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If your ductwork is dirty, malfunctioning, or old, replacing it will cost $1,367 to $5,967.* Air ducts are essential components of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and are responsible for distributing heated or cooled air throughout a home. Read our guide to learn about air duct replacement cost factors and why you should leave this job to the professionals.
*Unless otherwise noted, cost figures in this article are based on 2023 reports from Costimates.com, House Digest, and RemodelingCalculator.
The Cost of Air Duct Replacement
The national average cost for a full ductwork replacement is $1,367 to $5,967, but it can range anywhere from $250 to $12,000, depending on the project’s scope. Many contractors charge per duct, and the average cost to replace HVAC ductwork per duct is around $295.
Cost by Duct Material
The type of ductwork material you choose affects your overall cost. Learn more about the common ductwork materials below and their average replacement cost per linear foot of ductwork.
- Aluminum ($2–$6): Aluminum sheet metal ducts are flexible, allowing easier installation in tight spaces or around obstacles. The material also minimizes energy loss, improves the overall efficiency of your HVAC system, and provides a long life span of 25+ years.
- Fiberglass ($4–$7): Fiberglass can reduce HVAC system noise, making it a popular choice for homeowners seeking a quieter home. It also possesses enhanced strength, making it capable of withstanding high air pressure. However, it breaks down sooner than other materials.
- Galvanized steel ($4–$12): Galvanized steel ducts can last over 50 years and have a smooth surface that helps improve airflow compared to other materials.
- Insulated flex duct ($2–$7): These durable, lightweight, and flexible ducts maintain good indoor air quality by preventing contaminants, such as asbestos and fungus, from entering your air supply. They don’t last as long as metal ducts, with an average life span of 20 to 25 years.
- Noninsulated flex duct ($1–$3): Noninsulated flex ducts are more cost-effective than insulated ones. They’re also highly flexible, allowing them to fit into tight spaces and around obstacles, but like polyester, they’re prone to pest damage.
- Polyester ($1–$4): Polyester is a high-quality material commonly known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear. However, the material makes this ductwork more prone to pest damage.
Factors Affecting Cost
Other factors affecting air duct replacement costs include the following:
- Additional ventilation: Incorporating extra vents requires alterations to the duct layout, installation of new openings, and adjustments to airflow dynamics. These additional tasks result in higher labor costs, increasing replacement costs by approximately $200 to $250 per vent.
- Customization: Additional labor and materials are often necessary when duct systems require tailored modifications to fit specific layouts or design preferences. The total cost may go up due to customization, which can be complex due to the specific requirements of each individual and the need for specialized work and materials.
- Home size: Larger homes typically have more extensive duct systems, requiring increased materials and labor. Therefore, the overall cost will rise depending on the size of your home.
- Insulation: Including or upgrading insulation in duct systems enhances energy efficiency and minimizes heat loss or gain. However, installing or improving insulation involves additional materials and labor, contributing to a higher ductwork installation cost of $2 to $6 per linear foot of insulation.
- Location: Ducts in a hard-to-reach or confined space, such as a crawl space, might necessitate additional time and labor costs for removal and installation.
- Mold remediation: Addressing mold contamination within ducts requires specialized cleaning, sanitization, and the potential replacement of other affected components. This can add $1,000 or more to your project, depending on the severity of the mold growth.
- Number of duct runs: A higher number of duct runs, representing separate pathways for airflow, implies greater complexity in dismantling and installing new ducts. This complexity translates to increased labor and materials costs.
- Project scope: A broader scope, encompassing tasks like system design adjustments, insulation upgrades, or new duct run installation, leads to increased labor, materials, and time commitments. If you have existing ductwork that needs replacing, it will cost less than installing entirely new ducts into a new construction home.
Signs That You Need Air Duct Replacement
Although health issues could be a sign of bad air ducts, there are others that could indicate you need a duct replacement. These signs include the following:
- Dirty air vents: Dirty air vents can mean cracks, tears, and poor sealing in your ductwork.
- Dust buildup: If you notice excessive dust in your home, this could signal that your air ducts are leaky and not working properly.
- Increased energy bills: If you notice a sudden increase in your monthly utility bill, the culprit might be old ducts that no longer perform correctly.
- Mold: It may be time to replace your air ducts if you find mold or smell musty and earthy scents.
- Poor indoor air quality: Poor indoor air quality can directly impact your health and comfort, which may indicate that your air ducts need replacing.
- Uneven heating or cooling: If some rooms in your home are warmer or cooler than others, it may be a sign that your air ducts aren’t distributing air evenly.
- Whistling noises: Whistling sounds from your HVAC system can indicate damage to your air ducts. Existing ducts that are whistling mean there are unseen leaks and obstructions.
Professional vs. DIY Air Duct Replacement
HVAC professionals possess the knowledge to assess your energy needs and recommend the right materials for your duct installation. Opting for a professional air duct replacement also guarantees a skilled team will install your ductwork system properly and safely.
A do-it-yourself (DIY) air duct replacement demands a comprehensive understanding of HVAC systems and specialized tools. Installation errors can lead to compromised air quality, inefficiency, and potential safety hazards. Ultimately, we advise homeowners to seek professional assistance for ductwork repair or replacement due to the complicated nature of the work.
Air duct replacement is a serious investment that requires you to consider many factors to ensure your home remains comfortable and safe. Because air ducts are vital to your home, we suggest you leave this job to the professionals. You should contact at least three professional HVAC contractors for free quotes and to find out how much your specific home ductwork replacement will cost. This approach helps you accurately compare all costs and service options.
Our tool below helps you gather those quotes using just your ZIP code.
Air Duct Replacement Cost FAQ
Is it easy to replace air ducts?
No, air duct replacement is a complex job with various challenges. It involves dismantling existing systems, coordinating precise installations, and ensuring proper sealing to prevent air leaks.
How do I prepare for a duct replacement?
Clear the area around ducts for easy access and remove any obstacles hindering the replacement process. Communicate any specific preferences or concerns with your contractor and be ready to adjust your living arrangements.
How often do you need new ductwork?
Generally, ducts made of durable materials like sheet metal can last up to 25 years or more, while flexible materials might require replacement sooner. We recommend you schedule a professional inspection every three to five years to assess the condition of the ducts and determine if replacement or maintenance is necessary.
What time of the year is best for duct replacement?
The best time of the year for air duct replacement is when there is mild weather, typically in spring or fall. The installation process will be more comfortable for the installers and the home’s occupants.