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Protect the Ductwork
If you are embarking on a home improvement project, such as painting a room, doing drywall repairs, or sanding/refinishing wood floors, steps must be taken to protect the ductwork from paint, sand/dust, flumes, tools, and damage. Remove the vent registers prior to beginning work. Then, cover the duct completely with a barrier material that can be taped all around (see photo). A large plastic garbage bag also works very nicely. If there is danger of someone walking or positioning a ladder or tools near a duct that is covered in this fashion and thus falling in and damaging the duct put the vent grille back on top of the register. If you have the high-end designer vents (brass, etc.), consider getting a couple of the cheap vent grilles to use temporarily during your home improvement project, so your "good" vent grilles won't inadvertently be damaged. The last thing you want is someone putting a foot through the duct or tools falling in and tearing a hole in the duct!
Why it's so important
Tears in the ductwork or any holes require immediate attention. They will cause your HVAC system not to function properly, and your system will not cool or heat very well. The conditioned air (the air you paid to heat and cool) will be leaking out and mixing with unconditioned air, which is then blown back through your house. Not only is there a lot of lost energy - costing you extra money but your HVAC system will be over-worked and wear out quicker. You may also develop a pest problem from crawling insects, rodents, or reptiles which can come through the holes in the ducts into your home. Over time, you may also develop an odor and moisture problem. If you are experiencing any of these issues, a hole in your ductwork may be your culprit!
If you are building a new home or an addition, make sure the contractor seals all the ductwork before the drywall is installed. It is almost impossible to clean drywall dust out of ducts, so the best solution is to keep them protected from sources like this from the outset. For more information on duct cleaning, see our earlier post.