Why Is Restricted Airflow So Dangerous?

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Have you noticed your home's vents producing just a little less air than usual? Airflow problems in home heating and cooling systems can sometimes begin subtly, but it is worth paying attention to this common issue. There are several possible causes for reduced airflow, but restrictions in the system can be a sign of serious trouble.

Even if the underlying cause is minor, allowing your system to continue to operate in this state can lead to damage in the future. Keep reading to learn why you may be getting less air than usual, what you can do about it, and why this is a problem that you should never ignore.

What Happens In Your HVAC System When Airflow Is Restricted?

Proper HVAC system operation requires air to travel smoothly throughout your home. When airflow is restricted, it can cause warm and cold spots throughout the house. Since your thermostats control your AC system by detecting when the air has reached its desired temperature, your system may find itself stuck in a short cycling loop or running for much longer than it should be. Both of these conditions can place additional strain on your compressor and lead to premature failure.

Cycling problems aren't the only issues that can arise from restricted airflow, however. Your system distributes cold air throughout your home by blowing it away from the evaporator coils. If air movement is limited near the coils, then they are likely to freeze up as the cold air accumulates in one area. Frozen coils will ice over and may cause drainage issues later on as they thaw and refreeze.

Common Causes of Restricted Airflow

Although there are a variety of reasons why airflow may be restricted in your home, one cause is vastly more common than any other: a clogged air filter. Your HVAC filter requires replacement every 1–3 months, depending on the conditions within your home. If there are smokers in your house or you have multiple pets, then more frequent changes may be necessary. If you don't replace the filter on a regular schedule, then this can significantly reduce the blower's ability to provide consistent airflow and likely cause your evaporator to freeze or your furnace to overheat.

Less common causes of reduced airflow usually center on the ducts themselves. Damaged ductwork may leak air or physically block its flow if bends or crimps are present. Since air is not accumulating close to your evaporator unit or furnace, this type of restriction is less likely to cause immediate damage. Uneven heating can prevent your thermostats from operating correctly, however, ultimately wasting more energy and putting additional wear on your home's cooling system.

Dealing With Restricted Airflow

Noticing that a problem exists is the first step. Once you are aware of an airflow problem, check your filter and replace it if necessary. If this doesn't resolve the restriction, then it is essential to schedule a consultation with an HVAC professional as soon as possible. Since the blockage may be located in your ductwork, finding it will not always be a straightforward process. Residential air conditioning services can find the source of the restriction and present you with the most cost-effective options for dealing with it.

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