are as clean as possible in all seasons, preserving your health and home budget in the process. Invest in a professional air duct cleaning at least every two years to keep everything working in an optimal way. Or if you have an advanced filtration system installed, then the frequency of duct cleaning can be as little as 7 to 10 years.


At One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® of Charlotte, we understand the ins and outs of air ducts. Give us a call today, and let one of our certified technicians provide you with clean air all year.